The East Washington Street Vision Plan is a bold story about the comprehensive revitalization of a corridor as old as the city itself. It seeks to partner economic revitalization with neighborhood revitalization in a manner that brings residents and jobs back, improves property values and tax base, improves ecological quality, and promotes the transformation of a struggling, degraded corridor into a vibrant, mixed-use urban address.

It is a story about a corridor again filled with entrepreneurs and high-quality jobs providing dignity and economic opportunity for residents. About a thriving, diverse neighborhood where residents can walk to work, to the grocery store, to their place of worship, or to a cafe. It’s the story of a neighborhood put back on the map by being connected to the region through robust transit. About a corridor with a variety of public spaces where residents enjoy everyday life and through which communities collectively mourn and rejoice. It’s the story of a bustling, active urban streetscape where people are the priority.

The Vision Plan was developed under the auspices of a community stakeholder committee and developed by Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning Indianapolis Center with the support of the City of Indianapolis’ Division of Community and Economic Development in 2011. The continued exodus of quality jobs, and the environmental contamination they left behind, was the immediate impetus of this planning work. But perhaps equally important is a long-term policy vision of re-introducing rail transit along the corridor. The vision told by this plan connects the two in a symbiotic relationship: leveraging the potential for rapid transit to revitalize industry and a mixed-use corridor, while also developing revitalized industry and mixed-use at a density and character that promotes rapid transit.

The vision is designed as a policy guide for stakeholder residents, businesses, organizations, and other stakeholders. As a long-term vision, it is expected that technologies, market realities, consumer preferences, and broader economic and public policies will result in an evolution of the plan presented here. The community values (principles) upon which this vision is built, however, remain timeless, and are the benchmarks by which success is measured.

Next Steps

While the Vision Plan identifies long-term visions, the 2014 ReEnergize East Washington Street plan addresses five catalyst development nodes to begin work in the next 5 – 7 years.

Organizational and Policy Infrastructure

This vision is designed primarily for neighborhood stakeholders, and while the public sector is critical to its achievement, neighborhood stakeholders assume responsibility for it. A partnership of existing community development corporations is evolving to promote “ownership” of the corridor; together with neighborhood associations, block clubs, business associations, and other groups, these local stakeholders are the ones that turn the tide. The partnership organization is critical to building a constituency, providing a voice, and coordinating the myriad of issues and opportunities affecting the corridor. It must be representative both of the existing residential, commercial, non-profit, and industrial stakeholders on the corridor as well as of the aspirational vision of the community set forth in this plan. From celebrating small successes (such as a church adopting maintenance of a new bus shelter) to major achievements (such as a new or expanded industrial business on the corridor), this organization must keep the vision plan, and the revitalization story it promotes, front and center.

A critical need for this partnership is the developing capacity to undertake economic development and job creation initiatives on urban sites. Industrial neighbors, and the jobs they provide, bring different issues and opportunities and will be funded and implemented through a different set of tools.

It is also important to consider implementation/policy systems prior to redevelopment activities. Exploring locally-designated special districts such as redevelopment areas and tax-increment financing districts as well as potential state-designated opportunities such as a Community Revitalization Enhancement District or Certified Technology Park are of most value when done early. Special districts could provide the tools and financial resources necessary for revitalization to occur. Privately-established districts, especially an economic improvement district, are also highly encouraged. An EID could provide the resources necessary for the shared parking and stormwater strategies outlined in this plan as well as for amenities and services that increase the level of public service in the area to better compete with those of suburban alternatives. Each of these district strategies requires some level of agreement on boundaries, management, and allocation that are best vetted prior to, and in support of, a revitalization strategy. They are the “infrastructure” that should be laid prior to redevelopment occurring.

Catalyst Redevelopment Activities

The second half of this report outlines two catalyst projects that have been identified as two places to start.  One, the Mallory Industrial District, is a pure jobs-driven project. The other, Englewood Town Center, is a mixed-use project. Both can be implemented in phases, build on existing strengths, and build off of one another. Catalyst projects should be developed as seeds, planted with deliberate manner and nurtured with care so that they become models for other projects along the corridor. This Catalyst site is reflected in the ReEnergize East Washington Street plan

Also identified is a critical area, defined as the gateway from downtown and Interstate 65 into the corridor.  As this area develops, so will go the rest of the corridor. Continued inappropriate, suburban-style development or other detrimental uses inconsistent with this vision will condemn the corridor as a place for low-value, short-term investments. Strategic land acquisition, land banking, and formal zoning and land use controls are important tools that should be pursued for this area.