When America thinks of Indianapolis, what comes to mind? The Indianapolis 500, The Colts, and basketball! In keeping with the times, however, Indianapolis might soon be known as the city that has gone green in a big way. How is Indianapolis accomplishing all this? I turned to Jeff Echols, an innovative architect in Indianapolis that I interviewed a couple years ago about all things green in Indy. I wanted to find out about Neighbor Power and how going green is impacting the capital city of Indiana. I was also very excited about a project taking place there known as the Great Indy Neighborhood Initiative-otherwise known as GINI.
Here is what I found out.
Smythe) Jeff, how did GINI originate?
Jeff) The origin of Great Indy Neighborhood Initiative (GINI) stems from a partnership between the Mayor Bart Peterson administration, the Indianapolis Coalition for Neighborhood Development (ICND) and eventually the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) that resulted in a Community Development Summit designed to engage more stake holders in the process of defining a comprehensive community development plan.
This Summit led to the formation of focus groups and forums as well as the study of numerous community development initiatives nationwide. The culmination of these efforts led to the establishment of GINI and the “Eleven Principles of Healthy Neighborhoods.”
Smythe) How would you define Neighbor Power?
Jeff) Neighbor Power began as a gathering, sponsored by LISC and GINI, which brought together neighbors from across the City and provided a forum for discussions, presentations and workshops about the diverse issues that our neighborhoods face. The program has grown into a series of events where neighbors gather to connect with each other, inform each other and support each other.
Smythe) Do you feel the green initiatives in Indianapolis are a central part of Neighbor Power?
Jeff) Many of the forum topics at the events deal with sustainability on some level. As witnessed at this week’s, “Thinking Green?” event, groups and individuals from around Indianapolis gathered to represent interests in Farmers Markets, Transportation, Urban Gardening, Green Building and Land Redevelopment. The goals of many of the local green initiatives mesh very well with the basis of the Neighbor Power program.
Smythe) What has changed in the green scene in Indianapolis in the last 3 years as far as involvement?
Jeff) I think the biggest change has been growth. The sheer number of “green” groups has exploded. The diversity of the groups is immense. There are groups that focus on geographic areas, groups that focus on food, groups that screen films, groups that focus on water quality and even an organization that disseminates information about everything that’s happening in Indianapolis as long as it’s green.
Smythe) What kind of impact do you foresee initiatives like GINI making in the next five years?
Jeff) GINI and LISC really combine to provide the lifeblood for what happens in many of the City’s neighborhoods. Through the grant monies that they assemble and award, green projects such as the Irvington Development Organization’s “Teaching Rain Garden” get funded. Façade improvement projects are funded. Public art installations are funded. To put it simply, many of the grass roots projects and organizations that succeed in Indianapolis seem to do so, at least in part, due to funding from GINI and LISC programs.
It appears that Indianapolis is bringing all their combined efforts together to excite the people who live in their neighborhoods about green living. Wouldn’t it be great to see this kind of genuine energy implemented in every city in the United States?