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Great Places 2020 to develop three Marion County areas

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Imagine a place where local residents are free to design their own communities. They have the power to welcome small and large businesses, say what use their greenspaces will have and contribute input on the beautification of their neighborhood. Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Indianapolis (LISC) along with four implementation partners has helped this dream become a reality in Marion County.

Great Places 2020 is a community development project powered by residents, local leaders and organizations to transform areas in the city into dynamic cultural areas using a visionary plan designed by the people.

Launched in late November, Great Places 2020 claimed three areas in Marion County including West Michigan Street and King Avenue, on the Westside; East Washington and Oxford Streets on the Eastside; and East 38th and North Illinois Streets in Midtown.

Bill Taft, executive director of Indianapolis LISC said the project has been in the development stages for the past three years, and was parked during preparation for the 2012 Super Bowl. He said the organization saw power and potential in linking a neighborhood’s grassroots vision to a city wide celebration of the Super Bowl.

“Over a three year period leading up to the Super Bowl, there was over a $160 million investment into the goals of neighborhood’s Quality of Life Plan and most of that money didn’t have anything to do with the Super Bowl,” said Taft. “It just showed that if you get the larger community partnered up with a neighborhood that has a real, compelling plan and vision, you could help make that neighborhoods’ plan move a lot faster.”

Taft explained the question then became how to best replicate this concept in other neighborhoods.

“We realized one opportunity would be the upcoming bicentennial of Indianapolis in 2020. If we had a way to link neighborhood revitalization with the bicentennial as a primary way Indianapolis celebrated its birthday, that would be a way of making neighborhoods and the city link and work together,” he added.

LISC with its four implementation partners including the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB), the City of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) will help execute the plan each neighborhood has for their area for the next six years.

The idea is to address broad goals outlined in a neighborhood’s Quality of Life Plan, and put an emphasis on location.

Each of the three Great Places chosen, previously implemented a Quality of Life Plan, which many of the Indianapolis areas added to their communities in 2008. The Quality of Life Plan acts as a development foundation and may include goals in the areas of public safety, housing, education, and health among others.

“Younger people are interested in living in the city but they also want to have certain amenities,” explained Taft. “If Indianapolis is going to be a successful city, it’s going to need to have more places like this.”

Great Places 2020 differs from similar projects in the aspect that neighborhoods have to convince the Great Places 2020 selection team that their area deserves attention. The selection committee comprised of local leaders, groups, nonprofits, government officials and others chose each Great Place based upon need, capacity, opportunity in the sense of neighborhood potential and locations with amenities or potential to have them, such as greenspaces, water ways, and transit.

Christine Woodward-Duncan, vice president of programs at KIB, said the neighborhoods worked hard to apply and show they had the organization, people and ability to use resources.

“One thing they all had in common was each had a large turnout of neighborhood supporters and potential investors. They showed us very specific plans of things they would like to do in the neighborhood,” said Woodward-Duncan. “It was really impressive.”

KIB, which has a program dedicated to revitalizing six greenspaces per year, has incorporated three of Great Places 2020’s areas into their program. The Englewood neighborhood, at East Washington and Oxford Streets, and West Michigan Street are both areas KIB has helped develop in the past, but the 38th and Illinois Streets location will be a new challenge.

“We’re really excited to be a part of it and all three neighborhoods have great potential,” said Woodward-Duncan.

In addition to being an implementation partner, KIB also acted as a selection committee member. In the near future, new committees will also be assembled to organize investments into four outcomes – Livability, Opportunity, Vitality and Education (LOVE).

“Each committee will gather people who are interested in building tools to implement the outcome of their Great Place” mentioned Taft. “If someone has a particular interest in the three places, there will also be a training process that will be open for community input.”

With available funding, LISC hopes to add two or three more Great Places starting 2016.

For more information on Great Places 2020 and the latest developments, visit Greatplaces2020.org.

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