"New guidelines proposed
For decades, builders in Indianapolis were pretty much given a free hand to erect whatever they wanted. At the same time, there was a general attitude of disdain for older buildings. New, by definition, was deemed better. And so a number of architecturally significant structures were torn down. The result is the architectural mish-mash that constitutes the city’s skyline today.
Then, in the late ’60s, Reid Williamson arrived in Indianapolis to take charge of the state of Indiana’s Historic Landmarks organization. But Williamson didn’t confine his focus to historic preservation. Soon, the transplant from Savannah, Ga., was helping to organize meetings aimed at creating general design standards for downtown Indianapolis.
Williamson has since retired and left the state. But the impetus for creating design standards in Indianapolis has gone forward to the point where the city is, for the first time in its history, on the threshold of adopting guidelines that could directly affect the city’s quality of life in a variety of ways.
The Urban Design Oversight Committee was formed in 2002 by the Historic Landmarks Foundation to advocate for better design in what’s been labeled the Regional Center: downtown and the North Meridian Corridor. UDOC is made up of over 40 members, including representatives from business, construction, developers and the arts and design communities.
UDOC has developed its proposed guidelines based on the following principles:
• mobility, meaning the provision of a variety of mobility options
• health, safety and opportunity, emphasizing safe and accessible places that promote well-being and individual opportunity
• adaptability and sustainability, promoting economic, social, physical and ecologically sustainable design
• public realm, meaning shared spaces that promote social and civic interaction
• character and vitality, well-designed places that are unique and diverse.
If the guidelines become law, they document objective criteria for review for the first time in Indianapolis since 1970. They are meant to support the goals and objectives of the previously completed Indianapolis Regional Center Plan 2020, a document that expressed a vision for how the city’s downtown should be developed over the course of the next decade and a half.
The guidelines were introduced to the public at a meeting that took place at the Artsgarden on March 22. Two sets of design guidelines were presented at that time: the Regional Center Design Guidelines, as well as guidelines for multimodal corridors and public spaces, expressing a regional pedestrian vision with an emphasis on public right of way and infrastructure for the eight-county area overlapping the Regional Center.
That meeting launched a six-week public review period, during which people were encouraged to write responses to the guidelines on paper or via a DesignIndy Web site developed by the Ball State Indianapolis Center for Architecture and Planning that concluded May 3.
On Thursday, May 17, there will be an open meeting for members of the public who have attended one of the guidelines orientation sessions to discuss any recommendations they might have for changes to the guidelines. The written comments that have been received so far will be distributed to committee members along with staff comments. This meeting takes place at the Ball State Indianapolis Center, 50 S. Meridian St., lower level, at noon.
To find out more about the guidelines process and to download complete copies of both the Regional Center and multimodal corridors guidelines, go to www.urbandesignindy.org.