Spaces to Places

Transforming Public Spaces into Vibrant Places for the Community.

Central Indiana Community Walks the Talk on Walkability

Written by Lacey Everett, Government and Community Relations Strategist,MIBOR REALTOR® Association

Over the past several years, a significant challenge for local communities has come to the surface – walkability. It’s not a buzz word any longer, but even still, elected officials and community leaders are still learning how to address the challenge and improve the connectivity, safety and quality of life of their communities.

MIBOR REALTOR® Association has been a strong advocate for attention and action on walkability issues in the central Indiana region. We know that walkability is important to homebuyers, and has shown to improve property values as well.

Using a Smart Growth grant from NAR, MIBOR organized a more tangible way to educate on and address the issue with community leaders and officials – by hosting a walkability audit and Walkshop in one of our municipalities.

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The two-day event kicked off in Franklin, IN, a city located 25 minutes south of Indianapolis, with a walk audit along a mile stretch of US 31. The Mayor of Franklin, Steve Barnett, City of Franklin planners, Indiana Department of Transportation officials and representatives from the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and Johnson County Development Corporation joined local REALTORS® to participate in the audit.

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A windshield and walking tour was led by Dan Burden and Samantha Thomas, national walkability experts from Blue Zones, LLC. The group surveyed sidewalk width, driving lane width, crosswalks, curb cuts, barriers, buffers and more.

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US 31 in Franklin, IN is like thoroughfares in many of our other communities, having been built to accommodate increasing vehicular traffic, but at the detriment of pedestrian traffic and connectivity within the community.

With MIBOR’s large service area, encompassing 13 counties in central Indiana, we chose to invite planners and community leaders from our entire region to participate in the Walkshop. The goal was to allow everyone to learn from each other and collectively develop next steps that they could each take back to their communities.

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Dan Burden and Samantha Thomas did a phenomenal job explaining the importance of connectivity and walkability to neighborhood health.

“Neighborhoods decline when the people who live there lose their connection and no longer feel part of their community,” said Burden. “Recapturing that sense of belonging and pride of place can be as simple as planting a civic garden or placing some benches in a park.”

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Focusing on people and community first is the key. As Dan Burden mentioned, if we plan for cars and traffic, we get cars and traffic. If instead we plan for people and places, we get people and places.

Participants in the WalkShop had an opportunity to take part in a mini walkability audit around the downtown courthouse and surrounding area.

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Overall, the Walkshop was an eye-opening experience for our elected officials and community leaders. It was also a great opportunity for our REALTOR® members to share insight on consumer preference and the demand for walkable communities.

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MIBOR is eager to continue this conversation and work with our local leaders to create actionable goals for addressing walkability!

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Community Outreach Programs

Housing Opportunity Grant
Housing Opportunity Grants support state and local REALTOR® Associations’ affordable housing activities. The goal of the program is to position REALTORS® as leaders in improving their communities by creating affordable housing
opportunities.

Smart Growth Grant
Smart growth is an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement. The Smart Growth Program offers state and local REALTOR® Associations to way to engage with government officials, community partners and the general public in planning and designing community’s future.

Diversity
Planned diversity initiatives makes good business sense. REALTOR® Associations with well-planned diversity programs create a stronger sense of community, particularly in neighborhoods with high concentrations of foreign-born and minority residents who are moving up the socioeconomic ladder and are buying homes.

NAR Placemaking Resources

Placemaking Guide: A Guide to Transform a Public Space into a Community Place
REALTORS® and state and local association staff can learn the details of Placemaking, the kinds of projects placemaking entails, how to organize them, and where to go for assistance and resources.

Placemaking Webinar Series
Our Placemaking Webinar Series will provide more in depth information on the various types of Placemaking and how REALTORS® were involved in Placemaking activities in their communities.

Placemaking Grant
The Placemaking Grant funds the creation of new public spaces, like pocket parks, trails & gardens, in a community. The grant focuses on “lighter, cheaper, quicker” placemaking projects, which can be built under a year and cost less  than $200,000.