CEOs for Cities, a national network of urban leaders, brought its Livability Workshop to Indianapolis last October. There, national leaders worked with a local team to hone in on keys project areas for improving the quality of life in Indianapolis.Â Two main focal points that emerged were â€œrenewing our centerâ€ with Monument Circle and â€œreclaiming the stripâ€ in the Lafayette Square/West 38th Street area. In the six months since the workshop, local CEOs for Cities team members launched the Monument Circle Ideas Competition. Others Â â€” including myself through Big Car and David Forsell throughÂ Keep Indianapolis Beautiful â€” have focused ongoing attention on the Lafayette Square area.
In November, these efforts included a design charrette as part of KIBâ€™s A Monumental Affair program that brought urban planners together to envision a new Lafayette Square area and a Big Car project at Saraga Market that celebrated the diversity of the neighborhood through food.Â While working on the Saraga project with the ideas of the charrette still fresh in our minds, a few of us from Big Car spotted the then-abandoned former Firestone tire center on Lafayette Road just northwest of Donâ€™s Guns in front of the mall.
The building seemed like the perfect place to do what the CEOs for Cities workshop called for as a goal for the Lafayette Square area: Make it â€œa place to cultivate community development and celebrate who we are.â€
On a night after working at Saraga, we stopped by the old Firestone building and looked in the windows. A mall security officer drove up and asked us what we were doing. After we explained, he gave us the number at the Lafayette Square Mall office. We called the next day and began talking about using the 11,500 square-foot building. The mall soon offered the space to us to use at no charge (we have to pay for utilities). We signed the lease and took possession on March 16. Weâ€™ll begin programming Service Center for Contemporary Culture and Community in May.
In the meantime, weâ€™re planting a community garden and setting up a creativity lab where people of all backgrounds can create and learn together. This community space will include a small lending and reference library and a video room for sharing neighborhood stories. Weâ€™ll continue working through the building in phases, developing more exhibition and performance space as we find time and funding. We’re also excited about connecting to the new bike lanes and pedestrian access improvements coming to Lafayette Road and working with IndyGo to improve bus shelters near the building.
Big Car is very interested in connecting with volunteers, partners and sponsors whoâ€™d like to help. And we welcome ideas for programs and approaches at Service Center. You can find more details in a presentation about Service Center, an information and sponsorship packet and a video about the space. You can also keep up with news about Service Center on its Facebook page.