INDIANAPOLIS — Normally, when local governments are making future plans, they schedule public meetings that - usually - draw crowds that are dwarfed by those surrounding a good street performer during a downtown convention. For its latest initiative, the city and Indy's hottest new firm are instead asking people to show up where they already are — on social media.
"We've done (public meetings) a lot, and we don't want to tire people of that," said Scarlett Andrews, the city's Director of Metropolitan Development about the new South Downtown Connectivity Vision Plan. "It's building upon those things that we've learned in previous planning processes, but trying to reach people in different places — specifically online."
"We are going to where people are. We are going to where they are physically - which is downtown and placing very large, well designed banners in downtown places where the public congregates," said Mali Jeffers, co-founder of the cultural development company GangGang, which is working with the city on the plan. They are primarily asking people to post their ideas for South Downtown on social media - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, "where they are all day every day already offering their opinion on things they want and they love and they don't love," Jeffers said.
The area the plan is specifically focusing on Monument Circle and the southern half of the downtown mile square. "That geographic area really came to our minds because of some signature projects happening from an economic development standpoint. The Gainbridge Fieldhouse renovation, the Bicentennial Unity plaza right in front of the (Fieldhouse) and a couple of major economic development projects right next to that around Georgia Street — the Convention Center expansion and the major hotel that will break ground later this year," Andrews said. "The Cultural Trail expansion, and of course the Circle Centre Mall is now seeking design concepts for redeveloping the mall."
There is more information online at VisionSouthDowntownIndy.com, and GangGang will be collected suggestions for the area by looking for the hashtag #DowntownIndy on social media. As for what kind of plan comes out of those ideas, "it's a six-week push....and then we'll be putting together the plan," Andrews said. "It's about infrastructure, it's about connectivity, walkability, the experience of being in South Downtown. That's what we're looking for are those kinds of ideas." Any final plan, Andrews says, would likely take five years to fully implement.
For Jeffers and GangGang, the chance to transform their home city is a main reason why she and partner Alan Bacon formed the collaborative in the first place. "GangGang is headquartered in Indianapolis, so this is critical to all of our futures. We are excited to talk to students. We are excited to hear from creatives who are young right now, and they are shaping the future of their place and where they are going to hang out. That's vital to the culture of Indianapolis."