“What Indianapolis is doing very well right now is challenging what it wants to be in the future.” — Scott Truex, director
From his second floor window at 22 E. Washington St., Scott Truex, director of the Indianapolis Center — the Ball State College of Architecture’s urban planning initiative — can watch the city transform itself. Soon, if he looks down the street to the west, he’ll see a new hotel in the works. If he looks east, he’ll see the beginnings of the Market Square development.
But Truex and colleagues like Brad Beaubien aren’t content to merely watch these changes take place. The Indianapolis Center has become an integral part of this city’s planning process. Through its website, exhibit gallery and public programs, including lunch chats, lectures and neighborhood meetings, the center is attempting to make city planning a participatory public activity.
The center is part of a distinguished Ball State program dealing with applied research called Community Based Projects. The CBPs were started in the 1960s in order to help facilitate dialogue when local residents complained that Methodist Hospital’s expansion was encroaching on their neighborhood. Since then, there have been over 250 CBPs in cities, towns and neighborhoods throughout Indiana.
The Indianapolis Center idea was sparked in 1999 when Truex realized it was time for the city to undertake a new edition of its regional center plan. “We were able to be there from the beginning,” says Truex, whose team recently helped unveil the 2020 planning document.
The center has helped create a new process for neighborhood planning in Indianapolis that involves getting more people involved in an active conversation about what the future should look like. “We’re trying to be a catalyst and a connector,” Truex says. “We don’t have a political agenda and I hope we can be seen as a neutral third party that can bring people together.”
Developing an effective public transit system, creating diverse neighborhoods with a variety of housing types and options and encouraging high quality design in everything from light poles to bridges are three issues that Truex sees facing the city today. “We hope the center can be a good testing ground,” Truex says. “Maybe we can be a safe way to have this dialogue without the fear of there being an agenda beyond that.”
The center offices are open to the public. Visitors can see illustrations for ideas about the redevelopment of the Central State Hospital grounds or architectural models that imagine what a new Museum of Contemporary Art or football stadium might look like. Truex also urges people to visit the center’s website (www.bsu.edu/capic), where they can access a full calendar of center-sponsored meetings and events.
Truex says that he thinks of Indianapolis as “the largest small town in the country … To me that gives us a great opportunity to accomplish things. What Indianapolis is doing very well right now is challenging what it wants to be in the future.”
— David Hoppe