With aims to enhance its connectivity to downtown Indianapolis even further, this Near West place enjoys a growing IT business sector and a commitment from area businesses to create a sense of place from cradle to career.

River West has a history rich with the contributions from hardworking people. The geographic proximity to factories and industrial businesses provides a convenience for many living in the neighborhood. Residents worked with the Great Places 2020 initiative to create a new vision for the future around a new economy,  capitalizing on the proximity to major Indianapolis attractions and anchoring partner organizations is an asset that cannot be ignored. A renewed sense of optimism and focus has been placed on improving the quality of life for all in the neighborhood. Residents and partners are uniting to change the narrative along West Michigan Street so that it might bring walkable and bikeable infrastructure to the neighborhood, focus on activity along West Michigan Street to catalyze demand for residential and commercial development and leverage technology, arts, and supply-chain partnerships to underpin the neighborhood’s economic foundation. 

 

Prior to the Great Places 2020 initiative, River West was characterized by stagnant population growth, low median household incomes, high rates of residents without a high school diploma, and high vacancy rates. River West is the most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood in the Great Places initiative, with 35 percent of the population being Black, 31 percent Latinx, and 30 percent white (as of 2018). Since 2015, the percentage of Latinx residents increased by 4 percent, while the percentage of Black and white residents decreased (by 3 percent and 2 percent, respectively).

 

As part of the city-wide Great Places 2020 initiative, River West has completed a strategic planning process that identifies goals and strategies in four areas: Livability, Opportunity, Vitality and Education.

River West: Full Strategic Plan

River West: Abbreviated Strategic Plan and Map

Livability Goals
  • Encourage walking, bicycling, and transit use

  • Provide public spaces that are unique, lively, and authentic to the Near West community

  • Employ crime prevention strategies and enhance public safety efforts

  • Create opportunities to improve public health and access to healthy food

  • Enrich arts and cultural opportunities through promoting community creativity, inviting arts programming, and celebrating Near West history

Opportunity Goals
  • Foster an entrepreneurial environment that builds upon the geographic proximity to downtown Indianapolis, 16 Tech, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IUPUI, and the hospital complex

  • Create infrastructure and develop partnerships to support economic development and employment opportunities

Vitality Goals
  • Increase residential density by providing a variety of housing types with demographic and income diversity

  • Create a beautiful, welcoming neighborhood through reducing blight and abandonment

  • Improve the awareness and marketability of neighborhood housing stock

Education Goals
  • Increase access to quality early childhood education offerings

  • Improve graduation rates at George Washington Community High School

  • Enhance opportunities for adult learning and workforce training

PROGRESS:

Seventy-seven strategies were identified to achieve the LOVE goals in River West. In 2018, residents shifted the focus to 25 strategies and progress was recorded by the neighborhood coordinator. After four years, 60 percent of the strategies to achieve LOVE goals in River West were either recorded as completed or in progress, while 34 percent had either no action, no information entered, or had stalled or been put on hold, and 4 percent had failed.

Livability

Health and/or recreational facilities improved: 5

Projects within 1 block of projected transit corridors: 6

Greenspace improvements: 13

Connectivity improvements: 1

Cultural/creative placemaking events: 70

People impacted by food initiatives: 7,669

Public safety and community partnerships: 32

 

Opportunity:

Brownfields tested or remediated: 1

New jobs created: 11

Small businesses assisted: 10

Commercial square footage improved: 9,548

Vitality:

Housing units new or improved for rent: 5

Housing units new or improved for sale: 17

 

Education:

Educational programs and facilities assisted: 97

SUCCESS STORIES:

The SOURCE River West Entrepreneurship Center promotes and encourages business ownership by assisting in the launch of entrepreneurial ventures and support start-up to scale-up businesses.

The River West Art Alley is an open-air art gallery located on the West Michigan Street corridor that plays host to a number of cultural events in River West including festivals, pop-up art galleries and musical performances.

Indy Convergence is an arts organization that strives to empower and connect artists in an inclusive, collaborative environment. More than just an artist collective, it is breathing life and beauty into the neighborhood through all art forms.

The Fonseca Theater, a locally operated independent theater that works to give voice to and celebrate minority communities in Indianapolis through the prism of purposeful theater and civic engagement.

The Washington Street corridor features a number of delicious eateries including neighborhood favorites Vee’s Sandwich Shop - a

breakfast and lunch gathering spot, and Super Tortas - an authentic Mexican sandwich shop.

Neighboring anchor institutions,  Eskenazi Health and IUPUI, are part of the Anchoring Revitalization Program, a sweeping strategy aimed at redevelopment that provides incentives for employees to live in River West to be closer to work, spurring neighborhood revitalization across the urban core.

In 2018, Lilly and partners launched the Diabetes Impact Project – Indianapolis Neighborhoods (DIP-IN),

a neighborhood-based, data-driven pilot to help address the high rates

of diabetes in three neighborhoods, including River West and King Commons. Each area has three Community Health Workers who connect individuals to medical and social resources.

The B&O Trail, which is being developed along a former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad corridor, will soon reach River West. When completed, the 15-mile long corridor will connect White River State Park through Haughville, the town of Speedway, and west into the trail system in Hendricks County.

Through secured federal funding, DPW plans to upgrade and reconstruct Michigan Avenue from White River Parkway West Drive to Holmes Avenue. Planning is underway and construction is scheduled to be complete in 2024. The project includes widened sidewalks, bike infrastructure, upgraded bus stops, and traffic calming elements.

PHOTOS:
CONTACT:

Interested in getting involved in the efforts of this Great Place? Contact Caleb Sutton

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