Over the summer, I had the incredible opportunity to meet some of the world’s best urban designers and architects. Literally, the world’s best thinkers. Inspiring is an understatement and meeting them was only half of the fun – probably not even half. What was magical was why they were here and what inspired them after leaving.
Readers might recall that in late 2018, Lilly Endowment awarded 37 collaborative teams nearly $50 Million to organize projects that strengthen Indianapolis through arts and culture. Central Indiana Community Foundation teamed up with Ambrose Property Group and Landmark Columbus to submit an idea and we won. The idea was to host an international design competition that would bring 3 teams to Indianapolis to design parts of the former GM Stamping Plant now called Waterside.
There are three very important components to the competition: 1) a portion of the Albert Kahn Crane Bay, 2) an adjacent public plaza and 3) a pedestrian bridge from Waterside across the White River. Through an RFQ process led by Landmark Columbus, three teams were chosen to compete for a winning design for these three components. Listen. These aren’t just any design teams. This is Hood Design Studio, SCAPE and Snohetta – the firms who brought America its Times Square Plazas. And Millennium Park. The Broad Museum in LA. The first underground restaurant in Europe. And the Norweigen Opera House. Yes… those designers.
Further, Hood Design is led by a black man. SCAPE and Snohetta are led by women. Landmark Columbus was intentional in leading us through a process that identified women and people of color as the leads and presenters of new ideas in Indy.
CICF and team are now nearing the end of the competition process. Thus far, the teams visited Indy, they heard from Indianapolis’ leadership, spent hours at Waterside, walked miles, heard the vision and values of the development, learned the challenges and opportunities related to water in our city and spent 2 days with members of the Valley and West Indy community – the neighborhoods closest to Waterside.
Throughout their time here and now via weekly touchpoints on the phone and email, there’s been a consistent theme. From the never-been-to-Indy designers, to the neighbors in the Valley to our city’s leadership – what keeps coming up is that conversations about art and design at this level and at this point of an urban redevelopment are new.
Maurice Cox, former Mayor of Charlottesville was in town for the DAYLIGHT series hosted by PUP and his question after seeing Waterside and learning of the competition is what has stuck with me the longest. Cox stood on the 103-acre lot in downtown and asked, “So…and…the developer is OK with them doing that? They’re OK with the community hosting this art and design focused project even before development?”
He didn’t realize that I represent the developer. And he was shocked to find out that the developer is leading the project – they’re not just “ok with doing that.”
The team is thrilled to host the final presentations of Design Waterside on October 2nd at the Central Library. It’ll be like a mini-summit; an all day (10:30a – 4:30p) opportunity to hear some of the world’s best thinkers propose ideas for Indy’s urban core.
This is an important time. This is a special moment for Indy to connect two important parts of our city. Join the conversation on the front end.
Malina Simone Jeffers is Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at Ambrose Property Group. Learn more.