A vote for sidewalks

March 27, 2008
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Sidewalks along 38th StreetThe city next week will consider an ordinance making sidewalks a requirement for any new project in Marion County. When the ordinance was initially heard last October, officials from several local developers requested a continuance to review the new rule. Tammara Tracy, a principal planner with the Metropolitan Development Commission, said their concerns included a desire for flexibility for projects already begun and how much sidewalk was required. All subdivision residential development in the county already are required to include sidewalks but commercial and industrial development, and apartment construction projects, were not required to do so. In its revised form, developers in the middle of projects can opt to add sidewalks or pay a fee into a fund that will be dedicated to new sidewalks in the county. The full story is here. (Image is from The Urbanophile.) What do you think?
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  • It's about time. This ordinance is long overdue.
  • Its quite pathetic that Indianapolis didn't already have this. Does Carmel already have a similar ordinance?

    Speaking of Carmel, I was up there to a visit a friend the other day and was shocked at what I saw at 116th & Guilford. Buildings that were built up to the street and sidewalks. If it can be done at 116th & Guilford, why not 54th & College?
  • There are several buildings built up to the sidewalk at the corner of 54th & College. There's also one at least 50-60 years old that isn't. (Moe & Johnny's building). And there are good wide sidewalks on all four corners that go a couple of miles in each direction.

    Could we ever let this one die? Fresh Market opens this year. Fight the next battle instead of the last one.

    Or ask DMD and DPW why Meridian north of 86th was rebuilt without any sidewalks within the past 5 years, and whether they will ALWAYS include sidewalks in any major road rebuilding project while demanding it of private developers.
  • Yes. Of course sidewalks are needed. Sore subject however for anyone
    who lives in an older neighborhood downtown. The city does such
    a pathetic job of maintaining neighborhood sidewalks. Unless they
    get their act together I don't see how the city can commit to the maintenance
    of new sidewalks when the ones we have now (many) are completely
    crumbling.
  • Oh LORD, Helen..... get OVER it!
  • I agree with Helen 100%.
  • Helen is 100% correct! Unfortunately it all starts with leadership. Carmel, from Brainard on down the pyramid is full of innovative, progressive, smart development minded professionals. As a MKessler/ Broad Ripple resident since birth it saddens me to say I'll probably move to Carmel. Sheesh! It's the only place now that I can get good walkable residential (walkable mixed uses) and avoid crime and crappy public schools! NEVER THOUGHT I'D BE SAYING THAT!
  • Get over what? Honestly, I want Indianapolis to succeed. But once I start a family, there is no way in hell that I will stay where I am now. Why pay more in taxes, deal with more crime, send my kids to terrible schools and live in a place that views urbanity as a four letter word when I can get the complete opposite in a freaking suburb?! Its quite a pathetic situation, but sadly its the truth.
  • Well carmel(Hamilton County) can afford to do inovative things b/c all the people that live there take their paychecks made at lilly, anthem, simon, duke, colts, pacers, baker daniels, ice miller, and the rest. inside marion county, commute to the north side and don't have to support the police the FD or IPS or deal with the other half by providing community outreach programs they just get to enjoy all the benefits of living in the 12th largest metro area in the country
    (see colts, pacers, final four, IMS, victory field, IMA, Murat, IRT, hall of champs, eiteljorge, canal, white river, eagle creek, monon trail, culture trail, fashion mall, castleton mall, etc. with out their property taxes going to fund IPS or township schools, infrastructure, the arts, Imaging if hamilton county residents taxes where close to marion county taxes. People would waste the differnce in gas for the commute and the money would stay where it is created!
  • Amen, cityside.
  • cityside -- that's not exactly true. People who work in Marion County and live in Hamilton County pay part of their income tax to Marion County, not to mention that they may eat (2% goes to LOS), buy gas, etc and pay sales tax on that. I don't know the exact breakdown of how the income tax division works. Someone else may be able to explain that in more detail.
  • hey cityside, you forgot to include state and federal governmental services and entities that benefit them are also largely located in Indy (Indiana Government Center, the State House, Federal Courthouse, Federal Building, and of course all of IUPUI (including Clarian))
  • Does Carmel have advantages over Indy, such as having very little low-income (cheap, small, poorly constructed) housing, and thus, very little crime and other challenges that typically found in every central city? Yes.

    But is that advantage a prerequisite to having a vision for good urban design and the leadership to follow through on achieving the goals of building an aesthetically pleasing and walkable community? I don't think so.

    Retail developments there is enough demand, i.e. enough people with enough income, to support their business. Furthermore, retail develops as close as possible to where these people and their money spend most of their time.

    I believe by mentioning 54th & College, Helen was referring to the Fresh Market store being built with parking in front along both streets. If the City had a vision and leadership to see appropriate URBAN development, they would have demanded that the store be built up to the sidewalk, as is most of the existing, and apparently thriving, development in the area. Critics might suggest that the store wouldn't have been built if the City said no to the proposed design. I would ask why not? Would the company then decide that they no longer were interested in profiting from the available wealth of the neighborhood? It seems to get done in other central cities, that share all the same comparative disadvantages to their suburban municipalities.

    But it's questionable whether the City has that vision, and it's clear there's no leadership pushing for it. But don't just blame your city leadership. The Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association showed up at the Fresh Market hearing to say they were just tickled by the design. There was no public opposition to the design. Typically, the people need to show the way, before the leaders will lead.

    Back on topic: the people definitely need to let their city-county councilors know if they believe that this sidewalk ordinance is vital to raising the city's quality of life.
  • The Fresh Market site has houses bordering its north and east sides. I would imagine that those folks did NOT want a parking lot in their back yards, with the attendant lights, glare, noise, etc. in the evenings. It would also have caused them access issues by having to cross grocery-store traffic.

    Further, the previous use of that site (Atlas Supermarket) was similarly sited, with all its parking between College Ave. and the storefront...not to mention that it was an ugly suburban building in an urban setting. At least one side of Fresh Market will abut College. The building is tall and closer to the street than Atlas, adding to the urban feel of the College corridor.

    Finally, there's an old building (maybe 50-60 years old) across the street (now Moe & Johnny's/Cornerstone Coffee) that is set back from both College & 54th, so the precedent exists on the corner to have the building pushed to the back corner of the lot.

    It's plenty urban. Let's pick on Keystone Ave., Michigan Rd., Crawfordsville Rd., Shadeland Ave. and East Washington St. for a while, instead of taking shots at one of the most urban corridors in Indianapolis' most-walkable (and probably most-walked) neighborhood.
  • It's also worth noting that the setback of the grocery store from College is really not much. In fact, it actually puts the building fairly closely in line the houses immediately to the north. Driving north on College, I don't think it's going to look all that bad.
  • As a Meridian Kessler resident whose child goes to an IPS school (by choice), it irritates me to hear people say they have to move to Carmel to get walkable neighborhoods and good schools. One of the reasons we chose Meridian Kessler is because of its walkability. Yes, there are places where there aren't sidewalks (mainly in east Broad Ripple), but, gosh, there are so many places to walk to.

    Carmel is walkable if you are in the walkable parts of Carmel, but how do you get to those areas from your individual subdivisions?

    I get tired of hearing people spout out the same old refrain well, we have school-age kids, we better move to Carmel. I know lots of well-educated, successful parents who are sending their kids to IPS magnet schools. I urge you to check out the magnet schools in MK/Broad Ripple area (#91 Montessori, #84 CFI - these are high-achieving schools. IPS is also opening a gifted academy for grades 2-8 this fall at the old Sidener Middle schools (corner of Keystone and Kessler).

    As for the Fresh Market, it would be great if the building was right up to the sidewalk, but we are thrilled to be getting it and you can bet we will be WALKING to it frequently.
  • More importantly, Fresh Market will serve the local neighborhood. People place too much emphasis on form over function. Carmel builds a completely average suburban strip mall, except with the parking lot in back, and people fall all over themselves praising it. It's about urban function, and the Fresh Market serves its purpose.
  • Moe & Johnny's is a nightmare. A holdover from some era, whenever that was, when completely obliterating the sidewalk in favor of a full site length driveway was somehow deemed appropriate. To use that as a justification for providing parking between a building and a street is to say we need not strive to raise our standards for development.
  • Ablerock, I think this is over-due too. I don't walk much of anywere but the option should be avaliable.
    Helen, I just went to SSC and Unionstation13 has stated she is no longer posting on this website. Is there a way you can clarify by posting on SSC as Unionstation13? Anyway, I do agree its pathetic.
    Dave, though I'm not a fan of the design the fresh market will probably benefit people in that area. I like kroger and chain grocers but its good that grocery stores are being built in the more compact part of town.
  • Like this is a good idea. I think new sidewalks would be good. Its dangerous for like little kids to be walking along streets that don't have big enough sidewalks. People who ride bicycles have also expressed dissatisfaction with the size of our sidewalks.
  • Those people on bicycles should probably be aware then that riding their BIKES on the SIDEWALK is illegal.
  • Yeah 'Helen' how can you prove to be Helen? I also read the posts on SSC. Unionstation is not someone I usually agree with(bit of a troll) but can you please post on SSC or something to end this stupid fued?
  • Oh my god, I just went to the previous blog and now someone is like saying they are John and then someone else is saying the other isn't.
    What is up with this site?!
  • Folks: Let's stay on topic and stop talking about copycats. I tried e-mailing the poster originally known as Helen, but her/his address doesn't work. Now, the same person is posting as John, OttoBotto and Lafayettegal. Pick a name and stick with it, please.
  • As a former DPW employee I know that we do not have enough money in the budget to fix the sidewalks. The curb/sidewalk and resurfacing budgets are often dipped into when money is needed. My concern is that we are going to require sidewalks when we can't repair the ones we have - only to have more that we can't repair. I hope there is a plan for this.
  • Ooh busted by the Schouten! :D

    As a resident of the outer townships, I am very happy to see this ordinance proposed. The big problem out here for walkability are main roads without sidewalks and commercial strips that aren't required to have sidewalks. I see a lot of people trudging to bus stops along Michigan road in ditches. Its really depressing.
    When my neighborhood was built the developer was actually required to build the first leg of a bike trail along michigan. It just ends at either side of the subdivision, all of a few hundred feet long. Without an ordinance like this it will never be extended into the commercial stuff to the north and south of us. I hope this passes!
  • My argument FOR ALWAYS including sidewalks is this, and I hope some policy wonks will enjoy discussing this further:

    In a democracy, all citizens should have equal access to shared common amenities. This includes the paths of movement, aka roads, which are built on publicly owned land. When a road doesn't have sidewalks, it effectively forbids the use of the public amenity for those who don't have access to a car. We ALL have access to our feet (or hopefully/alternatively assisted movement devices like wheelchairs), therefore every single path of movement should, nay must, include accommodation for pedestrians.

    Now the question is: if the developer is required to build the sidewalk, is it public property, or not? And if the public builds the road but doesn't own the land directly adjacent to the road, the public ROW, can we force developers to build on their private land what should be, IMO, a requirement of our use of public funds? I think the paths of movement by ALL modes of transportation should be publicly owned and equally accessible, therefore I don't think we should force the developer to pay for/maintain sidewalks; I think the city/governmental entity should have to do it. NOTE: That doesn't mean we can't force developers to pay much higher fees to cover the cost of sidewalks (which I also think we should be doing! If they want to build on greenfields they can jolly well pay the public ROW costs to get there!).
  • donna,

    Properties in the city were assessed for sidewalks, sewers, even street paving in the last century (the hated Barrett Law assessments) and all those improvements were in the public way. Fairness might dictate that the cost of extending those municipal services should be borne (ultimately) by the new residents and businesses, in the form of a levy or mandate on the owners of land at a particular date.

    Hitting up all county property owners for new sidewalks could be seen as a double-tax on those areas where property-owners previously paid for their sidewalks. However, if taxpayers outside the old city limits have helped to pay for maintenance and replacement of those original sidewalks inside the old city, it would mitigate the double-tax argument. If people without sidewalks have been paying to maintain them inside the old city, then there is a good case for the city-county government to pay for new sidewalks outside the old city.
  • I am not the same person as John, OttoBotto and Lafayettegal! That is ridiculouse!
  • hey Idyllic, if you went to Moe & Johnny's you would know that the building is a re-use of an old service station. The front parking is where the gas pumps used to be. I think that Moe & Johnny's is a good re-use of an old building and a great restaurant, bar, and coffee shop. Don't hate on the Bulldog.
  • Good re-use of the building, perhaps, but I'm still hating on the parking out front.
  • ...but others might condemn a developer who demolished an old building in an old neighborhood. It's a fine line, and I'm generally more in favor of good re-use of solid old buildings than of demolition. This one has a really cool octagonal turret and dome and buff-colored brick that add height and interest and texture to the area.

    That whole corner node functions in a way that proves Indianapolis' parking-lot requirements are ridiculously high for urban neighborhoods. The corner is proof that even moderate density and sidewalks encourage people to walk in their neighborhoods. The long-term stability of Meridian-Kessler (despite popular perceptions about IPS) is due in part to lots of people who choose to live there in part because of the walkability of the area and the presence of corner nodes like the ones all along College.
  • I live at 54th & Collage (College Court Condos). Before I stray off topic ... this area, despite the density and maturity of the development, has areas that have no sidewalks within a two block radius. I often see pedestrians (and myself) having to walk between parked cars and traffic along 54th - not fun. So yes, this ordinance is a good thing where new development occurs.

    Secondly, that area of 54th and College should not be considered urban. It's been suburban since it was developed in the 1910s and 1920s. It's the original Indy suburbia designed to accommodate automobiles and people together. It's an example of great zoning that mixed light commercial pockets surrounded by mostly single family dwellings with some multi-family buildings intermixed. This resulted in functional neighborhoods that encourage walking to shopping, dining, entertainment (even schools!!) with convenient automobile access. Moe and Johnny's was a Kroger grocery store and a service station designed to again accommodate automobiles. The Fresh Market compliments the design intent of the neighborhood while slightly (quite literally) elevating the population, or in this case commercial, density. Old suburbia shouldn't be confused for urban and shouldn't be treated with the same development standards that make sense in Center Township or other more verticle areas.
  • I guess urban vs. suburban is in the eye of the beholder. The relatively small lots, the grid street pattern, narrow right-of-way widths, and relatively low speed limits all indicate an urban development pattern to me.
  • Suburban, by today's standards, implies wide spacing and deep setbacks and front-yard parking in distinct shopping districts that are well separated from residences clustered on meandering streets and cul-de-sacs.

    Meridian Kessler looks a whole lot more like Center Township than it looks like Fishers; ignoring obsolescence, blight, and a bit of misguided infill redevelopment around King Park, the development pattern on College Ave. looks pretty much the same from 13th to 62nd.

    The development pattern in many of the residential areas of Center Twp. outside downtown is indistinguishable from the College corridor. By today's standards it is undeniably urban: rectillinear street grid, 40-foot urban lots, close spacing and shallow setbacks of homes, rear alleys, and neighborhood schools, churches, and shopping corners.

    To correct your history, much of Meridian Kessler was platted in the late 1890s, and many homes were built in the first two decades of the last century before automobiles were commonplace. The area was a streetcar suburb.
  • Thanks for breaking it down.

    What's the misguided development you speak of around King Park?

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