Indy adopts development plan to promote walkability, deemphasize cars

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File photo of IndyGo Red Line

INDIANAPOLIS — The Metropolitan Development Commission has adopted the Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance that requires property developers to consider how their buildings and plans will fit into overall neighborhoods located along the city’s Bus Rapid Transit lines.

“It’s about creating communities where you have jobs, you have housing, you have your grocery store, you have other types of neighborhood shops all right there together in walkable distance, so you can walk there, you can bike, you can drive there or you can take the bus,” said Scarlett Andrews-Martin, Director of the Department of Metropolitan Development.

Andrews-Martin said the city’s previously stated preference for compatible development is now codified so that developers seeking project approval, tax breaks or assisted financing will have to consider their site’s compatibility to the surrounding area and access to bus transit lines.

“You have people living besides different kinds of restaurants and grocery stores and shops all together and jobs so we already have transit-oriented development,” said Andrews-Martin, “but we really do have some big opportunities with the Blue Line and the Purple Line coming in where we haven’t traditionally had that transit-oriented development, I think we’re saying to developers, ‘What could you do there to make these areas more walkable, those jobs more accessible?’”

IndyGo recently received approval for $81 million in federal grants to build the Purple Line from Lawrence to downtown Indianapolis primarily along North Post Road where new development is already occurring.

“Cook Medical is building a new manufacturing plant that will be on the Purple Line where they’ll have jobs and wraparound services for the employees,” said Andrews-Martin, “but they also said, ‘What else do our employees need to be successful?’, and so they’re working with a grocer to have Indy Fresh Market also located right beside those jobs.

“If we’re seeing a development proposed that is coming to the city we’re saying, ‘How are you connecting your building, if it’s a grocery store or if its housing or whatever it is, how are you connecting your building through the sidewalk? Does it connect to the transit line? Does it connect to the bike lane? How are you getting in and out of that area if you’re not in a car?’”

Transit-Oriented Development foresees a time when Indianapolis residents will be less dependent on their cars to get around.

“We’re looking at developments that are less car-centric,” said Andrews-Martin. “It doesn’t mean that you don’t have a car component or parking component, but how do you bring developments up to the street, so you have street-level activity? Opportunities to walk and park your bike and jump on the transit line or walk to the next place?”

At the far southern end of the Red Line, across Shelby Street from the University of Indianapolis campus, is Books & Brews, an oasis of off-campus business for students and neighbors.

“I just had a couple yesterday from Garfield Park, they came down and had been wanting to come here for a while, and this gave them an opportunity to travel down from Garfield Park,” said owner Keith Fechtman. “We know for restaurants like ours that they are more successful when there are more restaurants around them because people will go to an area where there’s more businesses. When you’re the only one in a smaller community, they don’t think about going to that section as much, so, hopefully, with this the transit section it will encourage people to build around those areas so more people will come to those locations.”

After class at U of I, student John Delao sipped a beer while his laptop sat open on the bar.

“It would be nice if there was something around here for us to do,” he said. “There’s nothing for us once we get out of class, it’s not like IUPUI where everything’s around. There’s Books & Brews here but you gotta go quite a way out of your way to go to a restaurant or a laundromat or anything.

“There’s a lot of area around here that could be built up. There’s a lot of empty stuff around here so just to have some incentive to build up around here I think would be good.”

To instill that sense of community, Books & Brews will hold a vendor’s fair with about 25 participants this Saturday from ten a.m. until four p.m. at 3808 Shelby Street.

Development of the Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance was support by Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Climate Challenge as Indianapolis was one of 25 cities named for  setting and surpassing ambitious climate goals by, “ramping up action in the two highest-emitting sectors in cities: transportation and buildings.”

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