University Heights park creation; UIndy to help launch new city services effort;

 

University Heights park to blossom soon

Cummins-Lot-Park-26A vacant lot near campus is on its way to becoming a community park and nature education center, thanks to the collaborative efforts of UIndy, the University Heights Neighborhood Association, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and the city of Indianapolis. The one-acre park will be at the northeast corner of Mathews and Edwards avenues, which once was the site of the University’s Cummins Apartments. The University Heights park project is one of just six in the city selected for a development grant under KIB’s IPL Project Greenspace 2014. Plans call for the site—three blocks south of Hanna Avenue and owned by the University—to be transformed with walking paths, new trees, and native plants and grasses to create a natural wildlife habitat. UIndy will construct a shelter and use the site as an outdoor lab for students in biology and related fields, but the facilities also will be open to the public for community events, such as the annual University Heights Halloweenie Roast.

The park also could benefit the nearby IPS School 65 and University Heights United Methodist Church, among other community organizations. The plantings and hard landscaping will be provided by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and tended by neighborhood and student volunteers. UIndy will provide water service, any heavy maintenance, mowing, trash removal, and police coverage. Long-term plans include the eventual construction of a classroom/lab building and a greenhouse.

The park master plan by Southside-based Mader Design LLC was funded by a University grant and based on a proposal by Assistant Professor Kevin McKelvey of the Department of English. James Pennell, chair of the Department of Social Sciences and also a University Heights resident, prepared the KIB grant application.

UIndy to help launch new city services effort

The University of Indianapolis and its neighbors are collaborating with the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety to pilot a new approach to government services and community involvement that could become a model for the city and the nation. In a public meeting on March 6, Indianapolis and UIndy officials announced the establishment of the city’s first Neighborhood Service Area, in which a Community Action Team of local volunteers will channel residents’ concerns and help the city coordinate its efforts on a range of quality-of-life issues, from abandoned properties and street repair to animal complaints and law enforcement.
Director of Public Safety Troy Riggs said the city is investing $15 million in a data system that will help officials and residents alike to monitor and exchange information on complaints and responses. “It’s really going to evolve into a new philosophy about how we do government, day in and day out,” Riggs said during the meeting at University Heights Methodist Church. “I’m already getting calls nationally about what we’re doing here.” UIndy will serve as the designated “anchor institution” for the initial NSA, which is bounded by Keystone Avenue on the east, I-465 on the south, East Street on the west, and Sumner Avenue on the north.

A statement from the Department of Public Safety cited the University as “the natural choice” to support the local effort, in light of its ongoing investments to enhance the neighborhood. “The University enjoys a great relationship with its neighbors, collaborating on improvements that serve the people who live and work here,” UIndy President Robert Manuel said. “We’re proud to partner with the city in this effort and see our neighborhood become an example for others throughout Indianapolis.” The NSA/CAT concept is the result of a 2013 Department of Public Safety Efficiency Team study. The system will rely heavily on the collection and continual analysis of data gathered within the area to understand and address the needs of the neighborhood.

“With the mayor’s guidance, we are becoming a data-led government, which allows us to be more efficient and effective in our delivery of all city services, including public safety,” Riggs said. “There is a direct relationship that exists between quality-of-life issues and public safety issues, so it is critical for us to connect with our residents to address those things holistically for the benefit of the entire community.” The UIndy CAT pilot program will run for a 12-month period, with public meetings held monthly during the first phase of the pilot. Upon completion of the pilot, NSAs are expected to be established in two additional neighborhoods, and will expand to multiple neighborhoods over the next six years.

Scholarship aids families of first-responders

A new scholarship program at the University of Indianapolis will provide tuition-free undergraduate education to the dependents of Indianapolis and Marion County public safety employees who are killed in the line of duty. The Indianapolis Public Safety Scholarship Award is intended for the 4,200 employees that collectively staff the Indianapolis Department of Public Safety and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Their children, spouses, and domestic partners at the time of death are eligible to receive full tuition toward an initial undergraduate degree. “Our intent is to express our support and provide a sense of comfort and security to the people who regularly risk their lives to maintain our safety,” said UIndy President Robert Manuel, who serves on the board of the Indy Public Safety Foundation. “We also want to remind our students and employees how much we rely on the work of these public servants, whom we consider part of our extended University community.” The new program is the only one of its kind offered directly by a single university to the local public safety community. Eligibility for the scholarship is open to those affected by line-of-duty deaths, retroactive to January 1993.

“The men and women of the Department of Public Safety are truly humbled by this gesture,” said Public Safety Director Troy Riggs. “Our people do not do what they do for recognition; they do it because they love Indianapolis. But, we are all grateful for this show of support and appreciation by UIndy.” The Department of Public Safety comprises eight divisions, including the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, Indianapolis Fire Department, Division of Homeland Security, Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services, Division of Public Safety Communications, Animal Care & Control Division, Citizen’s Police Complaint Office, and the Mayor’s Office of Re-Entry.