Taking it to the streets

Advocates of a complete-streets ordinance suggest that it could spark a design renaissance for the city, building on the significant gains already underway in some of the city's showplace neighborhoods.

If city planner Tammara Tracy has it right, Indy is on the

cusp of a radical process of transformation, akin to historical innovations

such as architect Alexander Ralston's original blueprint of the Circle City in the 1820s,

George Kessler's

Park and Boulevard Plan in 1909 and UniGov in 1970.

The reason for her excitement: Indy Rezone, an effort to nurture growth in the

city's sustainability and livability through a revision of zoning and

development regulations.

The effort aims to modernize antiquated zoning codes that at

times stymie urban core revitalization efforts by adhering to 1960s-era

policies designed for the auto-centric culture (think requirements for large

parking lots or large setbacks).

"The built environment affects virtually every

aspect of life, your health, economic development, property taxes, crime,"

Tracy said.

"The quality of the physical environment, it can help

how you live life and what you think about it because the

built environment is what we're all in every single day."

A city's design can enhance feelings of safety or fear, calm or

stress, Tracy said.

As one example, she cited a study of 192

cities the Centers for Disease

Control and Prevention released this summer that found people were less obese in

environments considered conducive to walking and biking.

"Zoning isn't exciting; it's what you

can accomplish with zoning that's exciting," Tracy said.


officials are not only soliciting as much involvement with the community as

possible, they are bringing remote-control technology to their meetings. Arming

every public participant with a remote, officials can gauge in real time and

with great response rate, the crowd's reaction to a series of questions to

determine local residents' opinions.


interactivity also forces participants to understand that each regulation

carries tradeoffs, such as increased costs that

mandated design requirements might seek in pursuit of greater public safety

(such as more windows in buildings where vast walls face the streets) or

environmental and aesthetic improvements (as requirements for greater tree

plantings at new home sites would offer).


"neighborhood invigoration" meetings will be held throughout the fall

and winter with the goal of developing draft proposals next spring and summer.

The goal is to finish by March 2014.


are interested in working with all sorts of community groups to provide as many

meetings to as many city residents as possible.


these policies affect everyone's quality of life, Tracy said she hopes to see a

wide variety of ideas proposed and constructive criticism levied.

"Every voice can make a difference," she said.

In conjunction with ordinance updates, the city will also

revise the development regulations for government projects. A group of 45

officials from the police department, the

prosecutor's office and the department of metropolitan development took

intensive seminars in crime prevention through environmental design.

The Indy Rezone effort sprang from a $1.19 million grant from

the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Sustainable

Housing and Communities. Indy provided a 40 percent match totaling just under

$2 million in in-kind services.

Only 42 communities of the 586 that applied received HUD


The website indyrezone.org

contains a wealth of information on the project, including opinion poll

questions and a calendar of meetings.

In related urban environment news, City-County Councilor

John Barth, an at-large Democrat, will host a hearing on a draft proposal

crafted by the young attorneys section of the Indianapolis Bar, Keep

Indianapolis Beautiful and members of the City-County Council to

address the blight of vacant lots and abandoned homes that continues to scar

sections of the city.

The hearing is set for 5:30 p.m., Monday, Aug. 20, in

the John H. Boner Community Center gym, 2236 E. 10th St.