Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard: corridor as catalyst for neighborhood renaissance
The Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Streetscape is an outcome of the Development Implementation Plan for the United Northwest Redevelopment Area (UNWA) TIF District. The Development Implementation Plan focused on generating short term, implementable development opportunities. The Development Concepts, Inc. and storrow|kinsella plan was based on understanding neighborhood context and extensive community engagement.
The UNWA TIF District is approximately 1.2 square miles with more than 3,000 residential parcels in the TIF. Two "opportunity areas" were identified that consisted of the best short-term opportunities where immediate infrastructure improvements were estimated to have the best potential to leverage development: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street and the Central Canal.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street was the "opportunity area" selected for investment because was the most viable commercial corridor in the TIF District and most likely to be the location to receive developer investment. It was also selected because it is the TIF District's front door and provides the primary impression of the neighborhood.
MLK Street is the most important transportation corridor in the UNWA TIF District. In selecting MLK Street as an opportunity area, the TIF investment provided a boost to fully realizing the corridor's potential to serve residents.
The plan divided MLK Street into three sections, each of which is oriented around a particular set of uses/services. The design transformed the street from a fast-speed corridor into a traffic-calmed pedestrian oriented street.
- North Section (between Interstate 65 and 28th Street): retail and businesses that provide everyday goods to residents and commuters.
- Central Section (south of 28th Street): community services such as schools, churches, health centers in combination with commercial/retail uses that serve UNWA residents.
- South Section: residential-oriented with Watkins Park amenities.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Streetscape incorporated "Place" into its design. An extensive community development process informed the design of identity elements to feature both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. the corridor's namesake, and local African-American heroes that have contributed to the life of the neighborhood and city. In addition to banners and storyboards telling those stories, an iconic symbol derived from the initials MLK was developed using traditional Kente Cloth-like patterns. That symbol is used in distinctive crosswalk patterns at key intersections, and on a pair of totem-like sculptures that bracket the street at its north gateway at 30th Street.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Streetscape transformed the street from a five-lane configuration to a three-lane configuration with retail-serving on-street parking. Strategically located bump-outs at cross walk locations shortened the walking distance and protect the on-street parked cars. The Gateway Towers were designed as future trailheads signalling not only that you were entering a special district, but a safe street crossing for a future neighborhood-loop trail. A mid-block pedestrian crossing at Watkins Park was strengthened with a landscaped boulevard to create a safe place for pedestrians to pause when crossing MLK Street to Watkins Park.
Development Implementation Plan for the United Northwest Redevelopment Area (UNWA) TIF District | Year completed: 2009
SKA transportation and urban design consultant to Development Concepts, Inc.
Client: City of Indianapolis, Department of Metropolitan Development
Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard Gateway and Streetscape | Dedication May 11, 2011
Storrow Kinsella Associates | Urban Design
Subconsultant: Matti McCormick | stakeholder engagement
Collaboration: CrossRoad Engineers | under separate contract with DPW for civil engineering support
Client: City of Indianapolis, Department of Public Works