Community Perspective: Corrie Meyer on Urban Revitalization

Corrie Meyer

Corrie Meyer, AICP, PLA, is an entrepreneur working in the urban environment as a certified Urban Planner and licensed Landscape Architect. As President and CEO of Innovative Planning, a central Indiana strategic planning firm, she provides visionary and adaptive leadership by delivering creative site layouts, pro-formas, and development solutions for mixed-use projects and communities. Her strength is overseeing development strategies that drive transformative change. Corrie is driven to inspire and support others to make a positive change in their environment by thinking through significant goals that influence the course of time.

 

You have done a lot of work in redevelopment. What do you see as the keys to revitalizing urban areas?

First is strong leadership. We need strong leadership in our cities and towns to develop a strong vision and to put together a team who can get things done. This could be mayors, or this could be engaged community or business leaders.

Vision is also important. The vision needs to guide the community. The right parties need to be a part of the process; you don’t want it to occur in a bubble. In some communities, the core group is elected officials and staff who are framing the vision. In other communities, the vision develops more organically through a grassroots effort. Having the right people involved ensures there is a strong group who serve as the founders of the idea and hold people accountable for executing it.

 

What role do anchor institutions have in the urban revitalization process?

Anchor institutions have a lot of influence. Their participation often leads to a stronger vision or stronger ideas. Any time you have the opportunity to collaborate, that makes for a project with long-term viability.

Anchor institutions might be able to bring along a potential tenant for a new building, or they may want to do an expansion in the area themselves. They may also bring financial resources or volunteers to get something done.

 

Downtown on Mass Ave in particular, what do you see as the important anchor institutions and influences on the revitalization of this area over the past few decades?

The Athenaeum is definitely an anchor institution here, as well as Riley Area Development Corporation and Mass Ave Merchants Association.

These three organizations and the people who work for them have dedicated their careers to creating a thriving Mass Ave area. They live and breathe it. The Athenaeum has brought people to Mass Ave—not for decades, but for centuries. It is the sole institution that kept Mass Ave alive and kept it from becoming another vacant, old commercial block up against the interstate. People will always know, remember, and enjoy the Athenaeum.

I’d also say there are some key individuals, people like Wayne Schmidt in fact, who invested early and often in their office’s neighborhood. Wayne has been persistent in making sure this cultural district is strong, which comes back to that strong leadership that is necessary to revitalize an area.

 

What are the biggest challenges that often come with redevelopment?

A challenge of redevelopment is financial feasibility. These urban renewal areas want to be dense. Today’s demand on mobility and independent travel, each of us having our own car, that is a major demand on the feasibility of redevelopment. Finding the available parking is difficult and costly. Making sure there are transportation options is key to making redevelopment more feasible.

It’s also important to facilitate equal opportunity for businesses and residents to thrive. We need to focus on mixed use, mixed income, mixed opportunity—all of those things help create diverse redevelopment. Sometimes developers are solely focused on bringing their product to a neighborhood, and it fits their mission and they can usually mold it into the community vision. The equitable distribution of opportunities isn’t just for the developer or the people holding the vision. It’s for the entire city.

Something else you don’t want to ignore is the preservation of culture. Urban renewal areas are areas that have been identified as needing a “refresh.” But it’s important you still preserve the culture of the area. Culture is long lasting; it stands the test of time. Buildings come and go and get new faces and new users. The culture of a space that everyone in the area feeds off is what makes a space unique.

 

What excites you most about where Central Indiana urban development is headed?

We have a strong creative class. We are attracting a new generation to Indianapolis, which is going to continue the momentum of strong investment in Central Indiana.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation is continuing to shop and bring new jobs back to Central Indiana. That is exciting because that will bring more people, more opportunity, and more investment in our communities. Visit Indy also does an amazing job of promoting Indianapolis and bringing conventions here. If we can provide more opportunities to millennials and Gen Z, we will continue to be a strong economic hub of the Midwest.

While we don’t have iconic landscapes, the White River Master Plan will encourage interaction with the river and strengthen it as an asset. The airport is amazing and continues to make it easy for people to come in and out of Indianapolis. It all feeds together to create a strong metropolitan area, regardless of natural features.

 

Is there a specific project you’re looking forward to?

The next “it” spot will be Eleven Park, the soccer stadium development. It will serve as a catalyst for transformational development. It is unique over other projects because it will be the sole development that brings entertainment, workplace environment, residential, hotel, retail and restaurants all together. Being like a miniature city, and I think it is the stand-out project for this decade.

Mass Ave Isn’t What It Used to Be: Urban Revitalization in Indianapolis

Years of redevelopment and steadfast anchor institutions are to thank for the Mass Ave we know and love.

 

Did you know that MacNiven’s used to be a biker bar? Maybe you noticed the original “Sears, Roebuck and Company” still etched into the west side of Needler’s Fresh Market at the corner of Alabama and Vermont Streets. Even the buildings that make up the Schmidt Associates’ office have been everything from a paint and wallpaper store to a coffee shop and restaurant.

Massachusetts Avenue—affectionately called Mass Ave or the Avenue by most—has been in constant transformation. New restaurants seem to pop up daily, and recent (and ongoing) new construction is making more room for apartments, offices and entertainment options.

This intimate downtown stretch didn’t always look the way it does now. In fact, it was once considered somewhat of a “red light district,” a seedy stretch you wouldn’t want to take selfies in front of.

Over the past four decades or so, the landscape of this downtown thoroughfare has changed dramatically, making it a prime example of urban revitalization. After years of redevelopment, the Mass Ave neighborhood eventually became the cultural hub that it is today.

 

A Brief History of Mass Ave

The footprint of Indianapolis was designed by Alexander Ralston (yes, Ralston’s DraftHouse is named after him), who also laid out the streets of Washington, D.C.

Like D.C., Indianapolis has several diagonal roads that sprout out from Monument Circle. Mass Ave is one of them, making it—at one time—a major artery connecting the commercial downtown and residential outskirts of the city.

Mass Ave Revitalization 1906

Mass Ave circa 1906 (Photo Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

Between about 1940 and 1960, a mass migration from cities to suburbs occurred across the U.S. Approximately 40 million people abandoned the hustle and bustle of downtowns in favor of quiet suburban streets. These suburbs started to become self-contained, with their own shops, schools, and police departments. Indianapolis was no exception.

The construction of the interstate, which cut directly through Mass Ave, in the 1970s fueled this exodus of city dwellers, giving them an easy way to travel back downtown when necessary.

By the late 1970s, when Schmidt Associates moved into the Hammond Block at 301 Massachusetts Ave., the view down the Avenue was bleak. There were many boarded up buildings, and the open businesses were far from the trendy boutiques and restaurants we see now.

Mass Ave Revitalization 1970s

Mass Ave Circa 1970s

With our offices perched at the starting point of the street, our firm had a unique position and ability to take part in the revitalization of Mass Ave. We’ve made our humble mark along the Avenue over the years—from our work on the Stout’s Shoes building in the 1980s, to our office’s move to our current home at 415 Massachusetts Ave. (right image above), to the completion of the new Penrose on Mass building in 2018. And both our leadership and staff have been committed to this revitalization through active participation with local non-profits and community engagement.

No single person or organization could have made this significant transformation. A powerful combination of support from community and economic development organizations, private businesses, and federal tax credits for revitalization of historic buildings helped bring new life to Mass Ave.

However, none of these efforts would have been sustainable without another important player: the anchor institution.

 

Anchor Institutions Leading the Charge

An anchor institution is a place that holds influence in a city or other geographic area. It quite literally “anchors” the area by helping to provide a point of stability that attracts residents and other businesses.

Often, we think of a university, the headquarters of a major corporation, a professional sports stadium, or a hospital as an anchor institution in a city. These companies give meaning to an area, providing jobs and spurring new housing developments, commercial business, and more. Each neighborhood within a city can have its own, smaller anchors, as well.

Mass Ave would not be the place it is today without the anchor institutions that established it as a destination neighborhood in Indianapolis. Here are a few we have to thank:

 

The Athenaeum

Mass Ave Revitalization 1910

Athenaeum Circa 1910 (Photo Courtesy of the Athenaeum Foundation)

The Athenaeum was designed by Bernard Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut’s grandfather) and was built in phases between 1893 and 1898. It was envisioned as a “house of culture for the mind and body,” according to the Athenaeum Foundation. True to that purpose, it has played host to countless theater productions, public speeches, and other community gatherings and celebrations.

The building was also once home to the Normal College of the North American Gymnastic Union and held gymnastics trainings. This made it a perfect fit for the YMCA, which moved in in 1992. And of course, the Rathskeller, Indianapolis’ oldest restaurant still in operation, opened in the Athenaeum’s basement in 1894.

Today, the Athenaeum building remains a cultural focal point. It has a coffee shop with a large working/meeting space, the Rathskeller beer garden and outdoor concert venue, and various office and performance spaces for art and education organizations.

 

Circle City Industrial Complex

Mass Ave Revitalization 1930s

Schwitzer Cummins Co., Circa 1930s (Photo Courtesy of Circle City Industrial Complex)

Built in the early 1920s, the building that is now the Circle City Industrial Complex (CCIC) provides an anchor further northeast on Mass Ave. It was originally home to the Schwitzer Cummins Corporation automotive plant. The plant was part of the booming auto industry in Indianapolis and across the country.

While the interstate now divides Mass Ave just before you get to CCIC, the campus remains an anchor in the area, known as the Mass Ave Industrial Corridor. CCIC is currently being redeveloped, in large part due to efforts of the Riley Area Redevelopment Corporation, which is also responsible for much of the public art along Mass Ave, as well as affordable housing and other economic development efforts. The former factory building is now home to a variety of artisans and makers, non-profits, and other businesses.

 

The Murat

Mass Ave Revitalization 1900s

Murat Theatre Circa 1900s (Photo Courtesy of the Murat Shriners)

Now named Old National Centre, the Murat Theatre was completed in 1910 by a group called the Murat Shriners. The Shriners were members of a secret society called the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. The temple served as a ceremony and meeting place for decades and is still under ownership of the Shriners.

In 1995, Live Nation became a tenant of the theater, bringing big-name live shows and concerts to Mass Ave. This was, and continues to be, a significant driver in attracting new restaurants and bars to satisfy event-goers before and after shows.

 

The Future on Mass Ave

It has taken decades for development on Mass Ave to elevate to its current state. Every decade since the late 1970s has brought about its own hallmark projects along the Avenue.

Today, Mass Ave has something of significance on almost every block. And there’s more to come, like the in-progress Bottleworks building, which is an adaptive reuse of the historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant. The project includes the Avenue’s first hotel, plus unique retail and gathering spaces, which will bring more activity to the northeast end of the street.

While most large parcels of land are now occupied, there are some gaps to fill in and opportunities to build north and south of the strip. As development continues, it’s important that we remember to preserve the organic and intimate character of Mass Ave.

When you walk down the street, you see pockets of new construction, but you mostly see a lot of old buildings—a blend of architectural styles from over the years, most no more than five or six stories tall. Those strong, old bones are still here, but they’ve been given new life and purpose. That is what revitalization is all about.

The Sweet Side of Beekeeping

Now that we are all ‘resident experts’ with beekeeping, we sat down with Mark Manship to learn a little bit about the honey. Albeit, what most of would consider the best part of beekeeping!

But maybe you haven’t heard the buzz about our bees yet – check out this blog first to catch up.

Bees

How long does it take before a hive starts producing honey?

A hive starts to produce honey within a couple of weeks. But it is minimal storage, and they need some honey to feed on. Especially during the winter. It can be a full year before there is honey to harvest.

How much honey does a single hive produce?

Each bee only produces a 1/12th of a teaspoon in its lifetime and travels up to 3 miles to obtain the nectar and pollen it needs. But there are thousands of bees in a hive, and they reproduce quickly. Depending on the hive, you end up with 20 to 60 pounds of honey. Honey is sold by weight, not volume, because of water content.

What are the benefits of honey bee hives?

For the beekeeper, it’s the honey. For hobbyists, it’s not a profitable situation. You also have wax, which we provide to a friend who makes soap, lip balm, and other beauty products. You can also make candles and other wax products. The pollen can also be harvested to be used for boosting immune systems against allergies. Pollen, by weight, is a similar value to gold! With the honey that isn’t high enough quality to sell, we use it to make mead.

The pollination helps flowers, fruit trees, and many other plants reproduce. For commercial beekeeping, the pollination is required for successful agriculture. This is the biggest need since we are an agricultural dependent society. Mass farming production needs bee hives at fruit and vegetable farms for the pollination, or the fruit and vegetables won’t be successful. For example, almonds, oranges, pumpkins, tomatoes, apples, etc. This is 60-70% of the food we consume.

In this area, the only natural pollinators are carpenter and bumble bees. And a very limited variety of honey bees. All others were imported from Europe or East Asia.

Want to know more about our bees? Follow us on social to keep up with the hive!

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A Word from Our Owners – St. Joan of Arc Church

Molly Ellsworth

Molly Ellsworth has been the Parish Business Manager at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church for eight years and served various churches in Indianapolis; Charleston, SC; and Chicago for 25 years. She earned both undergraduate (B.A. History) and graduate degrees (Master of Leadership Development) from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.

 

 

Schmidt Associates worked with St. Joan of Arc Church on a phased renovation project, which included mechanical system upgrades, accessibility improvements, and interior restorations. Learn more about the first phase of the project here.

St. Joan of Arc

 

What was the goal of the restoration and improvements to St. Joan of Arc?

Our goal was to repair, refurbish, reinforce, and restore. This included a new HVAC system, electrical work, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodations, lighting, floors, and restoration of the interior.

We didn’t have air conditioning. In the summer, it was very hot in the church until about November, and then it got cold. Our building would cycle like that continuously and had done so for 85 years. It was becoming too much for the church; you could see the deterioration of the interior. It looked like an ancient Roman church, and not in a good way.

 

Why did you decide to take a phased approach to these projects?

Our 100th anniversary is in 2021, so we wanted to have all of our projects finished by then. We started with the end in mind and worked backwards, initiating the project in 2012.

One of the reasons we used a phased approach was fundraising. We did a five-year fundraising pledge, so we could use the cash from the pledges we were getting before the rest came in. This would allow us to start projects and see results, which would in turn beget more fundraising. We knew in terms of cash flow and archdiocesan fundraising guidelines, this would be easiest for us. We could manage it without taking out a loan.

With this approach, if you end up receiving more funding than you anticipated, just like with a home improvement, you can then get higher-end fixtures than you anticipated or complete additional projects. If you don’t get all of the funding, hopefully you planned accordingly and prioritized the most important projects. As cash comes in later, you can pick back up.

 

Why was planning so far in advance important?

By giving ourselves so much time, we were really able to delve into all the systems and focus in on things that had to get done, things that would be nice to get done, and things that would be an added bonus to get done. That helped shift our brains into “phase mode,” so we were able to easily embrace each phase and do it right and do it well. This meant we were not having to go back and do change orders all the time.

 

How did you sell the projects to parishioners?

St. Joan of Arc Church is beloved on the northside. It’s hard to find someone on the northside who isn’t touched by this church in some fashion. Whether it’s once a year at French Market, or they attended a wedding here, or they got married here, or their parents or grandparents or great grandparents got married here. Having been here for almost 100 years, we’ve touched generations of lives.

It was an easy message. We didn’t initially say we were going to do it in a phased approach, but we did say we would begin once we had enough cash to start the projects. They understood that as soon as we got $1.5 million, we could get air conditioning. When you ask 700 families for air conditioning money in the summer, hopefully you get more than you need! Then the excess from air conditioning can go toward new paint or organ restoration.

 

How have the phased improvements been received?

AC was huge. It used to get so hot in the summer that people would go to other parishes. Last summer, after putting in the new HVAC, we saw a much higher percentage of people stay in the pews over the summer. That was a great win for us.

What they’re all really excited about at this point is the floor. The floor was 90 years old and was falling apart; it was designed to last maybe 20 years. The original design was for a terrazzo floor, and the parish ran out of money when they were building it. We have the opportunity now to finish what the architect and designers had originally intended. Folks are excited to see how it was meant to be.

We moved out of the church at end of May to finish the improvements. Few people have been inside since then. We’ve had some photographers who have been in and are posting on social media, and the response has been huge for us. People are very excited to get back in the church; they’re seeing the pictures, and it’s gorgeous. To see everyone’s excitement building is fantastic.

What’s that buzz? It’s Schmidt Associates’ New Bee Hive on our Green Roof!

In case you haven’t heard the buzz, Schmidt Associates is now an urban beekeeper with a honeybee hive on our roof.

Luckily, Mark Manship, one of our construction administrators, maintains two beehives at home and has become the keeper of our hives.  Since many of us are curious about what this means, we decided to sit down and ask him about being a beekeeper.  Check back for future blogs with more information and check out our social media sites. We’ll regularly have pictures posted with captions about the bees’ progress.


How did you get into this?
About five years ago my wife and I moved to a property with 3.5 acres of land. My wife wanted to get chickens, and I said “no” (I had them as a child and didn’t want them again.)  She mentioned bees, and I said sure. We got a nucleus hive (or nuke), a starter hive with 5 full frames of bees. Unfortunately, they didn’t last the winter, and we started over with a couple of new varieties of honey bees. We had some success, and they were thriving. Someone my wife knew wanted to retire and needed to find someone to take his bees. We reached out to some friends who were also interested in beekeeping, and together we purchased all his hives and equipment. After splitting this among our friends, we were at our peak capacity of 12 hives of various breeds of honeybees from all over the world on our property.

Though it began as my wife’s hobby, I helped a lot. With a background in carpentry, I made the hive stands and helped with transportation. Not long after we started, I had a swarm of honeybees land on a tree by my old office, and we wanted to capture the swarm to move them. We contact the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) about regulations to capture swarms. We were encouraged to contact a beekeeper or capture them ourselves. That’s when I got hooked. Saving the bees.

We are now listed on the IDNR swarm list for East Central Indiana. When someone finds a swarm of bees, they typically call pest control. Pest control refers them to the IDNR swarm list to have someone come catch them.

Mark Manship moving a bee swarm

I bought three new packages of bees this spring, one for our homestead, one for an offsite location, and one for the green roof at Schmidt Associates.

Schmidt Associates’ Green Roof with a New Bee Hive!What goes into maintaining a hive?
Once the hive is established, about once a week you open the hive to look for brood cells to make sure they are multiplying. You also look for honey stores and check the general health of the bees. You check for signs of pest intrusion and adjust accordingly. Another part is looking for additional queen cells, or an abundance of bees which may indicate they are ready to split or swarm and create another hive.

You need to make sure they are healthy, but if they get overly healthy, the hive needs expansion or needs to be split. I’m still learning and taking over the hive keeping at home. We’ve been doing this for about four years, but it was mainly my wife. Now the apprentice is the beekeeper. And I get to do it at the office too, which is great!

Check back in a few weeks for more information about honey production and the benefits of bees!

Designing for Generation Z

Generation Z, the 60-some million young people born between the late 1990s and early 2000s, are the most diverse group in our country’s history.

They grew up during times of recessions and financial crises, war and terror threats, and technology overload. Many of them knew how to operate a tablet or cellphone before they could put sentences together. They don’t remember a life without social media and spend up to nine hours a day consuming media. They have a rather short attention span and it can difficult to keep them engaged. In the next ten years, it is estimated that Gen Z will consist of 22% of the workforce and many will be working in jobs that don’t even exist yet.

Generation Z Workforce Percentage

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Gen Z workers are more competitive and pragmatic, but also more anxious and reserved, than millennials, the generation of 72 million born from 1981 to 1996, according to executives, managers, generational consultants and multidecade studies of young people.”

Learning how to design for Generation Z will be essential in the longevity of our communities, facilities, and workplaces. So what design features will help attract and retain this large cohort?

Choice and Input

It’s easy: let them be a part of the design process, ask them to give input on what they want and expect, and then simply listen to what they have to say. One of the easiest ways to connect with this generation is through making them feel like their voices are heard. Designers can bring them idea starters and guidelines to get conversation going but try to immerse yourself into their world if you want a truly successful project. You can do this through focus groups, community engagement events, social media polls, and project blogs/websites.

Of special note, long-term choice is essential. Design should allow for variation over the life of a building, allowing the space to be tailored to each user’s preferences:

  • Robust power – consider a raised floor
  • Expansive wi-fi
  • Furniture that is movable – think everything on wheels, closable pods, and sitting/standing desks
Technology-Rich Spaces

As the baby boomers are retiring and Gen Z starts to fill in the gaps, technology will follow them. The places they live, work, and play need to reflect a lifestyle they are accustomed to: attached to hand-held supercomputers which provide instant communication with others. This diverse and mobile group will crave a digital connection to the world. In terms of the workplace, an office setting should include technology that will seamlessly allow staff to work from home (or a coffee shop across the world) but also enhanced video conferencing from anywhere. With good lighting and acoustics along with the ability to easily share documents and control, the office can be anywhere.

As designers, we need to think of technology that will help the facilities operate longer yet efficiently. Because Gen Z is predicted to put in a lot of hours in the office, the building systems will need to run differently than the regular 8-5pm. Allowing small spaces to be controlled and operated as needed without requiring the entire facility to be in operation will result in lower energy costs.

Flexibility

This generation works really hard, but they want some playtime as well. If you are going to create a flexible work environment, including staff who work remotely, creating a gathering space is essential for retention and overall job satisfaction. One design idea is to create a comfortable commons area filled with homey furniture, a coffee bar, and plenty of natural light. This type of space will allow Gen Z workers to take a brain break and socialize before getting back to the grind. Filling a space with familiar furniture pieces will ease anxiety and gives everyone a space to feel connected to peers.

We don’t all work the same, and an office won’t likely be comprised solely of Gen Z’ers. Design a workplace that has multiple types of rooms with varying functionality and privacy. If you can handle working in an open concept area, great! If you also need to get away from the hustle and bustle to really concentrate, great! If you need that ability to meet with a couple team members for a quick collaboration session away from your desks, great! If you need to meet with several people from around the office and need a more formal setting with technology, that’s great too!

Genuine Feel

This is a big one to keep in mind when you are looking to put your roots down for a new project. This generation gravitates toward places, people, and things that feel real, predictable, and safe. If you are wanting to attract and retain the Generation Z population, start by looking for a location that has its own sense of culture. Your building or space should come from and build on its history and the community naturally. Furthermore, your space should promote general well-being for users. Historic areas and neighborhoods are a big hit with this generation, leaving a lot of good potential for adaptive reuse projects. Staying true to the story makes the work resonate – do not to cut out the charm of the old while designing the new. The pre-packaged, Instagram filter world has ended, and Generation Z is seeking a genuine experience.

Choosing a location that is walkable and bikeable with nearby restaurants and attractions, grocery stores, and hotels will draw in more people. This goes for any type of building in the urban mix, from office space to apartments to mixed-use developments.

Once you have a location, make sure to include biophilic design features that promote happiness and health. Generation Z is very conscious of their mental and physical health—promoting that connection back to nature within a building will relate well with those users.

Inclusivity

Generation Z is a beautiful ethnically-diverse population, which is important to keep in mind when designing communities and buildings for them. Not everyone experiences a space the same, in part due to their culture and all that comes along with their unique backgrounds. Connecting back to “choice and input”, you will get the information that you need to ensure a space is inclusive if Gen Z’ers are included in the process.

 

It is time to prepare and adapt for future generations, allowing their influences to permeate through the built environment to stay relevant and competitive in the world. We should admire and enhance their creativity, empathetic attitudes, desire to feel connection, and heads-down work mentality with the spaces we provide. With the help of Generation Z, we should create communities and spaces that harness that same energy and drive toward success. If you want to more specifics on how to design for Gen Z, give us a call!

Community Engagement

A building project is far more than pieces and parts that define spaces.

Projects reflect the goals and aspirations of the communities they serve.

Schmidt Associates views community engagement as an essential part of our strategic, data-based planning, giving Owners information to evaluate viable options and make good decisions. We take a proactive role in planning for public meetings that inform, gather feedback, and incorporate public input to achieve a relevant facility solution that the public can support.

In order to understand what is truly important in the eyes of the end user, we like to become part of the “fabric of the community” by gathering input directly from community members and project stakeholders throughout our process. Here are a handful of community engagement tactics we typically use:

Community Workshops

The target audience for these workshops are neighboring businesses, residents, the end users, students and parents, property and business owners, others who visit and work within the area, etc.

These workshops can range from presentations with Q&A, to an open-ended SWOT analysis, to interactive display boards where people can vote on the types of spaces, furniture, aesthetics, etc. they like the best. Depending on the scope of the project, these could be hour-long sessions, last a few hours, or be an open-house where attendees can interact and ask questions for as long as they need.

We want to hear from as many community members as possible, which can be hard to do. Some tactics we utilize to ensure these workshops are as convenient as possible are:

  • Setting up a variety of time slots, across several days, held in various locations—in the evening after the school day, Saturday morning with coffee and donuts, on a Sunday after church services, etc. It all depends on each unique community and type of project.
  • Providing childcare options, if children aren’t an integrated part of the workshop process. For example, we can meet with community members at a school with child-friendly activities held in the gym under the supervision of adults.
  • Offering a variety of input methods—like notecards, email, and limited access blogs—to ensure the quiet voices are heard and allow 24/7 access to the conversation.

Community Engagement - Community Workshops

Stakeholder Meetings

This is where we gather key targeted stakeholders and leadership in a casual environment to build interest and allow their influence on the project. We quickly share the community workshop findings and offer a brainstorming session to continue building ideas and support for the project. Our team then creates a deliverable that can be posted to a website and distributed to the community, stakeholders, and other interest groups.

The targeted attendees typically include property and business owners, developers, and neighborhood and city representatives. We take similar approaches to making these meetings as convenient for the stakeholders as we did with the community workshops. As the planning process moves forward, we often will reconnect with these stakeholders to communicate any findings, recommendations, and intent of the results.

Community Engagement - Stakeholders

Community Empowerment

The plan for any project must be intentional and community-driven so stakeholders will feel a sense of ownership. To create community empowerment, we have found that allowing physical, deliberate interaction with the space is essential. Together, we will visit the physical space and brainstorm ideas on-site, allowing the realities of the space to influence decision making.

Another approach we often take is to attend community, city council, or PTO meetings.

Community Engagement - Community Empowerment

Project Blogs

Along with our physical approach to community engagement, we also leverage technology to bring it all together. We have successfully used a blog on projects to have a way for the community, stakeholders, and Owners to see the progress and to offer input. This is a controlled way to manage feedback and disperse current information, as determined by the project’s leadership team. Each blog features a “Make a Comment” button which sends comments as emails to Schmidt Associates. This way, we can receive comments, review with the Owner, and post appropriate responses.

We have used a link to our website to post the ongoing status of the project—from planning through construction—to keep the public involved and informed throughout the process.

Community Engagement - Project Blogs

Ultimately, only community projects built on community input can maximize their influence and create shared ownership and investment. If you have questions about our community engagement process or want to learn more about how we can help you with your next project – reach out!

Top 6 Things to Know when Considering Adaptive Reuse

We have all heard the real estate mantra “Location, location, location!” However, great location does not also lead to perfect buildings. In fact, oftentimes the least perfect building is situated right on the site you want. And while some may consider a total demolition and rebuild as the only option, there are oftentimes a lot of arguments for adaptive reuse. Buildings that have been neglected, abandoned, or modified over the years are all great candidates for this type of project. Through adaptive reuse, older historic buildings can be restored – bringing back their charm and unique characteristics through careful planning and strategic design.

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House - Prior to Renovation

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House – Prior to Renovation

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House - After

St. Joseph Brewery & Public House – After

If you’re considering adaptive reuse for your next project, here are the top six things you need to know:

  1. Land Availability. When land in the area you want is hard to come by, adaptive reuse is a great option. Rather than contributing to urban sprawl, or moving to a less than desirable location, revitalizing a building in need allows you to conserve space. This type of project is one of the best ways to keep our cities and towns walkable and vibrant.
  2. Environmental Conservation. While the easy solution often appears to be building from scratch, the truth is this type of thinking can cause a lot of complications down the road, including added cost. Remember in elementary school when they taught us “reduce, reuse and recycle”? The first step in reducing our environmental footprint is to reduce our use of materials. Adaptive reuse is a choice to care for the buildings that have already been built and to help us get out of the mindset of constantly consuming. If there’s one thing we will never get more of, it’s land.
  3. Historic Consideration. One of the beauties of working with historic buildings is that you constantly discover hidden treasures. From unique features to hard-to-come-by materials, many historic buildings are proof we really “don’t build ‘em like we used to.” Adaptive reuse not only allows us to preserve a part of history, but it also allows projects to take advantage of these ‘trademarks’ of historic buildings, showcasing them now and into the future. In some cases, adaptive reuse is the only option, especially when you are dealing with buildings that are preserved and protected by organizations, such as historical societies.
  4. Reimagining Function. Although adaptive reuse strives to preserve many of the architectural features of buildings, there is a great deal of reimagining that can take place throughout the project. Buildings built for a certain prior use do not need to continue that use to be successful. Old chapels can become inns, water towers can be converted into apartments, and industrial buildings transformed to residential homes. When the location is right, and you mix in a little creativity – anything is possible.
  5. Future Accommodation. Needs are constantly changing, which is something adaptive reuse understands. Just because older buildings – even ones only a few decades old – may no longer meet the standards or desires of today’s businesses and property owners, doesn’t mean they should be written off. Adaptive reuse allows for change, while still being mindful of what already exists. Adaptive reuse protects the future, ensuring resources, including land, aren’t wasted or taken for granted.
  6. Intelligent Reconciliation. When done well, adaptive reuse is the bridge that connects past to present, history to future. Adaptive reuse projects can bring the best of modern-day technologies and innovations to beautiful, historic buildings in prime locations. This type of holistic approach ensures existing buildings and materials are honored without sacrificing today’s needs and styles. Intelligent reconciliation also happens when architectural firms work on behalf of clients to communicate plans with the community, getting the proper permissions and permits to move forward with the project.

Adaptive reuse isn’t always the best solution, but more and more often we believe it’s an option that should be seriously considered. A smart way to conserve materials, protect the environment, and preserve the past, adaptive reuse can be the solution you’re looking for, especially when you’re sold on a building’s location or charm.

 

Why Is Adaptive Reuse Important in Today’s World?

To understand the importance of adaptive reuse, one must first appreciate the value of old buildings and architecture.

While it can feel “progressive” to tear down the old in order to make room for the new, adaptive reuse defines progress differently. Rather than creating a narrow vision that imagines possibilities with a blank slate, reuse tailors creative thinking to focus on what currently exists and how it can be incorporated thoughtfully into the goals and ideas of the future. Adaptive reuse can be implemented on any building, although it’s most commonly used for when working with historic buildings.

As the world ages collectively, more and more buildings with rich histories are finding themselves in need of renovation and rejuvenation; adaptive reuse is the conscious decision to preserve the past while planning for the future. For example, many adaptive reuse projects bridge different worlds – churches becoming restaurants, hospitals becoming schools, and more.

Adaptive Reuse Example at Ivy Tech

Depending on the context, adaptive reuse can go by the name of property rehabilitation or historic redevelopment. Either way, the process and overall goal remains the same: to rescue discarded, unkempt buildings from a destructive fate and find them a new purpose.

Of course, adaptive reuse is not just a sentimental effort to save buildings, it is also a critical process to ensure communities don’t use (or waste) more materials than necessary.

Some cities have, unfortunately, decided to adopt a “newer is better” mindset, causing them to discard perfectly fine, usable resources in order to “upgrade”. This thinking has caused major issues for our environment and will continue to do so until we are able to see value in materials as they age. Instead, people should look at progressive cities, like Paris, London, and Amsterdam, for inspiration; many historic structures and facades in these iconic towns have been lovingly preserved for generations to come. In fact, adaptive reuse is a great example of how individuals can prove to the larger group that there are creative options for recycling, reusing, and repurposing already existing resources.

Sometimes cases will be made against reuse, mostly regarding factors that include the cost, time, and efficiency. However, adaptive reuse is both appealing and practical; sometimes even saving money by reducing certain costs. Other underlying factors, such as being able to use hard-to-find materials or recycle materials already on the location, allow for additional money to be saved – and all while making it possible to create beautiful aesthetics complete with rich textures and unique features. Lastly, the entire adaptive reuse process, from start to finish, protects the environment while also reducing unnecessary waste.

Any adaptive reuse project begins by doing a thorough examination of the building, to ensure the infrastructure exists to keep it functioning into the future. Then you can look for unique attributes and characteristics that make the building special. These features can be highlighted in new and exciting ways, once again giving them purpose and prominence. When looking for these unique elements, one can find what some see as a “ready to demolish” building and instead see both beauty and value. This allows for seemingly doomed buildings, and the often debilitated communities in which they stand, a chance at a new and brighter future.

Above all, the biggest driving factor behind adaptive reuse is the ability to keep stories and memories intact. In a world where mass production and imitation is the norm, adaptive reuse goes against the grain, literally building upon already existing stories, adding new chapters without rewriting an entire book.

Case Study: St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church

HVAC & Accessibility Renovation – St. Joan of Arc Sanctuary Project

In preparation for the Centennial Celebration in 2021, the Schmidt Associates team kicked off the first phase of the St. Joan of Arc Sanctuary Restoration Project in 2017. This phase included:

  • Updating/adding HVAC and electrical components
  • Making the sanctuary more ADA accessible
  • Adding a new bride room/cry room and a reconciliation room
  • Improving overall functionality of sanctuary spaces

As with many historic structures, this project came with it’s own unique set of challenges and solutions. But by the end of phase one, the church’s parish has been able to attend services comfortably year-round.

Learn more about this unique project: