Project offers a preview of vision for the East Washington Street corridor

Block will be temporarily reconfigured into a vibrant public space for people, bikes, local shops and artists

(Indianapolis, Ind.) On Saturday, June 8, from noon until 5 p.m., the block of East Washington Street between Rural and Oxford will be transformed. Residents, volunteers, artists, businesses, and neighborhood organizations will change the current configuration of five traffic lanes and vacant lots into a vision of what  could be: pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined sidewalks, enhanced transit stops, outdoor dining, public seating, public art, and a mix of small commercial storefronts and businesses – even a protected cycle track.

The project – Better Block Indy: East Washington Street offers a living scale model of how the street could look, feel and be cared for by the neighborhood. It gives residents a possibility to shape East Washington as they imagine it – if only for a Saturday. It will bring to life the best hopes for the corridor to become the economic and civic heart of the neighborhood.

“Perhaps the hardest part of community and economic development is envisioning something greater for a place, and then believing the change is possible,” said Joe Bowling, director of the East Washington Street Partnership. “The benefit of the Better Block event is that it transcends the conceptual rendering or charrette in favor of an experience that people can feel and touch. It’s motivating, and turns the block into the kind of vibrant complete street we know it can be.”

Numerous activities and events happen all day during  Better Block, including “Read Together: Right Now”, the kickoff of the summer reading program by the East Washington Street Library, the grand opening of Tlaoli Tamales, beer sampling by Flat 12 and Indiana City Brewing, and art displays by local artists.

“While Saturday’s event is focusing on one block, it’s really a way to celebrate the work of the entire Near Eastside,” said Megan Fetter, Near Eastside community builder. “It’s the physical representation of goals set out in our Quality of Life Plan, which represents years of hard work by residents, organizations, and businesses working hard to create positive and lasting change in this neighborhood.”

The block of East Washington designated for the living demonstration is mentioned in several neighborhood and city plans. Not only is it a part of the Near Eastside Quality of Life Plan (http://neareastplan.org ), but also Complete Street policies, bus rapid transit, and various economic development initiatives. It is identified as a strategic development redevelopment site in the East Washington Street Vision Plan (www.eastwashingtonstreet.org) as the Englewood Town Center. The hope for this sort of project is that it will eventually become permanent, but there is no initial cost in the “study”. Participants can actually try out the vision and adjust based on lessons learned. Feedback is quick, impact is lasting, and implementation builds community in a new way.

Organizers of Better Block Indy: East Washington Street include the East Washington Street Partnership, the Englewood Community Development Corporation, the John H. Boner Community Center, Indy-east Asset Development, and Big Car.

The “Better Block” project is a national initiative. It provides a demonstration tool to help cities around the U.S. that are looking for ways to redevelop communities that enable multi-modal transportation while increasing economic development, and reducing carbon emissions. “Better Block” events act as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the buildout process and provide feedback in real time. More information can be found at betterblock .org. More information about Better Block Indy: East Washington Street may be found at https://www.facebook.com/betterblocks.indy.