public art mural on train conductor phone booth Nora Indianapolis Indiana Nora Alliance Monon Trail

Mural on Conductor’s Phone Booth

The Conductor’s Phone Booth is a touch of railroad history tucked away on the Monon Trail in Nora. Back when the trains used to run (way before cell phones!) they used to stop here and call ahead to let the next station know they were on their way. The trains are gone, but this well-built concrete phone booth remains. It was manufactured by Permacrete – the company that made many of the telephone booths for railroads.

Today, thanks to many volunteer hours, the phone booth sports a nature-inspired mural. It’s the inaugural artwork this summer as the Nora Alliance Monon Trail Workgroup slowly develops Nora Corners Pocket Park for the community to enjoy.

NORA 2021 Community Survey Results

On September 26, 2015, the Nora Alliance held its first Nora 2021 meeting and collected dozens of comments on the community’s Liabilities, Assets, Needs and Desires (LAND).  The top ten most cited ideas in each category were used to develop an online survey made available online throughout the month of October.

In all, 124 people responded to the online survey. The results, presented below, provide a ranking of community Assets, Liabilities, Needs and Desires. They will be used as input to planning future projects for Nora 2021. Comments to the survey were also gathered and will be used as input.

Nora 2021: Where Are We Going?

We kicked off the first NORA 2021 event with special guest acting Director of Metropolitan Development Department, City of Indianapolis, Brad Beaubien. Brad is an award-winning certified urban planner with a commitment to community service, a passion for vibrant communities, and a focus on community empowerment, planning and design policy, and plan integration.

Brad’s presentation (provided below) was the perfect set-up to the larger conversation of how we as a collective community can influence and shape the future of Nora.

Brad offered lots of insights into the management of this vast city of ours from a planning and physical space perspective, also providing a razor-sharp look at where shifts are taking place in demographics and market demand and how that relates to the physical characteristics of suburban communities like ours. He wrapped up by discussing some of the tools available for communities, showing us exactly who our competition is, and giving us a parting charge.

So What Do We Do?

Brad left us with the following food for thought as he described the challenges and tools available to preserve and enhance our community:

  • City Government has very little funding for anything except maintenance. Our direct investment dollars are mostly limited to low and moderate income areas.
  • Sidewalks are absolutely critical, but destinations to walk to are what make walkable communities.
  • Private development is what builds neighborhoods and builds cities. Embrace it. Guide it. Leverage it.
  • The only significant way City Government has to invest in neighborhood transformation is through value capture mechanisms like TIF.
  • Put creative placemaking in everything you do. Suburbs were built to be the same. The future wants authentic.
  • Economic Improvement Districts are the way to regain the local focus erased by Unigov.
Parting Charge

Lastly, Brad left us with a parting charge as we consider the future for NORA 2021 and beyond:

  • Value is created by demand, not supply.
  • What the current and future market is demanding is changing.
  • How can Nora evolve to respond to this change and grow its value?
Next Up: Placemaking

Your invited to join us at the next NORA 2021 Event, October 24, where we’ll focus on… placemaking!

NORA 2021 Event #1 Recap

Many thanks to the crowd that gathered on Saturday morning at the Dean Evans Community & Education Center (WTSC) on Woodfield Crossing and 86th to discuss the future of the Nora community. We hope you came away feeling more informed, engaged and enthusiastic about the future of Nora within the city of Indianapolis. Thanks also to Washington Township Schools, Whole Foods and Brad Beaubien, for their gracious contributions.

The morning’s speaker, acting Director of City Planning, Brad Beaubien, was the perfect set-up to the larger conversation of how we as a collective community can influence and shape the future of Nora. See his full presentation here. Brad offered lots of insights into the management of this vast city of ours from a planning and physical space perspective, also providing a razor-sharp look at where shifts are taking place in demographics and market demand and how that relates to the physical characteristics of suburban communities like ours.

NORA 2021 is community-led planning focused on Nora’s future, and Brad gave us perspective to “play where the puck is going.”

The second half of the meeting participants provided fast-paced input to a community Liabilities, Assets, Needs and Desires (LAND) assessment. Click here to view the uncondensed list of ideas from the Sept 26 event.

NORA 2021: Vote for Our Community Priorities

On September 26th, a crowd that gathered at the Dean Evans Center (WTSC) on Woodfield Crossing and 86th Street  to discuss the future of the Nora community. NORA 2021 is community-led planning focused on Nora’s future. The morning’s speaker, acting Director of City Planning, Brad Beaubien, was the perfect set-up to the larger conversation of how we as a collective community can influence and shape the future of Nora (view Brad’s presentation).

 

 Nora Community Priorities Survey

The second half of the meeting participants provided fast-paced input to a community Liabilities, Assets, Needs and Desires (LAND) assessment. That input will feed the planning process and is provided below.

We want to know your priorities! Please click the button below and provide YOUR FEEDBACK (a brief survey of 4 questions).

 

THIS SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED. VIEW THE RESULTS.

 

Summary and Tally of All Responses

We collected and recorded every comment submitted on colored index cards during our group exercise, a Liabilities, Assets, Needs and Desires (LAND) analysis. On the asset side of the ledger, many comments revolved around the great neighborhoods and the amenity of the Monon Trail. On a related note, many of the desires centered on connecting those neighborhoods in a safe manner to one another and to the trail and capitalizing on the trail with more focused, ‘trail-oriented’ development as seen in some recent projects.

 

Liabilities -weaknesses within the community, and within the context of the City and region, that we should remain aware of and mitigate as possible

86th (and Westfield, College at times) clogged, unsafe

Aging and subpar apartment stock.

Weak sense of community across cultural, generational lines

Limited pedestrian-friendly areas

Lack of an understood ‘center’ or ‘focus’

History of favor toward strip mall format of development

Lack of identity

Lack of control or input over development

Poor infrastructure: sewers, streets, noise abatement, streetlights, street, street services

Assets – the individuals, associations, and institutions in our community, as well as its physical characteristics–the land, buildings and infrastructure upon which the community rests

Monon Trail

St. Vincent Hospital, IU North: proximity

465 proximity and accessibility by car to highway system

Target (not Walmart)

Jordan Y, FBA Athletics, et al.

Cultural, generational diversity

Washington Township Schools

Neighborhood character defined by mature trees

Shopping nearby; grocery choices

Library branch

Needs – gaps in our human capital, as well as the physical the land, buildings and infrastructure upon which the community rests.

Identity, branding, placemaking

Walkable streets, crosswalks and parking lots

Traffic calming

Center or focus of village

Access to Monon from neighborhoods/Connectivity

Developers who will maintain, build value

Public areas, parks

Efficient alternate transportation options

Basic services: noise, sewers, streetlights. Attention from city

Integration of diverse population into fabric of community life

Desires – our aspirations as  individuals, associations and institutions in our community. A positive statement of things you envision for your community.

Safe, efficient connections to Monon Trail; especially 91st St.

Improved infrastructure: sound(465), sewer, streets and sidewalks.

Public gathering place or center

Passable 86th St for foot and bike traffic

Improved transportation options

Reimagined retail – less strip, chain-based stand-alones (switch: form-based code)

Big, identifiable Nora event

Strong, positive, open neighborhood groups

Parks, preservation, conservation

Strong identity as a place of Indy’s future

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.

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:

Opportunities
  • 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)
Concerns
  • 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!

Off-street trail in Nora, Indianapolis

Nora’s College Avenue Trail Approved and Funded

We learned this week that the College Avenue Trail in Nora has been funded as part of the RebuildIndy 2 projects. While the project was originally approved, it lost its funding and was cancelled last winter. Recent funding was acquired and the project was again added to the list of approved projects announced last week.

The project will provide a safe pedestrian off-street trail along this often congested section of College Ave. that has no sidewalks or shoulder.

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.

Getting an off-street pedestrian trail or new sidewalks in a community can take years of hard work. Indeed, for the past 3- to 4- years several people in Nora have been advocating for an off-street trail along College Avenue between 86th Street and 91st Street. Some of the people involved in spearheading the trail include George Robinson, former athletic director at First Baptist Church, Barry Wood, and members of Hope Church. It serves as an example of what community pro-active planning can achieve.

Early details on the project are provided by Benjamin Easley, Public Information Officer / Department of Public Works:

  • This project will indeed be bid for construction in July and completely built by the end of the year.
  • The College Avenue Trail will be an off-street asphalt trail similar to the one on 91stStreet.  The trail on 91st Street narrows down to a sidewalk at 91st/College
  • There will be a crosswalk connection at the signal at 91st/College.
  • The College Ave trail will be on the west side of the road.
  • There will be pedestrian signals at 86th/College as well as 91st/College.

Thanks to ReBuildIndy, DPW, and all the people involved in making this trail happen.