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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Martindale-Brightwood: Pioneers in placemaking

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Are you aware that community work follows trends, and that trends determine the funds made available to do the work? Well, it is a truth. This is not to say that real issues are not considerations; however, real issues are sometimes hard to finance while the trendy initiatives are well-funded by government and private funders.

Placemaking is the trendy name for neighborhood revitalization these days. Face lifting. Cosmetic enhancement. Beautification of areas or neighborhoods in any city.

Placemaking defined is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.

Placemaking is both an overarching idea and a hands-on tool for improving a neighborhood, city or region. It has the potential to be one of the most transformative ideas of this century.

Placemaking allows communities to see how their insight and knowledge fit into the broader process of making change. It allows them to become proactive versus reactive, and positive versus negative. Simply put, placemaking allows regular people to make extraordinary improvements, both big and small, in their communities. Placemaking involves looking at, listening to and asking questions of the people who live, work and play in a particular space to learn their needs and aspirations. This information is then used to create a common vision for that place. The vision can quickly become an implementation strategy, starting with small-scale, doable improvements that can bring immediate benefits to public spaces and the people who use them.

This idea and trend is embodied in the theme of the work being done and being planned for the Martindale-Brightwood Neighborhood in 2017. That theme is “Residents Creating their Own Renaissance.” Placemaking isn’t really new; it’s just called that now.  

There are six approved Quality of Life Plans in the city of Indianapolis that serve to guide the work done in the six different quadrants. The Great Indy Neighborhoods Initiative brought together more than 300 residents in six areas in 2008 to create the plans. The project involved Indianapolis LISC, the City of Indianapolis, the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center and the Ball State University CAP/Indianapolis Center.

Around the corner, Martindale-Brightwood, without the benefit of the funding used to create the aforementioned plans, created its own quality-of-life plan. This small, usually unnoticed area created its plan to begin the rebuilding and redevelopment process for the Martindale-Brightwood Neighborhood.   Since 2008, the residents, service providers and businesses in Martindale-Brightwood have worked to positively impact the community through two different four-year plans. This Gateway Corridor Community has pulled up its own bootstraps and worked in eight different priority areas to contribute to the change in its own backyard, and in doing so, has also been an asset to the change called for in the North and Near East Corridors’ Quality of Life plans and the City of Indianapolis.

MOVE, an invested collaborative of community service providers, has served this community as the convener and guide for these two plans with the assistance of ONE VOICE, a board of directors comprised of residents, service providers and businesses in the area. Martindale-Brightwood has operated as Residents Creating their Own Renaissance to produce change and even contribute to the data that was used in the Promise Zone application and netted this city’s receiving a 10-year federal designation as a Promise Zone.  

Placemaking may be the trendy new name, and there may even be funds available now to do the work. But around the corner, in a little valley on the east side of Indianapolis serving as a gateway to other communities, there is a great deal of pride felt that an area kept plugging at placemaking before it was trendy and paid for.

You can help to support the work that is going on around the corner in a few different ways.  

Call or email Gina Fears, neighborhood engagement coordinator, at (317) 637-3776 or gfears@ednamartincc.org.

Thank you, and we’ll see you around the corner.


One Voice Martindale-Brightwood is an organization created by neighborhood residents to engage the community in improving and celebrating life in Martindale-Brightwood.

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