Connecting 38th Street – regeneration, urban living, place making

By MELISSA FEARS // Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper

New changes along 38th Street are coming, or so the residents hope, as street and transit construction begins along the Northeast corridor of the city.

“By inviting friends, neighbors and stakeholders to the table to discuss a vision for a way forward, we feel we will be prepared and proactive to help retool our community after years of disinvestment and challenges,” said William Marquez, principal of “W/Purpose,” an urban design firm.

Recognizing the large needs of the area and its occupants, the United North East Community Development Corp. (UNECDC) has stepped in to organize a realistic vision to help alleviate challenges the area faces.

With studies conducted by the UNECDC showing that improvements such as sidewalks and more streetlights are a top priority for many in the area, the UNECDC wants community involvement to help realize the true potential.

Without the community’s input and interest, the├é┬áinitiative’s goals would stay static. There have been four focus groups planned throughout the month of May and early June.

Key elements in these discussions will focus on the regeneration of the neighborhoods, building the area’s unique character and culture, and development and change.

“We wanted to engage the community in infrastructure they could really rally around,” said UNECDC Executive Director George Brown.

Several parts of 38th Street have been re-done or are in the process of construction, but several other areas, such as the corridor between Fall Creek Parkway and Arlington Avenue, have fallen through the cracks on government funding. It has been about 63 years since this area was flourishing, says the UNECDC.

This area of the 38th Street corridor touches multiple neighborhoods, including the Meadows, Devington, Forest Manor North, Arlington Woods, Washington Park, and Forest Manor Communities. Within those communities many more neighborhoods exist and utilize 38th Street.

Brown began overseeing the project after seeing the success of a similar project in nearby Devington and hopes that the 38th Street area can have similar success.

Working with Marquez, Brown and his team have discovered that having more streetscapes, gardens, sidewalks and shops, it will help serve the community better and bring them together.

“There has got to be a level of community,” Marquez explains. “Without that, it can’t be successful. We’ve got to work with residents. You can’t force development.”

Currently some of the ideas the community has brought up are improvements that may include a faster bus service along the corridor that would enable residents to move more quickly.

Studies are currently being conducted by the Federal Transit Administration, Indiana Department of Transportation, Indy Connect, and others about the possibility of a transit stop at 38th and Fall Creek that would go from Noblesville to downtown.

Funding, of course, is always a concern. Initial funding will come from the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership, and other funding will be requested by the state and city government as project ideas arise, says Brown.

“We believe by engaging neighbors in a process about the possible appearance; identity; or innovations available to them, we’ll be able to learn and unfold a new reality for 38th Street – a reality whose future is viable, healthy, and connected,” Marquez said.

Thursday, May 26, 2011 11:29 am | Updated: 11:31 am, Thu May 26, 2011.