Nora Keystone Gateway: Preliminary Design #1

This summer community members met with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB) for the Nora Alliance’s first meeting to capture public input regarding Nora’s Keystone & 86th Street Gateway.

Check out the PRELIMINARY DESIGN provided by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc and CEC, Inc. We’d like to have your input!

Items discussed at July 2015 public meeting:

 Appearance of space
 Keep canopy
 Examine range of improvements
 Improve connectivity (accommodate future improvements)
 Wildflowers
 Public Art (North Central Students?)
 Clean up trash
 Improved signage
 Neighborhood identity
 Improve lines of sight
 Incorporate INDOT trees

Preliminary design preparation thoughts:

  1. Improve manicured edge/INDOT required buffer – 20’ +/‐
  2. Accommodate future pedestrian connector

‐ Maintain a 25’ +/‐ manicured edge on north and south sides of 86th Street or approximately to top of sloped concrete wall and under power lines on south side
‐ Include area between north and southbound Keystone

  1. Identify invasive species and remove including Mulberry, Hackberry, Honeysuckle, etc.
  2. Contact INDOT to discuss influencing bridge color?
  3. Clean out invasives behind northbound exit ramp guardrail

Preliminary design initial phase (2015) thoughts:

1. See attached plan

Preliminary design future phase thoughts:

  1. Investigate topography for wet areas to create streambed landscape
  2. Incorporate limestone block “welcome to Nora” signs into landscape + accent stone – walls?
  3. Upgrade guardrails to painted – black?
  4. Upgrade signals and signal poles?
  5. Wayfinding – shopping, library, park, school, etc?…there is a N.C. sign on the northbound ramp

Given the scope, this is going to be a longer term project with the hope of having some initial quick wins as the construction wraps up.

Project background:

The Keystone Avenue Bridge at 86th Street, currently under construction, serves as a gateway to the Nora community. However, the bridge, exit ramps, and surrounding land have been neglected for years, collecting trash, invasive plants, and the occasional homeless person camping out in the overgrown wooded areas. With the current construction of the Keystone Bridge, we have an opportunity to give this area a facelift. Read the post “Nora’s 86th St / Keystone Bridge Gateway Beautification Project” for more about the project’s background.

Public Meetings on Red Rapid Transit Project

IndyGo will host several public meetings where you can learn about the first phase of Red Rapid Transit Project (which is anticipated to: stretch from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis), ask questions, and have your voice heard during the engineering phase. This August IndyGo representatives will be in the following locations:

  • Aug. 18 – Central Library: 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
    • 40 E St. Clair St, Indianapolis, IN 46204
    • IndyGo Routes 18, 38, & 39
  • Aug. 19 – College Avenue Branch: 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
    • 4180 N College Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46205
    • IndyGo Route 17
  • Aug. 24 – Fountain Square Branch: 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
    • 1066 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203
    • IndyGo Routes 12, 14, & 22
  • Aug. 26 – Indianapolis Art Center: 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
    • 820 E 67th St., Indianapolis, IN 46220
    • IndyGo Route 18
  • Aug. 27 – IUPUI Campus Center: 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.
    • 420 University Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202
    • IndyGo Routes 3, 37, & 50
Nora Alliance July 2015 meeting with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

Nora Keystone Gateway: 1st Meeting with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

On July 20th, community members met with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB) for the Nora Alliance’s first meeting regarding Nora’s Keystone & 86th Street Gateway. This is a summary of that meeting, and invitation for continued public input.

The Keystone Avenue Bridge at 86th Street, currently under construction, serves as a gateway to the Nora community. However, the bridge, exit ramps, and surrounding land have been neglected for years, collecting trash, invasive plants, and the occasional homeless person camping out in the overgrown wooded areas. With the current construction of the Keystone Bridge, we have an opportunity to give this area a facelift. Read the post “Nora’s 86th St / Keystone Bridge Gateway Beautification Project” for more about the project’s background.

KIB’s Mark Adler, Janet Baker, and planner David Roth led the group in a review of the Keystone Bridge construction and opportunities for a beautification project. Mark Adler presented information on the current conditions of the interchange and construction (scheduled for completion in the late fall 2015), followed by an open discussion. Here’s what we heard:

  • current construction remediation requires tree replacement, but without maintenance plans — this is an opportunity to segue with a beautification project and community-driven design
  • community desire to preserve existing tree canopy for noise reduction and wildlife
  • public art – look at concepts and location within the interchange
  • create vegetated edge plantings
  • reduce or eliminate mowings with native platings wildflowers and tall grasses
  • improved signage for the interchange
  • plan / public art that embraces the strengths and weaknesses of the interchange (e.g., power line structures, the community history)
  • homelessness, pan handlers and drug use are past and/or current issue
  • open up line of sight at ramp exits / lights
  • honeysuckle in the area (invasive species)
  • traffic noise affecting nearby residential
  • soil may be compressed in construction staging areas
  • don’t create any plans that preclude a future sidewalk / bike path under Keystone Bridge
  • need more community input on gateway concept – gateway to where? Nora community / neighborhoods (west)? Keystone businesses (east)?
Next Steps

KIB, with planner David Roth, will take the feedback they’ve gathered during this first meeting and put together some preliminary plans for the interchange. Within the next few weeks, the Nora Alliance will schedule a second public meeting to present and provide further input to the plans. With plans in hand, KIB will work with the community to identify funding for the project implementation and maintenance.

We welcome continued feedback during this process! If you would like to provide additional input while the plans are being developed, please contact Mark Adler, KIB Director of Special Projects.




Nora’s 86th St / Keystone Bridge Gateway Beautification Project

What would a nice gateway to Nora look like? With your help, we will work with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful to answer that question.

The Keystone Avenue Bridge at 86th Street, currently under construction, serves as a gateway to the Nora community. However, the bridge, exit ramps, and surrounding land have been neglected for years, collecting trash, invasive plants, and the occasional homeless person camping out in the overgrown wooded areas. With the construction of the Keystone Bridge, we have an opportunity to give this area a facelift.

Project Background
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful was contacted a few times in the past year or two by neighbors in the Nora community asking if they could do anything to help with beautifying the ugly Keystone Bridge at 86th Street interchange. They were exploring the idea, then the bridge construction came up offering some opportunity to get engaged. The Nora Alliance will organize two community meetings in mid-July and August to help Keep Indianapolis Beautiful gather input on design plans for the interchange, with the following objectives:
  • to engage the Nora community in proactive planning with the assistance of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful
  • to help address the homeless population that are living in this area from time to time
  • to meet the community wants and needs with a design based on community input
  • to determine what gets put in place in areas that have already been cleared by the construction process
  • to determine how to maintain wildlife / greenspace as desired by the community
  • to determine a tree maintenance plan so newly planted trees are maintained and thrive after construction crew is gone (these do not otherwise have a maintenance plan, and trees often die after the construction phase)
  • to work with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful to help in the planning and design phase, and then in seeking funding to implement the plan

The goal for the July meeting is for a designer to capture what is important to the community at this space so a design can be created. The goal for the August meeting is for the designer to come back with a rough drawing capturing feedback from July and gather final feedback before getting a solid plan to go forth with.

Dates and times for the meetings are still being determined. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns about the project. Stay tuned for more information!

Indy Parks Plan Feedback: What We Heard

Opening & Introductions

Local resident Bob Weaver kicked off the April 28th, 2015, Nora Alliance meeting with introductions and background from the first meeting of the Nora Alliance. We will be soliciting a steering committee to guide the first year of Nora Alliance activities and proactive community planning.

Indianapolis – Marion County Park, Recreation & Open Space 5-Year Plan Community Input

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 look at each township individually. 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.

Tonight we solicited feedback for a community response to the plan. Local resident Jill Saligoe-Simmel gave an overview of Nora-area parks and the Indy Parks planning process, and a discussion followed. The group listed several pros and cons of Nora’s public and private park, open space and recreational facilities.

Idea Gallery

Here’s a summary of what we heard:

  1. The Monon Trail is the prominent feature in our community, however its potential as an anchor feature in the community is not realized to its fullest potential. People identified this as a priority for parks and open space planning, indicating they would like to see more enhancement of the park / greenway as a community asset beyond its use as a recreational thoroughfare. The general consensus is that priority should be placed on a number of small, relatively low cost projects that could be implemented quickly to great effect.
    1. Visually and physically develop the trail from 91st north to at least the YMCA south as the community’s anchor feature, utilizing every available inch of trail ROW for green space, formal and informal gathering spots (i.e., micro-parks), and pocket parks.
    2. Visually and physically develop the Monon Trail at 86th Street road crossing as a safe crossing and community “gateway” feature. Priority should be focused both on addressing immediate safety needs and enhancements with the current crosswalk, as well as developing long-term solutions.
    3. Add public gathering spaces along the trail in this section through land acquisitions and/or joint use agreements for pocket parks adjacent to trail, micro-parks, and potentially a dog park.
    4. Integrate public art into this section of the trail.
    5. Spaces should be inviting, casual, welcoming, and incorporate some small details to surprise/delight/discover (e.g., hidden nooks). Needs to accommodate diverse users, including families with young children, bikers, skaters/rollerbladers, elderly, handicap, etc.
  2. Acquire additional park properties as neighborhood parks to serve families with children. Nora lacks neighborhood parks where families can gather, and kids can run and play.
  3. Implement the Full Circle Greenway Plan 86th/82nd Street Corridor to connect the Monon at 86th Street “gateway” with nearby parks and community assets, such as regional parks and commercial areas (e.g., Town Run Trail Park and Keystone at the Crossing), and planned public transportation projects, e.g., Red Line.

The following opportunities were discussed as community input to the Indy Parks and Open Space 5-Year Plan.

  1. The Monon Trail — Enhance the 86th St. trail crossing
    1. enhance the crosswalk for safety, as well as a visually/aesthetically pleasing community gateway
    2. painted crosswalk? — partner with North Central High School art department to help design and paint a crosswalk as public art, keep it local, show off our colorful community
    3. general maintenance — fix barriers on north side of street and fill pothole in crosswalk
    4. additional landscaping / hardscaping to create a welcoming / enticing environment
    5. improved signage, lighting, and pavement Ped-Xing markings for safety
    6. work with community for long-term plans for a safer crossing solution, e.g., trail bridge and/or other enhanced pedestrian crosswalk solution with traffic calming measures, etc.
  1. The Monon Trail — Develop Micro-Parks and Pocket Parks
    1. develop the small slice of land on trail next to Marsh building (DMD property parcel #8036430)
      1. ideas include: picnic tables, benches, game/chess tables, swing, bike racks, shelter (long and narrow building?) similar to shelter in Broad Ripple, water station, evergreen landscaping
      2. wheelchair accessible connection between south side of parcel and parking lot
    2. incorporate public art along trail – local artisits? sculptures?
    3. explore park partnership with the Indiana Blind School for expanded property access at Monon Trail for pocket park
  1. Explore opportunities to expand existing Indy Parks / IPL joint use agreement on IPL property adjoining the east and west sides of the Monon Trail at 91st St. This property houses a power substation, and although not ideal as park space, the community should be creative in capitalizing on any available open space.
    1. leverage existing Indy Park use agreements, e.g., trail parking lot and paths already in place (there was historic use as softball fields to the south of substation – now retirement apartments) to develop low-impact / non-competing park use on lands adjacent to the trail
    2. ideas include: dog park, skate park, small playground and benches near trail on south side of parking lot, micro-park trail rest stop, small stage for community music in the parks, community gardens, …
    3. property on east side of trail is less developed and has a creek – could it incorporate a low intensity park use? picnic shelters?
    4. explore possibilities with the community
  1. Explore every remaining opportunity to acquire property for neighborhood and pocket parks
    1. there are a few very opportunities left of private undeveloped property in Nora. These should be immediately explored, and if possible acquired, before there are simply no more opportunities left
    2. ideas: property to the north of Marsh only accessible from the Monon Trail? property (which includes woods and floodplain) on 86th St. north of North Central High School? Shortees Golf Course (if it doesn’t get zoning change approval for proposed development)?
  2. Explore enhanced park entrance / access point for Marott Park on Monon Trail side
  3. Explore possible new park entrance / access point for Town Run Trail Park in partnership with Central Indiana Land Trust and its proposed headquarters at Oliver’s Woods
Fill Out the Indy Parks Survey

We encourage you to fill out the Indy Parks Community Input Survey

We’re Not Done Yet

The ideas and input represent who we’ve heard from thus far. What are your ideas for parks, greenways and open space in Nora? What are your priorities? Comment below, or on Facebook, or Twitter (#noraparks), and let us know what you would like to see.


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)