Every 40 years or so, it’s good for a city to step back, take stock of its zoning regulations, and decide if changes are needed.
OK, maybe four decades is too long to wait. But what Indianapolis might lack in speed it’s making up for in inclusiveness as it embarks on Indy Rezone, an effort that will lead to the first comprehensive change in zoning and development regulations here since 1969.
The city unveiled the Indy Rezone plan July 5, and it’s clear from the top of the project flow chart that fresh perspectives are welcome. The effort is co-chaired by longtime real estate broker Abigail Hohmann and People for Urban Progress co-founder Michael Bricker.
Hohmann brings a wealth of experience in commercial real estate. And the decision to include Bricker sends a message that Indianapolis is breaking out of a trap that cities—and all organizations, for that matter—often fall into: tapping the same folks over and over to get things done.
Bricker’s group, founded in 2008, has made a name for itself by promoting public transit, environmental awareness and good urban design. PUP, which saved seats from the old Bush Stadium and repurposed fabric from the RCA Dome roof, is outside the city’s button-down power structure. Bricker’s participation at such a high level in Indy Rezone is a good counter to anyone who argues that the usual suspects always steer important decisions here.
Indy Rezone is all about coming up with zoning and regulations that are better suited to an urban environment. The current rulebook was written with a suburban mind-set (think large parking lots and buildings set way back from the street). So it makes sense to include someone, like Bricker, who has a background in architecture and a passion for urban places.
Bricker and Hohmann will preside over six Indy Rezone task forces, all stocked with a mix of veterans and relative newcomers to the policy process. Their goal is to gather as much public input as possible over the course of the next 18 months. A new set of regulations will then be drafted by March 2014 and submitted for city approval.
Indy Rezone is being funded with a $1.2 million federal Community Challenge Planning Grant that the city won in competition with 583 applicants. The Department of Metropolitan Development and the Mayor’s Office deserve congratulations for submitting a winning proposal and for making sure people with fresh ideas are part of the process.
We hope the changes that flow from this effort make Indianapolis a city where thoughtfully conceived residential and commercial projects are easier to build.•
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