Walkability High on Nora’s Wishlist

Walkability is high on the list of priorities identified by attendees of the first Nora Alliance meeting – nearly half (48%) of the submitted comments revolve around sidewalks, trails, pedestrian connectivity, safe routes and walkability.

Safe communities are livable communities. Here we focus on a few of the critical safety concerns – our arterial roads – that call out for complete streets in Nora.

A Critical Safety Issue

A 2014 report, Dangerous by Design, by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition finds that ‘incomplete’ streets are a major culprit in the deaths of thousands of Americans every year. Arterials designed only for cars, such as Ditch Road, College Avenue, and Westfield Boulevard in Nora, are the most dangerous.

Westfield Blvd needs complete streets
Westfield Blvd needs complete streets walkable bikeable

We’ve all seen it – school kids, families, elderly, handicapped, bikes, cars and buses sharing some of the same Nora streets every day (and night). There are a few particular offenders. These are arterial streets near schools, churches, shopping, and bus stops, having typically 40-MPH speed limits and no shoulder. The lack of sidewalks and/or off-street multi-use paths poises serious concern for pedestrians and motorists alike.

In the United States, in the decade from 2003 through 2012, more than 47,000 people died while walking on our streets. That is 16 times the number of people who died in natural disasters during in the same ten years. In 2012, pedestrians accounted for nearly 15 percent of all traffic deaths, up 6 percent from 2011 and representing a five-year high.

What Do You Think We Need For Nora?

As we work together towards proactive planning and livability issues, let’s look at how to make Nora’s streets safer for everyone.

Last summer (July 2014), City officials reached out and asked for what the public wants to see done.

“So we encourage them to contact their councilors, come with letters for them to sign that we can deliver to their councilors,” said Department of Public Works spokesperson Stephanie Wilson. “You know, anything we can do to continue to draw attention to the need for the Rebuild Indy 2 plan and get people excited about it and let them know it’s not going to happen unless they contact their representative.” (WTHR)

If we are asked again, will we have a collective response for the Nora area? Use the comment section below to share your story about walkable / bikeable streets.

Nora Alliance Kickoff Meeting: What We Heard

March 18, 2015, marked the first meeting of the Nora Alliance, aimed at introducing the initiative and identifying interest.


Local resident Bob Weaver kicked things off with introductions and a statement of how and why we are coming together as the Nora Alliance. Together, we can take a proactive approach to build community identity, enhance livability and address community issues.

Post-it notes were distributed for people to write down ideas about their wants for Nora.

The power of community-based proactive planning cannot be overstated. We invited Michael McKillip, Executive Director of Midtown Indy Inc., to share Midtown’s experience getting organized, developing objectives and initiatives, and how they are making a difference.

Example from Midtown Indy

Michael McKillip gave an information packed presentation of the work of Midtown Indy, Inc. Through about 165 community meetings since 2006, starting with a handful of interested neighbors, the grass-roots organization has grown to hundreds of volunteers and (just in the last two years) two paid staff.

Key to Midtown’s success has been proactive planning. Midtown has a mix of great neighborhoods, amazing destination public amenities, and its fair share of problems, such as vacancies and blight. The community was tired of reacting to things taking place in their geography. Now they are active, not reactive. They asked residents, “Tell us what you want. Where are the problems?,” recalled Michael.

Through a deliberate planning process, Midtown engaged neighbors, businesses, other civic and philanthropic organizations, and the City as partners. They studied the area closely, looking into issues such as the percent of land mass vs. tax generated from their area of the city, demographic trends, community interests, housing stock, transportation assets, public destination amenities, workforce, educational opportunities, and more.

From those studies emerged a plan to stimulate public and private investment to occur in ways that the community wants it. Now those efforts are paying off – thanks to the joint efforts of many. Midtown Indy, Inc. doesn’t claim ownership of all the projects in their community, rather they are dedicated to keeping people connected. As Michael put it, “Midtown owns nothing, and is involved in everything.”

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a timeline of Midtown Indy’s history.

Q & A

Questions and answers followed the Midtown Indy presentation. Here is a summary of what followed:

Herman Habegger, a 55-year resident of Nora, was kind enough to share some history with the group. Herman recounted that in the 1960s there were no good restaurants, 2 gas stations, 1 grocer, 1 hardware, 1 doctor’s office, 1 rail station, 1 small high school, and 1 church. Keystone Ave. (north) didn’t exist. It was largely a farming community, he said, “The growth here has been phenomenal, with a tremendously good culture.” Here, here.

Q: Who did the (Midtown) studies? How was it paid for?
A: Midtown facilitated raising about $145k in the early days from local residents and businesses. They later received some grants. Now funding is a mix split among individuals, business, and philanthropic organizations.

Q: How was Lincoln Square (Chicago) chosen as a model for Midtown?
A: It was based on similar densities. It is important to make the public transit system sustainable.

Q: What are the boundaries of Nora? Do we have distinct neighborhoods (like Midtown)?
A:  Nora has never been an incorporated place. Currently we are following the boundaries that have established by the Nora Northside Community Council. Michael noted when Midtown first got started, most of the neighborhoods wouldn’t have identified as such. He discouraged us from focusing too much on borders, and rather focus on areas with shared interest.

Q: What is the difference between this effort (Nora Alliance) and the Nora Northside Community Council (NCC)?
A: We see them as complimentary. There is a shared interest in seeing Nora thrive. Among other things, the NCC is heavily experienced with zoning issues in Nora. We expect the Nora Alliance will be more heavily involved in engaging and promoting the community and proactive planning. Michael McKillip noted that in Midtown there are other groups that take positions on zoning issues. Midtown doesn’t take a position – if they don’t agree they stay silent. If they agree, they help where they can.

Q: Does Midtown track crime?
A: Yes, but others track crime in detail. Midtown mainly looks at the large scale systemic issues.

Q: I like the “proactive” approach vs. “reactive”. I feel Nora has lacked someone looking at the big picture in terms of a comprehensive plan.
A: Midtown doesn’t look at itself as a broken community, but looks at the systemic problems and how to proactively address them. Midtown/Broad Ripple has recently established the city’s first “form-based” code.

Q: What is going on in some neighborhoods where a (NY) company owns tons of housing?
A: Big investment companies bought up a lot of houses in the last housing bust, particularly in low income areas. Now many are selling them, and the boom-bust cycle may happen again. The City-Cunty Council recently passed a Rental Registry that should help identify rental properties and owners. Unfortunately, there is little neighborhoods can do but try to keep an eye on housing ownership. An important part of the planning process is understanding our housing stock.

Wrap Up

Nora resident Jill Saligoe-Simmel wrapped up the meeting. There are many well organized community groups around Indianapolis that are making an impact similar to what Midtown Indy is achieving. Where these largely grass-roots communities develop a vision and plans for their community, the City is listening (and public/private investment is following). We will build on the interest from this first meeting to begin the process for Nora.

Post-it notes were collected.

Here’s What We Heard – What Do You Want for Nora? (Post-it Comments, unsorted)
  • Improved walking connections
  • Sidewalks on Westfield Blvd. north to 91st St. south to 86th St / YMCA
  • Traffic management of 86th Street
  • Create a community identity and vision
  • Walkability
  • A park or something to gather around
  • Too many apartment complexes
  • Mixed use buildings with pedestrian connections
  • Supportive transit that is safe and comfortable
  • Would like small, nice living for folks who want to downsize
  • Improved Monon trail crossing at 86th St.
  • Safer school crossings at NCHS/Northview
  • Love this area, don’t want to leave, but choices are extremely limited
  • No more apartments, please!
  • Individual housing neighborhoods with ownership
  • Walkable
  • Park / public gathering space
  • More local cafés and restaurants (too many chains)
  • Connect neighborhoods – more walkable
  • Need ideas to get people involved – lack of interest of people in the neighborhoods to volunteer for neighborhood associations, positions on board, or activities in the neighborhood
  • Young families move out when children reach school age – perception/reputation of Nora Elementary
  • Safe walk / bike connection 86th St through Keystone
  • More walk / bike trails
  • Paved access to Monon under high power lines? (east of Monon trail)
  • Overall strategy for development
  • Safety / security – decrease crime
  • Proactive planning
  • Walking trails or sidewalks on busy roads with lots of people walking them – Westfield Blvd (86th to 91st), College (75th to 96th), and Ditch (75th to 86th)

Suspicious Activity 03/14/15

On March 14, 2015 between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., two very suspicious-looking men were seen driving an unmarked white mini-van through the College Commons neighborhood.  They came up to the door of a home on Warwick Rd and offered very cheap prices on good steaks and said the neighbors at that residence had bought from them before, which was not true.  The neighbors told the men to leave the premises and when they left, they sped off down the street and out of the neighborhood.

Since they left the area in a hurry, the police were not called but this posting is to make everyone aware of the situation in case the men should return to neighborhoods in Nora.

If you see them, call 911 immediately!

(via College Commons Neighborhood Association)

Indiana daylight savings time map eastern vs. central time zone

How Is Your Morning? It Would Be Brighter On Central Time

If you awoke (in the dark), got your kids off to the bus stop (in the dark), made it to work (in the dark), and thought to yourself (in the dark), “I really hate this Daylight Savings Time,” you might just be a fan of Hoosiers for Central Time and the Central Time Coalition.

You see, it’s not necessarily Daylight Savings Time to blame, rather that we observe Eastern Daylight Savings Time instead of Central Daylight Savings Time (Indiana’s geographically correct time).

The mission of the Central Time Coalition is to promote the allocation of available sunlight and darkness in a manner that provides the greatest peace, safety and well-being to the citizens of Indiana. Specifically, the coalition supports Central Standard Time in winter and Central Daylight Time the remainder of the year. Their website is a call to action to the Indiana legislature to finish the job and get Indiana on the “right” time. It is packed with facts about the impact of Eastern time on Indiana, links to studies, and an online petition to show your support Hoosiers for Central Time (also on twitter).

The graph below compares how many sunrises Indianapolis would have before 7am on Eastern time (120 days) versus Central time (315 days).

sunrise graph Indiana daylight savings time comparison

Sunrise before 7am


Whether you are a fan of daylight savings time or not, some humor might help you going in the early morning darkness. Here’s comedian John Oliver ripping Daylight Saving Time on HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

Road Construction: Keystone Ave. Bridge Over 86th St.

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) is planning a bridge maintenance project for Keystone Avenue over 86th Street. The project includes improvements to the existing north- and south-bound bridges and approaches.

The existing bridge super and substructure will remain in place. The bridge deck will be removed and replaced (and widened). DPW indicated Keystone Avenue will remain open, with lane restrictions throughout the project.

Estimated Start Date: April 14th, 2015
Estimated Completion Date: October 2015

New bridge railings will be installed, of similar style as existing. No work on the 86th St. underpass is included in the project. DPW staff have indicated that the existing structure does not preclude future 86th St. pedestrian access that may be developed by other projects.

About RebuildIndy

RebuildIndy is Mayor Greg Ballard’s initiative to restore deteriorating streets, sidewalks and bridges as well as address neighborhood drainage and flooding issues. This investment continues to transform neighborhoods throughout Indianapolis.

These projects create local jobs and increase public safety for neighborhoods and residents, which supports Mayor Ballard’s commitment to make Indianapolis a more livable city.

If You Could Design Nora’s Future Parks…

What would it look like?

Indy Parks Begins 5-Yr Master Planning: Washington Township

On March 4th, 2015, Indy Parks kicked off their master planning process for Washington Township. While the master plan will be for the entire city, their approach will be to look at each township individually.

Now is the time to get involved in the process for Washington Township!

Indy Parks Master Plan

The parks department evaluates the path their extensive park system will take every five years. The goal of this project is to engage the community, leadership and stakeholders in a meaningful and innovative public input process to build a shared vision for parks and recreation that supports the economic and community goals of the City of Indianapolis. PROS Consulting is a nationally recognized firm, headquartered in Indianapolis and will lead Indy Parks to a great sustainable plan to move forward.

The duration of the project from start to finish is 10 months with an anticipated completion date by December 2015.

This is a community-input driven process and the outcome and future recommendations will be driven by the needs and vision articulated by the community members.

Through the ‘Participate’ section on the Plan Indy Parks website – www.planindyparks.com, you can provide open ended suggestions, respond to the online survey, know the dates for open public meetings and even share feedback through social media on Facebook and Twitter.

First Baptist Athletics Spring Sports Calendar Posted

Check out the FBA Sports Calendar.
“The primary goal of FBA is to provide an environment which is conducive to learning sports fundamentals, good team work, and respect.  Winning is a goal, but not the goal.  FBA offers the best in youth sports in Indianapolis.  Not only do we have a sound philosophy counter to a youth sports culture that can be overwhelming and over competitive for kids and families, but our space is a place where individuals from all backgrounds find a since of community amongst each other.  FBA prides itself in having families from diverse religious, racial, and social economical backgrounds not only participating in our programs, but also serving in positions of leadership from coaching, volunteering, to serving on our staff and Board of Directors.”
FBA’s motto The Place for Good Sports illustrates that we can use athletics to teach children life-long implications:
  • The importance of teamwork and fair play
  • Respect for others
  • Being a gracious winner or loser
  • Conflict resolution
  • Taking responsibility for one’s own actions
Conveniently located on the corner of 86th and College, less than a quarter mile from N. Meridian Street, all of our sports leagues are offered at one location.  You will never have to travel to another facility for practice or games.
Image source: FBA facebook page