Local leaders are moving forward with a wide-ranging effort to bring the White River out of the background and into the spotlight as a community asset.
On Monday, the City of Indianapolis’ Department of Metropolitan Development and Hamilton County Tourism Inc. jointly issued a formal invitation to consultants who are interested in working on this project. Officials from both counties plan to discuss the project during a press conference Wednesday morning at Broad Ripple Park.
A variety of public officials and community leaders have been laying the groundwork for this effort in recent months. Their activities have included fact-finding trips to cities with downtown riverfronts, including Cincinnati; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; and Wilmington, North Carolina.
Brenda Myers, president and CEO of Hamilton County Tourism Inc., said Hamilton County officials had been working on their own ideas for White River development. At the suggestion of the fellow tourism promoter Visit Indy, Hamilton County decided to collaborate with Indianapolis on the project.
Now the release of the public invitation, known as a request for qualifications, is the first official step toward hiring someone to actually craft a plan. The RFQ can be found here.
Officials are focused on gathering information about consulting teams interested in the White River project. Requests for qualifications are due July 26. Then, in August, officials plan to begin interviewing the applicants. After that, a consulting team will be selected to proceed with developing a plan.
The long-term goal of the project is to “develop a comprehensive and coordinated regional vision for enhancement of the White River,” the document says.
“We invite everyone who has any interest in participating in this,” said Lindsey Richardt, spokeswoman for the DMD. “We hope to get a lot of developers’ attention.”
Officials are looking for teams with expertise in ecology, water quality and hydrology issues, strategic planning, real estate, tourism and other areas.
But officials don’t expect their chosen development team to start from scratch.
According to the document released on Monday, the White River plan should “identify, understand and synthesize existing and historical plans” such as those created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Visit Indy, the city of Indianapolis and others.
Among other things, the plan should also:
— include an inventory of existing assets within a half-mile of the river;
— develop a plan for engaging stakeholders;
— include consideration of river volume, flow and water-quality issues;
— identify opportunities for “new or enhanced destination locations”;
— include rough estimates of the private and public money required to carry out the plan.
Although it’s too early to say what will happen with this project, nothing will happen overnight. Other cities, Myers said, have taken 10 to 20 years to develop their riverfronts, with efforts that continue to evolve.
“I think it is important for everyone to remember, including myself, that this is a project with a long view,” Myers told IBJ.