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.