As a model community in the federal-local Partnership for Sustainable Communities initiative, Indianapolis continues to explore — and highlight — its sustainable development projects.
The city's Office of Sustainability last week hosted representatives from the Environmental Projection Agency, Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development to review ongoing partnership projects and conduct a three-day design workshop to explore future possibilities. This tour marked the second time federal partners have visited the city this year.
"What I've seen since I've been here is really impressive, said Maurice Jones, HUD's deputy secretary, who took a bus tour of partnership projects, including development such as Fall Creek Place, Monon Farms and 16 Park, during a January visit.
"And the bike hub, you can't beat that," he added. "This city is clearly doing good things for its people."
In general, partnership projects seek to improve several quality-of-life metrics —such as economic vitality, community connectivity and environmental health —while making more efficient use of government resources.
"When these plans come to fruition, [federal officials] really want these to serve as a model for what other people can do within the city," Scott Manning, an Office of Sustainability media liaison, said a March 21 open house highlighting the next phase of the Sustainable Communities partnership — Greening America's Capitals.
In contrast with the broader reach of ongoing partnerships — which include IndyConnect's public transit improvement initiatives, the Indy Rezone effort to reshape the city's zoning strategy for the first time in decades, and several upgrades and additions to public and affordable housing options in the urban core — Greening the Capitals will focus on five core areas around the City-County Building.
Mayor Greg Ballard in his 2013 State of the City address highlighted his desire to see improvements in the area.
"After nearly 12 years and two false starts, the time is right — and the economy is ready — for the city to take another serious shot at redeveloping the former site of Market Square Arena," Ballard said, noting he is now soliciting plans to transform the north lot of the former MSA site, currently a surface parking lot.
Transformation efforts also involve design improvements to the City Market plaza and a new public plaza outside the City-County Building.
Public input on the new plaza underscored desires for "a very vibrant and useable urban space should have the ability to be walked through at any point and not feel like you're trapped, and to see all activity taking place," explained Rebecca Mizkar, a landscape architect with Origin of Design, a firm contracted by Greening the Capitals to assist with the Indianapolis project.
The plans also feature a heavy focus on improving the building's management of storm water runoff.
Currently, the city is using well water for irrigation and sending rain water collected in the parking garage of the City-County Building to the sewer, explained Jennifer Roberts, a civil engineer with Indy-based Elements Engineering, which is helping to re-engineer the city's approach to storm water management.
"This is clean water we are throwing away and it's happening every day downtown," Roberts said. "What we want to do is take the run-off from our proposed lawn areas and put them into areas that have native plants that can filter that water."
Once the water filters to the parking garage, Roberts said, it can be captured and stored for irrigation, which saves more well water for drinking.
-StephGriggz and David Cerola contributed to this story.