A Fresh View

Upcoming Visioning Summit will allow Southside residents to take part in the formation of a Quality of Life Plan

Scarlett Andrews Martin
Scarlett Andrews Martin

What does a high quality of life mean to you? Having a walkable neighborhood? Easy access to fresh food? Good health care? More local businesses?

In October, Scarlett Andrews Martin started interviewing and encouraging Southside residents to take surveys and participate in interviews to discover what is most important to people living along the Madison Avenue/Shelby Street Corridors. That information will be used to form and implement a Quality of Life Plan, focusing on how to improve the 4.25 square-mile area bound by Raymond Street, 1-65, I-465 and Meridian Street.

The University of Indianapolis, Fifth-Third Bank, Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership (INHP) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) partnered in 2015 to lead the Quality of Life Plan. The project began when Fifth-Third gave a $100,000 grant to fund it. A steering team was formed with approximately 20 members consisting of elected officials, neighborhood and community leaders.

Martin began working for the project as a community builder in August, tasked to collect a minimum of 100 resident interviews. She not only gained input for the study, but attended neighborhood meetings and social events to build relationships with people who make up the community. Having just moved to Indianapolis in May, Martin said it was a different way to learn about the city.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Garfield Park Neighbors Association join for a Pagoda Planting event.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and Garfield Park Neighbors Association join for a Pagoda Planting event.

“I am unique among community builders in that I’m not from this area,” Martin said. “I started from scratch in building those relationships. I’ve learned a huge amount on the history of this area. I’ve been able to go to every meeting and interview with a fresh perspective as to what people can bring to the process… I’ve been involved, particularly in Garfield Park, in a way you don’t get to do at another job. It’s fun to hear people think big and have exciting ideas for their area.”

By the end of December, the study accumulated 108 interviews, 100 online surveys and 268 university-based interviews. Martin said, “We asked what you like about your neighborhood. What would you like to see change? What opportunities do you see for positive change and what threats do you see to that type of development? You get that information and it spans to all categories of quality of life. There are a number of issues that have come up.”

She said those issues include public safety, health care, a clean environment, access to fresh food, education, additional businesses, public transportation and the future of the Red Line coming down Shelby Street and development along Shelby Street. She said the most positive feedback was a love of Garfield Park and its green space, but residents want to see more trails, bike paths and additional walkability in the area.

“All that information feeds into our visioning summit,” Martin said. “Our first visioning summit will be our big opportunity for residents and business owners to participate in the Quality of Life Study.”

The Southside Quality of Life Visioning Summit is Feb. 27, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Roch Catholic School, 3603 S. Meridian St., Indianapolis. Breakfast and lunch will be served and childcare is available. Additional sponsors of the summit are Community Health Network, Strategic Capital Partners, Riley Area Development, Garfield Park Neighbors Association and Big Car Collaborative.

“It’s a very unique opportunity to participate in the democratic process of community development,” Martin said. “It doesn’t come around very often. It’s an incredible opportunity for the Southside to see a huge amount of investment. If you want to have a say in that investment and how things are improved, this is that chance.”

During the visioning summit, participants will form into breakout sessions to brainstorm ideas, what needs to be done for each quality of life issue. After the summit, they will form action teams with members committing to volunteer a couple times a month to work on a plan, creating progress steps and a timeline. Martin said they intend to reveal the plan this summer.

“It is important to note that this is a plan created by our entire community,” said UIndy President Robert Manuel. “The university is happy to play a part in the coordination of this work, and we will support the study once it is completed. The key is to connect our community members with our elected officials to address the issues that face this part of the city.”

To RSVP to the Visioning Summit, email scarlettashlen@gmail.com or call (317) 602-3613. For more information, visit facebook.com/shelbystreetqlp.