This headline may be a little misleading, but only by a little bit. Last night, July 27th, the IPS (Indianapolis Public School) board voted 5-2 (link via Indystar) to give the school district the authority to raze 7 properties adjacent to the school. According to the local media reports, the superintendent has claimed that they need this property to perform additions to the school including new facilities, and "parking". They also cited the bus loading area as "dangerous". Also, according to this article from the Indianapolis Star, the school plans to add a library and a cafeteria that will utilize the existing parking space.
While this vote doesn't represent the killing blow to owners of the property, it does display a lack of transparency on the part of IPS. I do not live in the neighborhood and do not see the normal bus loading and unloading methods so I cannot speak on that. Nor, do I know the full extent of the building improvements. The fact that IPS has declared that the school could close if these renovations are not performed though, displays a notion that they are willing to take on great expense in closing the school and locating in another facility. Whether this means building a new school elsewhere, or outfitting another location remains unclear as this is likely only lip service, but it represents a greater expense then working with what is on the ground now.
I took a few moments out of my normal commute north this morning to go and observe what the lay of the land looks like. The photos in this post represent the conditions on the ground at IPS School 58. What you see is the obvious, a huge parking lot on the north side of the facility, an alleyway on the eastside, Linwood Ave on the west side and busy New York Street on the south side of the schol. The current parking solution for school employees and visitors appears to be the large parking lot to the north. There is also parking for residents of the neighborhood along the west side of Linwood; a setup that obviously belays that people travelling south on Linwood can easily pull in and park; opposite the street from the school. According to the graphic I have attached (via Indystar) you can plainly see that buses are located on the east side of the building; a parking position that can only be seen as unloading since they are not stored on these grounds. If this is in fact the current bus loading and unloading situation, I fail to see how this is "dangerous" as the loading area is adjacent to a crumbling alley that is in enough disrepair that no one is speeding on it.
Additionally, the school has offered "fair market value" for the homes that they wish to raze. If you do not live in this area, one cannot grasp the fact that home values are likely not that high. Fair market value likely means giving the residents enough money to buy something else close by and incur lasting expenses.
I think by this point I am starting to lay out a good case why this is an enourmous failure by IPS to "put on their thinking cap". A move that appears blatantly stupid considering they run a public school system. According to the skyscraper city forums, where many locals talk about urban issues, residents of the area were never pulled into a community meeting to help plan any alternatives.
I sure do hope that some sort of compromise can be struck to avoid this issue. There are plenty of smart people in Indianapolis including urban enthusiasts and traffic planners, who I am POSITIVE can come up with a reasonable solution that avoids seizing this property. Perhaps it is something progressive like the Fresh Market solution in Broad Ripple where a parking lot was built on top of a new grocery store when faced with a similar issue. Perhaps changing the on-street parking on Linwood to the east side, and marking off a bus loading zone directly in front of the school would work. Buses unload on the right side of the vehicle anyway, and would unload directly onto the sidewalk given that situation.
If IPS is willing to pay for the incredible expense of 7 properties, razing them and the high cost of a parking lot, then alternative solutions should be sought out that are progressive, efficient, send the right message that they are genuinely interested in positive progress for the community and do not create a public relations nightmare.
This past Friday, I had to work late. I didn't even get home until about 7:30pm which was a downer. So when my wife asked if I would like to go out for ice cream, I of course said YES! This was a great way to get out and walk and salvage what was left of the evening. We gathered up the kid and were out the door in short order. We ended up going to Greeks Pizzeria in Broad Ripple which was our first visit after driving past the place dozens of times and saying that we should stop. The pizza was pretty good! The breadsticks were a little buttery, but tasted good. We had a meat lovers type of pizza. What made it was the crust! Very crunchy and tasty. However, the ingredients were very good as well.
Next, we made our way back to the trail and walked for a bit. On our way back down, we approached the new Broad Ripple Ice Cream Station. It was around 9:30pm and the deck was still full. We went inside and had to wait on a few people and stepped up and made our choice. We each got a "single scoop" sugar cone for $2.80. What we thought was one schoop ended up being three scoops piled on top of the cone. This is what they call a single scoop. The inside of what was once a stop along the old Monon Railroad, has been nicely renovated. It appears they are still using the old single pane glass windows. The intereior decorations have been tastefully done with a nod to it's history in the form of many old photos of the train running through the area, and some detailed maps framed, of the old Monon rail system. They have lent a thought to being green as well. Where most ice cream shops let you taste the ice cream before you buy, BRICS does this too. Instead of getting a plastic spoon though, they hand you a real metal spoon with a glass on the counter to return it. Also, they have recycle bins placed around the property to gather up what may be left of a customer's stay. I was pretty impressed by the tasting spoons. They are doing what they should be doing of course, as a consumer though, I just do not see it that often.
We observed, ate and then took our leave as our newborn was starting to get a little fussy. As we left around 10pm, the serving area was packed! I should have taken a photo of that, but there must have been 20-30 people waiting on ice cream. Nice to see a new local spot doing well for itself already!
This past Sunday, was my first Father's Day. My wife and son had put together a large plan of things to do for the day. First, we started with breakfast @ Henry's on East who make a pretty good sausage and egg croissant. We did a lap around the block of Mass Ave, Park Ave and East Street before getting in the car to make our way to the next stop. Here are a few photos from our trip around the block.
Our next stop, was going to be the IMA and it's new 100 Acres Art's Park. The grand opening was planned for Father's Day. However, we made a stop by one notable construction project going on located on the NW Side of downtown. The Fall Creek YMCA is being mowed down to make way for a brand new mixed use development. Here is a shot of the demolition progress thus far. There are still floor lamps and drapes hanging in each room. It looked like something out of post war eastern Europe...
After that, we headed over to the IMA. We arrived around noon-ish in hopes of beating the would-be crowd for the Grand Opening of the 100 Acres Arts Park. The park is located on the grounds of the IMA, but is considered a bit of a walk (especially if you have a stroller) from the main building. As such, the IMA was offering a shuttle from the main building, down 38th street and dropping off along the White River parking lot area.
We managed to fold down the stroller and pack in and make the short journey over. The trolley was merely a bus painted up to look like a classic streetcar. Too bad there isn't a REAL rail streetcar in Indy. Once we got off, and walked into the park, we were greeted by a TON of people and all sorts of festivities. There was a giant grasshopper greeting people right at the entrance.
As we went further into the park, most of the trailway was paved with some sort of clay. It was squishy and moist, but we were able to easily push the stroller along, even deep into the network of trails through the woods. We made it as deep as the visitor's pavilion where we took a rest and had some water.
After running into a few friends, Mark Cline of Fun-City-Finder, and Graeme Sharp of local blog A Place of Sense, we made our way back to the trolley pick up. What followed was a taxing wait in the very hot Indiana heat of the weekend. I could feel my pores going wide open as the swear poured forth! We managed to keep little Oscar cool with fans and when the trolley made it's way back, we got on and into some air conditioning; a welcome feeling indeed! The ride back however, was much longer. The roads in this area are designed in such a way that you cannot simpy turn back and go the roughly 1/4 mile back up 38th street to the IMA building. We had to take a 4 mile route back through some side streets with a stop at the Major Taylor Velodrome to pick up more people. By the time we made it back to the IMA, we were drenched in sweat and ready to get off! The large amount of people made for a stuffy ride back, but I wasn't complaining. Now, if we could just manage to find a way to get this many people on an IndyGO bus, we would be doing great! I leave you with a parting shot of your's truly all drenched in sweat riding the trolley back. Hope you all had a great Father's Day! I sure did!
Full disclosure. I haven't done enough research on this topic yet. But I couldn't help but post up a picture of the cool bike rack fronting the Upland Brewery Tasting Room in Midtown Indianapolis. Located at the intersection of 49th and College Ave, the newly opened place has this rack sitting out front.
My wife and I were out in downtown last night and on our way home, we stopped and I was able to snap this photo. I am going to attempt to do some research to shed some more light on this rack. See who made it, and if there are others like it in existence around Indy. You can't dismiss the attention this brings to you store when it is sitting out front. Having a newborn at home, I haven't been able to make it out to a bar lately, but Upland is on my short list of places to visit in the near term.
There has been a lot of hub-bub about closing the Monument Circle to automobile traffic here in Indianapolis. Recently, city officials announced that they were going to close the monument circle, a known and admired shared space, to autos for the month of August. Simply as a trial run, they wanted to see how well the space would perform, devoid of cars. While the circle currently offers no REAL amenities to draw people, officials believed that the merits of the monument as a gathering place today, would spawn further pedestrian oriented development.
Frankly, this seems a little odd being that no permanent plans can be laid with only a single month planned for closure. Further more, how do you simulate the real thing when you close it down for only a month? How do we keep traditionally auto-oriented clients like the Columbia Club and the Theater happy? (they both have valet parking BTW)
Today, the city rescinded the plan in light of putting it back on the table. Apparently, too many people complained about the closure including a group of local architects crying foul on how poor a decision this could turn out to be.
So now that we are back at square one, how about a REAL plan Indianapolis? How can we develop a plan that actually makes this a winning idea? Can we create a transportation system that brings people, not just the poor who are the major demographic riding the laughable public transportation system, to the circle? Can local officials haggle with the owners of the buildings fronting the circle to entice them to open up the ground level, circle facing frontage to retail and/or restaurants? Given a firm plan, with committments from private owners on the circle, a great plan could be hatched to truly make this a public space.
Perhaps the final solution involves limited automobile access to places like the Columbia Club and the Theater. Or maybe the winter months when there is not a large amount of people, discounting Christmas and the festival of lights perhaps.
Maybe we can channel a little bit of Europe and create the magic that they enjoy by really creating an environment that brings people in; nice places to eat, and fun things to purchase while enjoying the downtown area.
Recently, the Riley Area Development Corporation launched an effort titled, "Placemaking on Mass Ave" as a way to gather some public input on improving the areas along and adjacent to Mass Ave in downtown Indy. No doubt, for you locals, we already know how great Mass Ave has become compared to what it has been in years past.
However, there is still much remaining to do to create a place that truly delivers. There are blocks that cut off the lower and upper ends. There are arterial streets that make it difficult to get across. Affordable housing is not to be found unless you are on government assistance. However, those things said, it is still a great place.
I recently asked a friend of mine who runs a shop on Mass Ave, how the public input meetings went, and how the effort was going to proceed. She told me a few things and accordingly, Bill Brooks of the Urban Times penned an article expounding on the fine points.
Im anxious to see how these suggestions come to fruition. They may seem minor, but I have a feeling that they may create a pretty good impact on the community.
A couple whom I would consider good friends have started a small community garden on the east side of Indianapolis. They live in a house and own the neighboring lot as well where a house once stood.
In it's place, a small community garden is taking shape, as well as a gathering space for other members of the neighborhood. Allen and Kristin Bunch maintain the property along with a number of folks living "on mission" with them. The concept took hold last summer as a group of 11 of us attended Guatemala on a week long trip with Indy Metro Church. What resulted, was a strong will to affect positive change.
The "Tux Community Garden" while small, still serves a purpose for the right reasons, helping people out. Allen told me that they will be showing some movies on a projecter screen this year. They have already shown Honey I Shrunk The Kids previously. The aim is to help bring the people of the neighborhood together in a positive fashion.
The past week presented my new family with many opportunities to get out and about in Indianapolis. We had a great time enjoying some of the things that our hometown has to offer. We started Memorial Day weekend by visiting a new pizza joint in Midtown Indy called Napolese. An offshoot of the popular Cafe Patachou local chain, Napolese offers what they call "Artisanal Pizza".
Im here to tell you that whatever it is, it is pretty good. I enjoy almost any pizza from a store bought frozen pizza baked in the oven to deep dish Chicago style. I have to admit though, this was the first time I had enjoyed pizza of this nature. It was thin, of a not so round shape, but the ingredients were great! Good cheese and the pepperoni was sliced in thick, large pieces. We had the classic. Along with a Sun King Pale Ale, I could not have asked for much more out of the dining experience.
Last night, we took my son downtown for his first visit to Monument Circle. We wanted to get some good 2 month photos, and my wife had her D700 out taking some good photos. I managed to snap a few good ones with my D90 though. Enjoy the photos, we sure had a great time out enjoying the different spaces our fine city has to offer.