CICF News / 2012 / July / News Post
July 23, 2012
Design, Development & Downtown Indianapolis


Last week, urban planning blogger Aaron M. Renn wrote about why he has chosen not to live in Indianapolis on his blog, the Urbanophile. The post, "Why I Don't Live In Indianapolis", has inspired a lot of commentary and conversation online, including CICF's Facebook page.

Citing the recent approval of a garage at New York and Illinois Streets by Indianapolis' Regional Center Hearing Examiner, Renn argues that the city suffers from a "crisis of values", stating:

"Indianapolis is the place where, as a rule, not good enough is more than good enough for most people, even community leadership."

He also writes:

"I'm sure Indy’s boosters will be happy to talk about world class parts of downtown like Monument Circle, the Cultural Trail, Georgia St., etc. And these are legitimately first rate. Actually, that makes it worse. It shows that Indianapolis can compete with the best if it wants to, but most of the time it just doesn’t care to. It’s not ignorance. The city knows what to do, it just doesn’t want to do it.

"For some reason locals seem to think that doing it right should be reserved for a handful of special places and occasions. But the mark of at great city isn’t how it treats its special places – everybody does that right – but how it treats its ordinary ones. Indy is like the guy who thinks he can get away with wearing the same old dirty clothes fives days in a row and not taking showers, as long he slaps on a little top shelf cologne before he leaves the house. I’ve got news for you, people are going to notice."

Places and spaces are a central part of CICF's Community Leadership Initiatives. As a champion for the Inspiring Places Initiative, CICF President and CEO Brian Payne responds to Renn's thoughts, writing:

"Thanks, Aaron and to all who have commented. This is a very lively and important discussion. I’m the President and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation. We founded the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick and have a multi-year, multi-million dollar community leadership initiative called the “CICF Inspring Places Initiative.” The goal of this initiative is to make Indianapolis a top ten city of choice for highly educated, creative and community-minded people. Sometimes the City administration is a wonderful and thoughtful partner in this effort and sometimes they seem to undermine it. They don’t do it on purpose, but they don’t seem to understand that every new development and every decision on design is important. “Garages, ahh, they’re just there to store cars. It’s not important what they look like.” I’ve made this quote up but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I heard it from a city leader. A well-designed garage is very possible and can make a huge difference in the feeling of a downtown or college campus. Downtown LA has a beautiful new garage that actually adds design value to the city. IUPUI built a beautiful garage on the Cultural Trail that adds to the aesthetic experience of being on the Trail. In the City’s defense, the last two City administrations have been wonderful supporters and co-leaders on the Cultural Trail and that was a gutsy, creative move by both. I completely agree with Aaron, though, that how we treat our ordinary spaces is so important. We need to have consistent high standards and aggressively reject mediocrity."

More on CICF's Inspiring Places Initiative.

More on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick.