May 4, 2022

Public input is wanted to help shape the future of downtown

Mali Jeffers with GangGang culture  and Scarlett Andrews with Indy DMD

Mali Jeffers with GangGang culture and Scarlett Andrews with Indy DMD

Active public spaces may soon shape parts of Indianapolis. The Department of Metropolitan Development has teamed up with art collaborative GANGGANG to create the South Downtown Connectivity Vision Plan. WFYI’s Taylor Bennett spoke with DMD Director Scarlett Andrews and GANGGANG Co-Founder Mali Jeffers about how the city wants to hear from the people who live, work, and play in Indy.

Taylor Bennett: This is a big community engagement project.

Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development Director Scarlett Andrews:   This is really a dynamic partnership between the city of Indianapolis and GangGang as well, you know, we don't always do this type of engagement. We do a lot of neighborhood meetings, both virtual and in person from DMD. But we we don't get to do this kind of new type of engagement through online stuff and, and engaging new voices in the process and GANGGANG brings this creative dynamic that we don't get to, we don't get to do with the government so often. And it's really about bringing people to the planning table, we need your help designing downtown, and we want you to have a say. So we are interested in bringing you to the planning table to make that happen.

Bennett: You want the interaction from the public, you want them to let you know what they are wanting to see.

GANGGANG Co-Founder Mali Jeffers:  Absolutely. This plan is for the public, you know, we are thinking about the future of public space, we are planning the space that belongs to people. So yes, this is very much about the public. This is very much about their feedback, all feedback is worthy, all feedback is, is valuable. And we are encouraging thoughts, aspirations, specific plans, imagery, about how people want to use and feel and smell and activate their downtown.

Bennett: And how can they do that?

Jeffers: They can do that via hashtag downtown Indy. So join the conversation there.

Bennett: So you want them to send over photographs, maybe send over just comments..

Jeffers: All of the above? Yes, we want people to send over moods, tones, images, examples, right? Think of the benches that you would want to sit on. Think of the type of sidewalk, think of the type of trees, think of the type of programming, the type of activities that you kind of want to participate in and that you want to see in your downtown. That's what we're asking the public to submit.

Bennett: What are you anticipating?

Jeffers: Oh, gosh, a little bit of everything. We're already seeing a little bit of everything. As you might expect. People want culture. People want vibrancy, recreation, leisure opportunities to connect. So that's what we're hearing a lot of, and we're thankful for everyone who's already participating.

Bennett: When you hear from the public. Do you think that some of these things will be implemented?

Andrews: Yeah, absolutely. So this South downtown connectivity vision plan is actually part of a larger strategy for Mayor hogsett To look at downtown resiliency post COVID. So like many other downtown's across the country, we're experiencing some changes, some uncertainty in the in the office markets and changes in terms of demand for retail, more demand for housing downtown. And so this is part of a larger strategy. And we think there's great opportunity, especially in the connectivity, walkability, and public spaces of our downtown to make it unique and set it apart from from other cities and from other places to live. And so this really is about how do we make downtown a place for residents and visitors to feel at home and feel like it's their neighborhood

Bennett: How did using social media come into play in this campaign?

Jeffers: Gosh, we thought these are such an important and big questions that you know, we have for Indianapolis, right, we're talking about planning for the future of the very important space. So how do we ask the public what they want? Well, what if we ask them kind of where they are, you know, which is online, they're on social media, they're already talking about their wishes and their desires and their thoughts, you know, on a platform right now. And so we thought, well, let's go there to where they are, and have them, you know, contribute feedback for the future of downtown there. And they're also downtown, quite literally. And so we're asking via these prompts and questions that are in public space right now on downtown buildings, that again, are encouraging the public to join the conversation online and offer their feedback.

Bennett: Thank you both.

Jeffers and Andrews: Thank you.

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