Summer Wood

Home for Congress" summer recess, Rep. Julia Carson hosted a panel discussion on sustainable development on Monday at the Indiana State Museum. Carson was joined by Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Portland, Ore., the bike-riding, bowtie-wearing co-chair of the House"s Livable Communities Task Force, and a longtime advocate for environmentally friendly development. The two listened to reports from a panel of Indianapolis city officials, academics and activists on how Indianapolis" own efforts to make the city more livable are progressing.

Rep. Julia Carson hosted a panel discussion on sustainable development on Monday at the Indiana State Museum.

Deputy Mayor Carolyn Coleman delivered an update on the status of the multimillion dollar Fall Creek Place redevelopment effort, which will result in 322 new or refurbished homes for the low-income neighborhood, which is also receiving $10 million in water and sewer infrastructure upgrades, and three new parks. Although more than 265 of the homes have already sold, Coleman said more than half of the properties will be reserved for low- to moderate-income families. "We have no interest in gentrifying this area," she vowed.

Researchers from IUPUI"s Center for Urban Policy and the Environment revealed findings that gentrification has already taken hold of one of the city"s major "green" development initiatives, the Greenways trail system. The center"s director, Greg Lindsay, revealed that while trail neighbors are more likely to be African-American or lower income, trail users tend to be white young adults who have above average levels of income and education, most of whom drive to the trails to use them for recreation. Less than 5 percent of people use the trails for transportation, a fact Blumenauer linked to Indianapolis" dubious distinction as the 10th fattest city in the U.S.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization"s Mike Dearing discussed his agency"s continuing efforts to "do something to get people out of their cars, and biking and walking for transportation." Recently, that has included new signage for bike and bike/bus routes, and at the end of August, breaking ground on a new stretch of the Monon Trail, which will run from Fall Creek to downtown.

Blumenauer declared that Indianapolis" geography and climate make it a "biker heaven," but judging from the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment"s research findings, it seemed evident that the MPO still has a long way to go in persuading citizens to take advantage of bike-friendly conditions.

Bill Taft, a development planner with the Southeast Neighborhood Development Corporation, talked about that neighborhood"s recent renaissance, and the importance of dense commercial and residential development, including such features as independently owned restaurants and affordable live/work spaces like the Wheeler Arts Building. "This is an exciting idea that needs to be replicated further if we want to have truly sustainable neighborhoods," Taft concluded.

Professor John Ottensmann from the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment introduced a new computer program called LUCI (Land Use in Central Indiana) that provides statistical predictions of future development. Ottensmann noted that unless water and sewer constraints are taken into account, development in Central Indiana could double by 2040, in a donut-shaped pattern excluding much of Center Township.

Carson and Blumenauer encouraged Indianapolis" initiatives as important first steps in making the city a better place to live. "I think you"re in the right place at the right time," said Blumenauer, who took both bike and helicopter tours of the city earlier that day. "You"re poised to move forward in a number of exciting directions."

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