HEALY: Envision Broad Ripple promotes change

November 16, 2013

viewpoint-healy-tomApparently, it’s no longer possible to undertake a project in Broad Ripple Village without its being labeled “controversial.”

Whether it’s bike lanes, an arts trail, a building taller than two stories, a parking garage, or the removal of invasive honeysuckle, somebody somewhere is sure to rant, “What!? Somebody’s doing something in the Village?! This must be stopped or else Broad Ripple will be destroyed forever!”

But there has been no destruction of the Village. In fact, engaged citizens of good will spent 4-1/2 years in a convivial public planning process called Envision Broad Ripple (EBR). The resulting guidelines aspire to support the Village’s continued success.

Some of the citizens most loudly bemoaning the Village’s imminent demise did not participate in EBR. Now that their interest has been awakened, their objections bring to mind a line from W.H. Auden’s poem The Age of Anxiety: “We would rather be ruined than changed.”

That rejection of change will ruin Broad Ripple.

During his 2009 Indy Chamber Hob Nob keynote, new urbanist planner Jeff Speck called Broad Ripple “Indy’s other downtown.”

EBR embraced this concept because the Village generates an estimated $75 million in economic activity annually. This is an urban destination vital to the city’s prosperity.

rop-vwpt-111813-15col.jpg The canal in Broad Ripple would be transformed into a linear park under a planning document being considered. (IBJ File Photo)

Through the years, the Village has proved its resilience during times of catastrophe and change.

It survived when the canal flooded, when the interurban railway was discontinued, when the amusement park at Broad Ripple Park was dismantled, when trolleys were decommissioned, when parking meters were installed, when Glendale Mall was built, when the parking deck was built, when the parking deck was removed, when the library was moved, when buildings on Broad Ripple Avenue burned to the ground.

Each time, Broad Ripple rose to the challenge and demonstrated the independent drive and irrepressible spirit that make the Village such a unique place.

The present moment presents an opportunity to consciously guide the Village’s continued evolution by embracing the sound principles of place-making embedded in the EBR guidelines.

I wish critics had found the time to attend one of the 27 EBR sessions. Like the critics, EBR participants are also busy people raising families, running businesses, going to school or work, and updating social media, yet they found time to work with their neighbors to shape the future. They embraced the opportunity to debate building height and mass and transit concerns and ways to promote sustainability, increase daytime activity, add residential density, and expand green space.

They sought feedback on proof-of-concept projects along the way.

All these experiences added to the communal knowledge base expressed in the EBR guidelines and were brought to bear on negotiations about the proposed development along the canal.

For more than a year, Browning Investments met with community members to solicit input on ways its proposed project might complement the community’s goal of transforming the canal into a linear park.

“Progress is a nice word,” Robert F. Kennedy once noted, “but change is its motivator, and change has its enemies.”

As the project moves forward, a 30-year dream of creating a landscaped, family-friendly bike and pedestrian esplanade along the canal is poised for realization. The only thing controversial about that would be if it were prevented from happening.

Those who reject change in Broad Ripple will be the architects of its decay.•


Healy owns Apple Press Inc. and is a volunteer director of the Broad Ripple Village Association. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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