The dream of Brian Payne became a reality when the ribbon was cut in 2013. In 2015, USA Today would place the Indianapolis Cultural Trail as one of the ten best walking trails of any in the entire nation, Metropolis Magazine named Indianapolis one of the worlds 10 most livable cities due to the impact of the trail, and a new study would reveal that this project has increased property values in the city by $1 billion dollars.
Payne, who is the director of the Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) says that the Cultural Trail wasn’t just designed to be a trail, but an economic engine and more importantly a change agent for the city overall. Instead of the city once focused on widening as many roads as possible to get people through downtown, the city is now embracing beautiful design, bicycle culture and sustainability. On Thursday, Mayor Ballard announced that with a report by the IU Public Policy Institute, the initial economic and community impact of the trail was a success. Property assessments within one block (in some places more) of the eight mile trail have increased nearly 150% since 2008. Another interesting figure is that the average expected expenditure by Trail users is $53 and that 95% of trail users surveyed feel safe while on the trail. Businesses located along Mass Ave and in Fountain Square have seen larger increases in customers over revenue, but our neighborhood Fletcher Place has had an increase in revenues rather that customers. Together, the trail has added 40 to 50 full-time positions and 47 part-time jobs. Nearly 25% of businesses located along the trail say they now open on weekends and nearly the same amount stay open later.
The 8 mile walking/biking trail circles the circle city connecting amazing cultural neighborhoods with one another is also keeping people in downtown for longer periods of time. The benefits seen by this placemaking project well exceed what was originally expected, especially the power that the Indianapolis Cultural Trail has provided for Fletcher Place and Fountain Square. As we look out of our windows onto the trail, it’s great to see the mix of people that are discovering Virginia Avenue and Fletcher Place for more than just a once neglected neighborhood (due to the disconnect between downtown and Fountain Square). Between South Street and the I65 bridge, Virginia Avenue and surrounding streets has seen a 240% increase in property values. In our neighborhood alone, 73% of the businesses have opened since 2010, many linked directly to the trail.
We extend a hearty congratulations and thank you to the great folks who made this project a reality. We know that a development like this takes a lot of time and money, but it’s also the deep dedication that Payne, Mayor Bart Peterson and hundreds of others put into The Indianapolis Cultural Trail. What’s next for the Indy trail? It could be an extension on Washington or Garfield (which we are secretly keeping our fingers crossed for). At the very least, we hope that these amazing statistics directly linked to the trail will spur additional placemaking projects in our other communities. Imagine an Arts and Food trail connecting several distinct and historic Fort Wayne neighborhoods from Southwood to Northside and Nebraska. How about a Gem City trail networking the various innovation hubs that dot the landscape around Dayton. Sure, it starts as a dream, but you can see how a powerful idea like this turned into one of the best things that has possibly happened for the city of Indianapolis.