The idea to develop rain gardens at Double 8 Foods grew out of an earlier, fruitful collaboration between Double 8 Foods owner Isaiah Kuperstein and Mapleton-Fall Creek community leaders. This initial work resulted in the relocation of a Recycle Indianapolis drop-off recycling bin from The Children’s Museum to the Double 8 Foods parking lot. Participants in this process included Mr. Kuperstein, presidents of the area neighborhood associations, staff from Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation, employees of the Whitsett Group, which owns and operates two affordable apartment communities in the area, and active neighborhood residents. The role of the Double 8 as an important neighborhood asset and community hub emerged during these discussions. The successful completion of the recycling bin move in early 2009 sparked additional conversations which resulted in the creation of an informal, bi-monthly working group focused on greater communication and collaboration between neighborhood stakeholders. The Double 8 Foods rain garden idea was initially presented and vetted through this forum. The opportunity to apply to the KIB-IPL Project Greenspace program led to wider engagement with neighborhood groups in order to further refine the concept. The 2010 Green Infrastructure Grant will allow IndyTilth to expand the scope of the project to include comprehensive on-site stormwater management and CSO mitigation elements as well as community educational components. From the very beginning, as goals have been refined and the concept has gained momentum, the Double 8 rain garden project has been met with universal enthusiasm and approval.
It is worth noting that the initial recycling bin move was met with some resistance: “poor people will not recycle” and “that site will encourage illegal dumping” are paraphrases of the sentiments expressed. Despite these doubts, the new location has been a huge success. Not only is the bin filled quickly, but the new location is also utilized by pedestrians as well as drivers, an important distinction in a neighborhood where many residents do not have access to automobile transportation. The area around the bin is kept tidy, and Double 8 Foods and nearby residents have reported only a single episode of illegal dumping. Double 8 Foods is thrilled to have the recycling bin at their store since the additional traffic drives business, yet their stewardship responsibilities are minimal. Residents are thrilled to have ready access to free recycling close to home. IndyTilth believes that the rain gardens and cistern will foster similar positive regard for Mapleton-Fall Creek and serve as a model for other low- to middle-income neighborhoods in Indianapolis.
Several other green projects are currently under way in the neighborhood. The City of Indianapolis Office of Sustainability recently completed a pilot combined sewer separation project that helps to mitigate CSO events, especially important within the already fragile Fall Creek watershed. The pilot separation project addresses a focused area just north of Fall Creek and, congruent with this proposal, also utilizes bioretention to store and clean stormwater. Discharge water quality is currently being studied in order to understand how replicating this pilot project citywide can have the greatest impact.
In addition to the sewer separation pilot, the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation is currently targeting a 21 square block area as part of a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization strategy. This 20-21 Project includes the development of several new pocket parks that will serve as a linear greenway through the neighborhood, as well as healthy, energy efficient, ENERGY STAR rated homeownership and rental opportunities. Based on a recent audit comparing the baseline certification requirements for the United States Green Building Council LEED-ND rating system to the 20-21 Project work plan, MFCDC has registered a 27-acre section of the 20-21 Project target area as a LEED-ND project. The rigorous LEED-ND requirements holistically address sustainable neighborhood development and will serve as a valuable touchpoint when making development decisions, as well as a yardstick to help measure success.
Finally, IndyTilth has developed plans for two green neighborhood projects designed to address quality of life issues, with funding decisions for each currently pending. A proposed Broadway Community Garden located on a vacant lot at 3415 Broadway Street was met with such enthusiasm at an initial gathering of adjacent neighbors that impromptu tree trimming was undertaken immediately after the meeting, demonstrating how a garden project can stimulate the kind of engagement that significantly contributes to building community spirit. IndyTilth is also organizing neighbors and community organizations to embark on an extensive tree planting campaign, beginning with 40 trees within a two-block radius of Double 8 Foods.