As an early implementation step of the RiverWest Strategic Investment Plan, MKSK’s Juliana Silveira and Jules Rosen volunteered to prototype a new design for West Michigan Street and to help program the Street Festival. The street design was an attempt to remake an overbuilt stretch of the street as a public space for people and the event was designed to bring Indianapolis’ Haughville neighborhood together in a one-day, community-led, family-friendly art and music festival. The effort made it easier for residents and visitors to imagine the proposed bike network that could connect this business district to the nearby university and Downtown. Slowing the street down and making it a place to spend time rather than speed through also celebrated the existing, largely vacant buildings’ richness, historic character and density. Bringing people together in the urban center of the neighborhood demonstrated the demand for a revitalized business district.
The community outreach was organized by Big Car, a local non-profit. To test the proposed plan, a temporary cycle track was painted on the street and a variety of programming was curated including musical acts, the River West Art Alley, outdoor seating, and public spaces for a variety of children’s activities. Big Car collaborated with the Slovenia National Club, a social club based in the neighborhood, to bring a beer garden to the festival. Local artisans and food and drink vendors created an active environment. The street’s mainstays also played an active role in festivities. Indy Convergence and Galleria Mi Barrio opened their doors to the public as cultural attractions and smells wafted out of the two brick and mortar restaurants: Vee’s Sandwich Shop and Super Tortas.
Anchored by these institutions, this tactical intervention is designed to jumpstart a business district poised for growth in the coming years as part of the Great Places 2020 — River West Initiative. The event allowed the community to see the potential of the business district by activating the underutilized strip. They saw the benefit of a cycle track, as children riding bikes were separated from the tamed Michigan Avenue traffic. Perhaps most importantly, they got a closer look at a particularly inactive part of their main street. Moreover, as the streets filled with people, the juxtaposition of the boarded-up buildings and vibrancy created that day was palpable. A shift in behavior and attitudes toward this place has already begun to change the place itself.
The event proved that there was a clear demonstration of pent-up demand for a community space in the neighborhood. Bikes zipped by on the makeshift cycle track and pedestrians crowded the sidewalks and, at times spilled over onto the cycle track. Many people from the neighborhood came out and enjoyed a day with other community members. More importantly, the West Michigan Street corridor was clearly recognizable as a neighborhood asset and no longer just a high speed vehicular artery through the neighborhood.
Thanks to our partners:
Haughville Neighborhood Association
The Wittes Group