LETTER: Indy neighborhoods need smart growth

June 15, 2017

The planning theory of Smart Growth came into being in the 1970s and has been evolving and enjoying practice ever since.

In Indianapolis, its first elected public advocate was former Mayor Bill Hudnut. He left office in 1991 and took a position as senior policy advisor with the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C. In his essay for the Indianapolis Business Journal’s 25th anniversary special edition [May 25, 2005], he extoled Smart Growth in Indianapolis. He wrote “sprawling land use is pulling more and more people out of Marion County” and its “antidote is smart growth … and intelligent urban planning that does not simply approve one project after another, regardless of how it fits into the overall scheme of things.”

The Nora-Northside Community Council will celebrate its 50th anniversary on July 20. Over the years, it has worked very hard and accomplished much, by mostly volunteer efforts, to provide a community forum and to monitor and guide community development, livability and aesthetics.

Unfortunately, providing adequate parkland in the northern tier of Marion County townships, including Washington Township, has not been a high priority either for the city or for most community groups. Over time, prime potential park sites have routinely been privately developed without much consideration of their potential for public use. The Trust for Public Land recently ranked the 100 largest cities in the U.S. for parkland adequacy. Indianapolis tied with Fort Wayne for 98th place.

At the June meeting of the Nora Council, a park advocate commented that, from his observation that evening (after driving the 86th Street corridor from I-465 on the far west side to Haverstick Road and the heavily wooded site of the pending commercial rezoning petition), there exists not even one public park along the entire corridor. The city’s periodic comprehensive parks plans have repeatedly documented the per capita deficiency of parks in the north-side area (and throughout most of Marion County).

Mayor Hogsett recently announced his It’s My City initiative and coalition, which will focus on expanding greenspace in 2018. Perhaps the future is not as uninspiring as our recent history. And perhaps we can also return to the kind of civic-minded philanthropy articulated by John Holliday when he and his wife donated the site of Holliday Park over 100 years ago.

“I believe that a responsibility for the welfare of the community rests upon every citizen,” reads a quote from Holliday at the entrance to the park. “If he has prospered through the growth and business activities of the place, he ought to do something to make it a better place than he found it.”


Clarke Kahlo

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