Indianapolis recently hosted the East Central ULI Regional Product Council 2.0, a multi-disciplinary forum designed to foster the sharing of information and best practices by mid- and senior-level members. The Regional Product Council focused on public/private partnerships in mixed-use development.
“The Regional Product Council brought together a lot of smart people with interesting perspectives from peer communities,” said Sean Northup, deputy director of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization and co-champion of the ULI East Central RPC. “When we can have open conversations and be resources to one another, it just makes everyone stronger.”
“Everyone I encountered was extremely friendly and more than willing to share secrets of success that they had put in place,” said RPC attendee Chris Dobrozsi, CCIM, vice president of real estate development, Neyer Properties, Cincinnati. “They were open to sharing and getting ideas from us to make our region a better place for years to come.”
The day-and-a-half event included stops in Speedway, Broad Ripple, Tarkington Park, Midtown Carmel, the Nickel Plate District in Fishers, Fort Harrison, the Near North Redevelopment and Market East District. RPC members heard from a blend of elected officials and other community leaders at each location.
Northup said the committee considered suggestions from Regional Product Council members while focusing on unique projects around the community, concentrating on public/private partnerships.
“We’ve gotten good at public-private partnerships,” said Northup. “We tend to have to balance out our public and private work instead of focusing on public-heavy investments. It’s a pretty interesting story about how we’re trying to get things done.”
Impressions of the Indy Area
Indianapolis and its surrounding communities provided some unexpected and interesting observations for RPC participants.
Sarah Mackert, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, senior associate architect at JBAD, Columbus, Ohio, last visited downtown Indianapolis more than 15 years ago and said it felt “much younger and more vibrant” this time around.
“Of the areas we visited, I was most intrigued by Broad Ripple Village,” said Mackert. “I felt like I was discovering something unique, grass-roots local, vibrant, and peaceful all at the same time. Many people were out and about, most on-foot. It felt like a community made up of real neighbors at a variety of income levels, with many artists. The canal was another surprise, and I like that it felt organically interwoven with the buildings around it.”
Jane Arthur, managing partner, Treplus Communities, Columbus, Ohio, was impressed with the amount of activity taking place in downtown Indianapolis in the evening. “In addition, the urban and suburban development was incredible,” she said. “The transit station, the Cummins building and 360 Market Square were all fabulous, and the magnitude of development in the nearby communities of Carmel and Fishers was really intriguing.”
Dobrozsi was struck by what Indy-area communities, especially Carmel and Fishers, are doing to maintain themselves as sustainable communities—places people want to live and work. For example, Fishers is focusing on talent development and retention through Launch Fishers, the IoT (Internet of Things) lab, and the engagement of high school students in entrepreneurship.
“I’m the mayor of a small town just north of Cincinnati, so we want our communities to be sustainable for generations to come,” Dobrozsi said. “What Fishers and Carmel have done in a short amount of time is amazing.”
As it relates to the urban core, in addition to talent development, Dobrozsi said the sustainable community conversation typically includes transit. “The planning and activity it took to get the bus rapid transit plan passed in Indy will result in a regional game-changer,” he said.
Dobrozsi noted he was also surprised at how much the mayors are actively involved in economic development and community building—an observation shared by Arthur.
“In terms of the synergies and partnerships between municipalities and developers, I’ve never seen anything to this degree,” Arthur said. “Developers are realizing they need the help of the cities as it relates to infrastructure and making cohesive developments. That’s part of our business, but in Indianapolis, it’s taking place at a unique level.”
The dialogue and tours provided inspiration for the RPC participants on many levels.
“I was inspired by Indy’s vision and follow-through,” said Mackert. “From Speedway to Market Square to Broad Ripple to Carmel, the scale and the source of the vision varied, but in every instance, there was a thread of continuity that amplified the overall impact.”
“For me, a key takeaway from both the developer and the mayor perspectives was the importance of educating the public about the importance of items such as transit,” said Dobrozsi. “The public transit referendum passed nearly 60/40, so the fact so many residents supported something they don’t currently utilize was huge—they understood it was important for long-term success. It’s important to educate and make potential critics become supporters once they realize the long-term vision of the city. Sometimes communities get bogged down in day-to-day operations, but Indianapolis and the surrounding areas have done a good job looking at what they want to become.”
Dobrozsi was also intrigued by the city’s willingness to invest in kickstarting areas such as the former Market Square Arena site. “City leaders knew it was important to invest early on in some of these neighborhoods to jumpstart them into success, and that it would create a ripple effect of development,” he said. “We need to see more places doing that.”
A bright future
Based on feedback from RPC attendees, in addition to providing ideas and inspiration, the event created positive perceptions of Indianapolis and what lies ahead for central Indiana
“All the communities we visited were clearly forward thinking,” said Dobrozsi. “They have strong brands that they lever on various fronts, from the sports perspective to the educational perspective. Each community seemed to have their own character and sense of place, which is pretty special.”
“It’s a lovely city that’s growing,” Arthur said. “I can see it being attractive to businesses and outside developers.”
“Indianapolis is approaching a leap frog moment among Midwestern peers,” said Mackert. “The momentum is there, and it will be exciting to see what the community will create over the next five to 10 years.”
About the ULI East Central RPC
The ULI East Central RPC included Indiana co-champions Jim Goggan, Woolpert; Greg Jacoby, Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects and Sean Northup, Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization. Visiting champions included Jane Arthur, Treplus Communities (Columbus); Paul Beegan, Beegan Architectural Design LLC (Cleveland); Louis Oliverio, Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP (Pittsburgh); and Sean Suder, Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP (Cincinnati).
Other ULI Indiana participants included Tom Bedsole, Frost Brown Todd LLC; Kris Farrar, Old Town Design Group; April Schilling, Stoll Keenon Ogden PLLC; and Karen Valiquett, CORE Planning Strategies, with the support of ULI Indiana’s director, Jennifer Milliken. Taylor Firestone of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization designed and produced the briefing book.
Special thanks to the City of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization for their support of the RPC as well as our hosts and speakers:
- Megan Baumgartner, City of Fishers
- Lauren Day, IndyGo
- Aletha Dunston, Fort Harrison Reuse Authority
- Mayor Scott Fadness, City of Fishers
- Colleen Fanning, Indianapolis Marion County City-County Council Member
- Kris Farrar, Old Town Development
- Mark Fisher, Indy Chamber
- Tedd Grain, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Indianapolis
- Tim Gropp, Town of Speedway
- Adrienne Keeling, City of Carmel
- Scarlett Martin, City of Indianapolis Mayor’s office
- Michael McKillip, Midtown Indy
- Henry Mestetsky, Carmel Redevelopment Commission and Bingham Greenebaum Doll
- Justin Moffett, Old Town Development
- Adam Thies, Indiana University
– By Holly Bolton, FSMPS, CPSM
Communications Chair, ULI Indiana
Owner, 3chord Marketing