Long-term Planning

A few years ago, several volunteers began the process of creating a 10 year strategic plan for Woodruff Place. This first-of-its kind plan for the new millenia set the course for infrastructure investments that eventually became some of the guiding ideas for our Economic Improvement District (EID). Leaders identified investment budgets for our five primary historic infrastructure assets: Town Hall, 10th Street Fence, Statues & Urns, Fountains and Streetlights. The estimated total for this work was set at $832,900 by 2023.

Looking back at the goals established in that plan and marking each major achievement along the way is mirroring the larger revitalization process throughout the Near Eastside. Woodruff Place is but a single neighborhood of the 18 or so neighborhoods that make up what is known as the Near Eastside. The borders stretch from the interstate 65/70 interchange on the west, the railroad tracks on the south side of Washington Street, Emerson to the east and interstate 70 to the north. That’s a large area with a population of about 30,000 residents. In the time since the early strategic plan, the Near Eastside Quality of Life plan, which lead to the Indianapolis Super Bowl Legacy Project, Near Eastsiders have been witness to a dramatic improvement in many areas in a relatively short amount of time. However, just like our own aged infrastructure and investments in Woodruff Place, there is still a lot more work to do in the greater neighborhood.

Just now we are starting to see investment from outside the community. Where I used to have my car serviced is turning into one of the most anticipated restaurants in the city. What used to be a massive eye sore (CCIC building), on the verge of falling down, is now Centerpoint Brewery and a maker space and lots of independently owned shops. There’s a protected bike lane on Michigan and on New York. The Mayfair building (next to Burger King on 10th Street) doesn’t have holes in the walls and is on its way to being a new brew pub. Near East Area Renewal recently completed their 100th home renovation in St. Clair Place. One of our IPS schools, Thomas Gregg Elementary, once on the verge of takeover candidacy, is now an innovation school. It’s still part of the IPS system but run independently by Near Eastside community leaders. The federal IndyEast Promise Zone has delivered on its designation, securing over $120m in grant awards for the area in a little over two years.

Every resident who has lived here for the past 5-10 years can see the fruit of this labor and it has created a great deal of excitement around the future. But it’s not a distant future anymore. That future vision identified in plans is right there, on the horizon – but the work isn’t finished. There is room at the table for so many volunteers and so many more projects. There is opportunity for private/public partnership, as we’re seeing with some of the multifamily residential projects going on all around us. There may be an opportunity with the former IREF site in the coming years. The work is not done on the Near Eastside and the work is not done in Woodruff Place. It’s a great time to be here and I can’t imagine myself, or my family, anywhere else.

Organizing

In January, Bill Brooks and the Urban Times staff brought together each of the historic neighborhoods in the papers’ circulation. Each neighborhood was given the opportunity to talk about their community: what’s working, how they gather neighbor feedback, what challenges are being faced. I was proud to stand up and say that Woodruff Place has over 175 active members in our Civic League, up from 67 in November. Which leads me to what I ranked as my number one thing that we do really, really well: We organize. Cleanups, events, fundraising campaigns, meal trains, committees, boards and of course the implementation of the Economic Improvement District. Our neighborhood volunteer ranks are incredibly complex but we’re all working towards the goal of preserving Woodruff Place for the next generation of Woodruffians. At our last general membership meeting, Doreen Tatnall shared a brief history of density reduction efforts over the past 35 years in which the neighborhood and individual neighbors have collectively reduced the housing stock in Woodruff Place by over 140 units. This is not because we are opposed to apartments, but we are in favor of preservation and returning these properties to their original intended use. Our neighborhood is listed on the historical register due to the gathering of unique architectural styles, and we could not be more proud than to act as stewards to this amazing place we call home.

The next general membership meeting: March 12, 2018 – Town Hall, 7:00 PM

Special Committee

First, I want to take a moment to thank all of those who came out to the meeting last week. It was very beneficial to hear thoughts from our neighbors surrounding the proposed sober living house at 608 Middle Drive. Many of you offered up great thoughts, ideas, and things the board had not even considered, just as we hoped you would. As a result of that conversation, the Civic League board met on Wednesday, December 20, and created the Woodruff Place Civic League Land Use Special Committee (WPCLLUSC). The volunteers for this committee are Bill Longest (chair) from the Foundation board, Terri Carney from the Civic League board, Vanessa Javé-Lowry (adjacent homeowner), Rachel Pendleton, Kurt Tornquist, Paul Russell, and Monica Thompson-Deal (in an advisor role). Their first committee meeting will be 12/27/17.

In looking at whom to appoint to the committee, we looked at those who volunteered to serve and tried to select individuals who appeared to sit on all sides of the issue and who could offer additional understanding to benefit the committee. They have all agreed to tackle this task, and I ask that we all give them the support they need to create a recommendation to the board and the Civic League members. You can all be assured that if there is an actionable item, you will get a chance to vote on the direction that is taken.

On that note, I want to take a moment to apologize. It was NEVER the board’s intent to keep anything from the neighborhood or take sides. The intent was to gather the information we could from the new owner/operator, share that with the neighborhood, get the neighbors’ views, and determine next steps. We had a fact-finding meeting with the operator within a week of finding out what was proposed for 608, sent a letter containing that information to the neighbors within two days, and scheduled the information meeting for as soon as we thought feasible. We are working as quickly and effectively as we know how. In hindsight, I wish we would have had the owner/operator compose a letter to the neighborhood explaining their intent, instead of summarizing the conversation we had with them. That might have cleared up some of the feeling that the board had taken a side and was not just sharing information.
The start of a new year represents a fresh start. Even though we have a mountain of additional answers to seek, I ask that we do it together. We may currently have the highest number of members in the history of the organization. Let’s put it to good use.

Happy New Year to each one of you and your families.

The Survey Says…

The Survey Says…
In August, a survey was circulated to Woodruff Place residents through the newsletter and Facebook seeking input regarding the wonderful $5,000 award received from Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) Indianapolis as part of its 25th anniversary program. The Woodruff Place Economic Improvement District (EID), the only successful initiative of its kind in our region, was selected as the Livability award recipient.

The EID board, which is responsible for determining how the money will be used, reviewed the survey results in September. The clear favorite, chosen by 65% of respondents, was the option to install existing statuary for one of the smaller fountains. It is currently stored in the Town Hall basement.

The EID board voted to use the money for this purpose. Many steps need to be taken before it can be accomplished: installation and additional components costs need to be determined, and additional funding may be needed. Research is underway to determine if a grant can support this effort.

We would like to thank all of the survey participants for their input.

President’s Message – August 2017

President’s Message

Jim Leich

Woodruff Place is unique among Indianapolis’ historic neighborhoods in that it was not only Indianapolis’s first suburb but was a separate town for almost 100 years before being absorbed into Indianapolis in the early 1960s.  As master planned by James Woodruff in the early 1870s, the Olmstead influenced development included esplanades filled with statuary and urns, nine fountains, historic streetlights, an ornate concrete 10th Street wall, and eventually a large town hall.

After Indianapolis annexed Woodruff Place, the city maintained this historic infrastructure over the years with a steadily declining amount of effort and care.  Woodruff residents began assuming responsibility for this maintenance through extensive volunteer involvement and successful fundraising events like the annual flea market and biennial home and garden tour.  However, it became increasingly clear that the level of maintenance, repair, and improvement of this infrastructure was well beyond the scope of these fundraising activities.

It is interesting to watch Downtown Indy pursue an Economic Improvement District since Woodruff Place successfully created an EID in 2016.  Through an EID, property owners agree to be “taxed” a relatively small amount per year to be directed toward a specific purpose overseen by the City Council and a locally appointed EID board.  For Woodruff, this is our historic infrastructure. The Department of Public Works has promised to match the EID money for five years.

For Woodruff, this has been a godsend since we have had to replace the Town Hall roof and redo the back wall and run new electrical service to the West and Middle Drive fountains in the last two years.  These projects have cost tens of thousands of dollars.  However, EID funding is restricted to certain types of projects.  Foundation funds pay for important projects that the EID cannot fund.  In 2017, that has included treating more than 50 public ash trees, part of the Town Hall stucco restoration, and a new section of the 10th Street Fence restoration.  Funds raised this fall will be pay for similar projects in 2018.

This is why Foundation fundraising is so important. We urge residents and interested nonresidents alike to make tax deductible donations to the Historic Woodruff Place Foundation.  These can be made online at http://www.woodrufplace.org or by check made to “Historic Woodruff Place Foundation” and sent to Town Hall at 735 East Dr. (or dropped in the mail slot!).  Thank you for supporting the neighborhood generously with your time, money, and spirit!