What does the ideal community look like? For some people, it might be shade trees and sidewalks that grant entry to parks and shops within walking distance of their front door. For others, it might be attributes such as hiking trails, waterfront access or a walkable and bikeable commute to work. Whatever the preference, all of us have an idealized picture in our heads of what our surroundings should look like.
The problem is, in communities such as Fishers and many others just like it, “ideal” isn’t that simple. Achieving any ideal sense of place requires understanding and compromise, and the first step is to keep longtime residents informed of proposed developments and how such changes will affect them. The next step requires creating ways to attract new residents and blend “the old and the new” into a vibrant overall community. This means letting established residents, as well as new ones, see for themselves that growth and change are beneficial.
Unfortunately in Fishers, as the Nickel Plate District’s expansion continues, the naysayers tend to increase. I’ve heard claims that all this new development is ruining “how things used to be.” But the fact is, the Nickel Plate rail line hasn’t been heavily used since Fishers became a city in 2015. And even before then, the rail line had increasingly become a hazard for pedestrians as Fishers began to evolve into an innovation and technology hub and more people concentrated near downtown.
With the old and the new now in mind, we have to focus on making the switch from living in the past to continually moving forward. This means bidding farewell to the Nickel Plate tracks and taking creative measures to connect our community in ways that promote and sustain economic growth. That’s what makes the Nickel Plate Trail and its master plan so important. Newcomers move to Fishers because they like what’s happening downtown and in surrounding areas.
As for the naysayers, they’ll always persist, but a consensus among longtime residents lets us know what the city is doing is working. It’s even more evident when you look at the steady population growth and the roster of awards ranging from “Best Places to Live” and “Green Community of the Year” to TechPoint’s first ever “Rising Tech City.”
All told, Mayor Scott Fadness and the city’s public- and private-sector leaders have given Indiana a blueprint for communities looking to shed the image of being a sleepy small town. The blueprint is one that shows them the steps they can take to become a prosperous, engaging and connected community instead.
Going forward, Fishers’ core vision remains to incorporate placemaking that will spur transformation and innovation. Subsequently, this will help the city evolve even more, adapt to new generations of residents, and continue to foster an entrepreneurial spirit that’s vital to the community.
I think it’s important for all Indiana residents to take a look at their own communities, towns and cities and ask themselves why it’s important to play an active role in promoting new development. Not only will it benefit Indiana’s economic development as a whole, but it also increases connections to our neighbors and friends while cementing plans for upcoming business growth and prosperity.
Don’t we all want to live in that idealized community we envision?•
McDonald is the CEO of Fishers-based ClearObject and chairman of the Indiana Technology and Innovation Policy Committee. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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