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Housing, parks and connectivity: DMD releases vision plan for Monon and 25th

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Daryl Coleman stands on his front porch near the Monon Trail and blinks like he’s flipping through the pages of a history book.

Houses used to line these streets, he says of his section of Martindale-Brightwood near the corner of McPherson Avenue and 28th Street. He points to empty lots that used to have homes and then gazes to his left across the Bulge, a 16-acre lot that’s empty now but in the past served as a railyard, roundhouse and site for homes.

Things have started to change, 64-year-old Coleman says, referencing some of the newer houses that have popped up near him. He’s lived in Martindale-Brightwood his whole life and stays in the home his mother left him.

The next chunk of investment for Martindale-Brightwood will come in a wave. The Department of Metropolitan Development (DMD) recently released a vision plan for four sites, including the Bulge, that shows a possible future of housing, parks and retail space.

The other three locations are the former Burnett-Binford site (1.5 acres), Nickel Plate Roundhouse site (3.4 acres) and Colonial Bakery site (0.9 acres), all of which are close to the Monon Trail between 24th and 29th streets.

“We need a grocery store,” Coleman said, “some kind of variety store.”

That’s one of the most common wishes in Martindale-Brightwood, most of which is considered a food desert.

Elizabeth Gore has lived in her home by Frederick Douglass Park for more than 50 years and hopes developers “think outside the box.” A full-scale grocery store may not be necessary, she said, but the community needs healthy food options.

“We want to think that we can get those kinds of services in the community,” said Gore, who is with the Martindale-Brightwood Environmental Justice Collaborative, one of the organizations on the stakeholder committee for the DMD’s plan.

The department went through a months-long engagement process with the community, which included surveys, town halls and mailers.

When it comes to housing, 80% of people said single-family housing would look most appropriate in the area, followed by townhomes (58%) and small apartments (48%). Large apartments came in last at 20%.

More than 50% of people identified three areas most important for future development: having places to eat, parks and greenspace, and making it easy to walk and bike.

“You can make a plan for just about anything, and then it very rarely goes exactly to that plan,” said Jeff Hasser, the department’s administrator for real estate and economic development. “That said, this gives us a good idea of where we want to go.”

The vision plan calls for improved connectivity within the neighborhood. All four sites are close to Frederick Douglass Park, which stretches from 30th Street to 25th Street, but there isn’t a way to cross the Monon Trail in that stretch.

The plan includes a range of housing from single-family homes to four-unit apartment buildings.

A portion of the Bulge, by far the largest of the sites, will likely become park space, the plan says, along with higher-density housing and space for offices and retail. Directly across from the Bulge is the Nickel Plate Roundhouse site, which could also include higher-density housing.

The vision plan calls for lower-density housing at the Colonial Bakery and Burnett-Binford sites.

The department’s vision plan represents some of the ideal uses for the spaces based on feedback from the community and an analysis of what the market might support.
It’s that last part, where the market comes into play, that has some paying extra close attention to what happens.

Darryl Lockett, executive director of the Kennedy King Memorial Initiative (KKMI), said he wants to make sure there are ways to measure the quality of life for individual people, especially longtime residents, as opposed to whole ZIP codes.

KKMI was also part of the stakeholder committee.

Change is unavoidable. Someone will have to move into the new homes and apartments. The key, Lockett said, is valuing the people who have lived there for generations.

“It’s really gonna take a commitment to including everyone’s voices and seeing every member of the community as an equally valued contributor,” he said.

Amina Pierson, executive director of the Martindale Brightwood Community Development Corporation, another committee member, said she would like to see the community somehow take advantage of a portion of new revenue to create a fund for seniors to subsidize the rise in property taxes.

The city is limited in what it can do when it comes to affordable housing. The Indiana Legislature passed a law in 2017 that banned inclusionary zoning, which requires developers to include affordable units in their building plans.

Hasser said the department’s goal is to make sure at least some current residents aren’t priced out of any new housing development and mentioned mortgage refinancing programs to help people ward off the effects development can have on the cost of living.

The next step for the department is to find development partners to buy the lots, all of which were converted from brownfields, and finalize plans.

The Colonial Bakery site will likely be the first to move forward, Hasser said. Construction could start this year but isn’t likely.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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