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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.

Schmidt Associates Gains 9 Spots on List of Top 300 Architecture Firms

Schmidt Associates is proud to be named to Architectural Record’s 2019 Top 300 list. The firm earned the 195th spot on this year’s list, moving up nine spots from last year.

The annual national list, compiled by Architectural Record’s sister publication Engineering News-Record, ranks companies by their architectural revenue from the prior year, as reported by firms that choose to participate.

In 2018, Schmidt experienced significant growth not only in terms of revenue, but also in staff size, seeing a 12-percent increase in total employees.

See below for a sneak peek at a few of the significant projects we started in 2018 (all still underway).

Hammond Middle High School

Location: Hammond, IN
Project: Renovation and New Construction
Cost: $80M

 

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

Location: Indianapolis, IN
Project: New Construction
Cost: $160M

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

City of Indianapolis Consolidated Civil and Criminal Courthouse

 

North Montgomery Elementary School

Location: Crawfordsville, IN
Project: Renovation
Cost: $30 million

North Montgomery - Main Entry

North Montgomery – Main Entry

North Montgomery - Media Center

North Montgomery – Media Center

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.

Q&A Session with Steve Alspaugh

Fast Facts about Steve Alspaugh

Steve Alspaugh, AIA, LEED AP

Discipline: Design Architect

Hometown: Monticello, IN

Undergrad: Ball State University

Graduate: Ball State University

Favorite Spot on Mass Ave: MacNivens

 

It was April 3, 1974, and major storms were descending on Monticello, IN. Three tornadoes tore through the small city northwest of Indianapolis, destroying it in about 20 minutes. That day changed and re-shaped the cityit also shaped design architect Steve Alspaugh.

 

What about that day changed the course of your future?

Following that storm in my hometown, the reconstruction of Monticello was a priority for the next decade. What that did was create construction jobs. I had Union wage construction jobs for five summers while I was in college.

While I was making good money for my age, the work was difficult. When I got home at night, many times I could barely lift my hands above my head to wash my hair. It was physically grueling, but it greatly informed my construction knowledge. I knew how to put buildings together before I knew how to design them. I feel like I am a better designer because I understand the physical implementation of my drawings.

 

But the influence of construction started before that, right?

Yes. Growing up, my dad worked for my uncle’s heating and plumbing contracting business and was very knowledgeable about construction in general. He passed that “jack of all trades, master of none” mentality to me.

 

Are you passing on that mentality, too?

In fact, my son Ethan is following that same path: studying architecture at the University of Cincinnati and working construction jobs during the summer to understand the buildings better.

 

We heard you have kept a few things from your favorite projects.

I have a couple pieces of wood at my desk that aren’t interesting until you know what they are. One is a hollow piece of wood with a cut through it. When we were building Goshen College Music Center, they commissioned a custom-built Taylor & Boody organ. During installation, they had to cut the wooden pipes to exact specifications. I kept one of the discarded pieces. I also keep the cut-off end of a baseball bat made at the Louisville Slugger plant.

Steve Alspaugh Organ Pipes

Organ pipe piece from Goshen College Music Center

What do you do when you’re not designing buildings?

I really enjoy bike riding and tennis, but that has been difficult since I had surgery on my knee in November 2015. Though I could probably go hit around right now, I certainly don’t play competitively anymore. Fortunately, the bike works just fine with the new knee.

I also try to get up to Wrigley Field in Chicago to watch the Cubs play at least once a year. When I was in junior high, we got our first cable television connection, and I could watch the WGN Superstation. Though I was already a Cubs fan, my love was fueled because I was able to watch them so often.

 

Tell us about your family.

I married my wife, Linda, in September 1995—exactly seven years to the day from our first date. (Coincidentally, I asked her to marry me six years to the day from our first date.) Together, we have Ethan, my 22-year-old son.

Family is very important to me.  Some of my cousins call me the “Glue Guy” because I am the glue that keeps my extended family together and connected.

Steve Alspaugh family

Steve, Ethan, and Linda Alspaugh

 

Also learn about Sarah HempsteadTricia SmithCharlie WilsonTom NeffJoe RedarDave JonesPatricia BrantLiam KeeslingSayo AdesiyakanBen BainAsia CoffeeEric BroemelMatt DurbinKevin ShelleyEddie LaytonAnna Marie Burrell, Kyle MillerSteve SchaecherMyrisha Colston Drew Morgan, Steve SpanglerBill Gruen, Cindy McLoed, and Robin Leising

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.

A Word from Our Owners – MSD of Washington Township

Angela Britain-Smith, Director of Operations

Angela Britain-Smith, Director of Operations at MSD Washington Township, brings 30 years of educational qualifications extending into facilities management, maintenance, custodial, food services, safety, and security. Ms. Britain-Smith holds a MS degree & Indiana School Administration Licensure from Butler University; BS degrees in Library Services K-12 & Speech & Communications 5-12 from Indiana University & Purdue University; and an Associate degree in Applied Science Human Services & Social Work from Indiana Vocational Technical College. She is an Indiana Certified Safety Specialist and former building administrator.

 

Mike Kneebone, Director of Technology

Mike has been in education for twenty-four years. Now in his 12th year as Director of Technology, he oversees all aspects of technology procurement, deployment, integration, and support. Mike holds BS & MS degrees in Education & Educational Technology from Indiana University.

 

 

Is Washington Township schools doing anything new with their current construction projects around safety and security?

ABS – Safety and security has always been one of our top priorities. When we did the planning for our 2016 referendum projects, we had four priorities – one of those being “safety and security”.

It is extremely important for the Director of Operations and the Director of Technology to have a close working relationship. Together, we need to fully understand the educational specifications and design standards in order to hit the mark.

Can you describe what this includes?

Angela – We are implementing several different measures: secure entries, lockdown features, and mass notification alert systems. Hardware features have also been added to classroom doors with a visual indicator showing if a door is locked or unlocked.

Mike – Our key technological focus behind all measures is to make everything easy to use and accessible to everyone in a lockdown situation. To help with this, we’ve added in a smartphone function to secure doors and trigger alerts throughout various locations of the building.

Another feature we’ve decided to incorporate is sound control. With everything going on in a classroom (movies, digital presentations, and other interactive media), we realized there is a need to auto duck audio if there is an alert being sent out. We tied all the systems together so that the alert audio has the priority, ensuring everyone can hear them.

With so many safety and security options out there, how did you determine to do these items?

Angela – We had a process in place. We engaged with a consultant for educational specs, worked with our professional partners in regards to design standards, involved many stakeholders (teachers, custodians, cafeteria staff, administrators, district leadership, etc.) to outline our priorities. The district is also engaged with a technology consultant who helped us set up webinar and info sessions to look at the different technologies available in order to make the best decisions for Washington Township.

We also attend conferences on a regular basis and collaborate with our District Police Department and local agencies to stay up to date with the best safety and security practices.

Mike – Ultimately, we used a very collaborative process to come up with our plan. What helps all the systems work together seamlessly is knowing what every department needs and what they are implementing. During the initial visioning sessions, we were able to learn how to integrate all of the systems.

Are you doing anything that is not related to the actual building, but an increased focus such as guidance counselors spending more time with students?

Angela – This is another important area to focus on. Whenever we have the opportunity to increase our operating budgets, we certainly review our social and mental support service in regard to need and capacity. During our 2016 operational referendum, we brought in additional social workers. Just recently, we were able to add more guidance councilors at our high school.

Can you describe the experience of working with Schmidt Associates?

Angela – It is always very positive and collaborative, which is most important. Schmidt Associates has the district’s best interest in mind, and they work really hard to ensure the design is inclusive of Washington Township’s needs and priorities. The team is also extremely responsive and answers any questions we have very quickly, which is very appreciated.

A Word from Our Owners – BSU Residence Halls

George Edwards – Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Facilities at Ball State University

Joel Bynum – Assistant Director for the Coordination of Living Learning Programs at Ball State University

Ball State Residence Halls

When did Ball State University decide to implement the Living Learning Community model in their residence halls and why?

It’s a long history, but I’ll try to make it short. In 1998, Ball State University started offering Living Learning Communities as part of a larger first-year student experience. We called it Freshman Connections. At that time, first-year students were registered into shared sections of core curriculum courses with students they lived with together in their residence hall. These students taking classes together and living together in the same hall formed Freshmen Connection cohorts or learning communities. The Freshman Connection model still existed in 2006, but there was a new push to assign students to live together in cohorts who shared the same college or major–Honors College, Criminal Justice majors, Communications majors, etc.–while still utilizing the core course connection model. We also provided co-curricular programmatic support to address social needs and interests.

When I started in 2011, we started to push towards all the living-learning communities on our campus being major-oriented, not just ‘interest-based’. Students who were living together shared an interest in study abroad, exercise, eating healthy, leadership, etc. Now, our living-learning communities are solely college- or major-based with direct academic partners.

Around 2016, we discontinued Freshman Connections and no longer connect our students based on core curriculum, rather we connect them based on the entry-level courses related directly to their major. It was this shift to being intentional about supporting students academically in their major, as well as socially, that started to shift our thinking about including amenity spaces like discipline-oriented makerspaces into our residence hall design.

We started this to support university retention efforts and to assist students in their academic success. We know the more involved a student is on campus, whether participating in an organization or holding a campus job, knowing faculty or staff, having mentors, friends in their same major, etc., the more likely they are to continue with their education and graduate on time. In light of this data, we decided to provide a richer academic and skill development-oriented experience. In addition, we are improving faculty and staff support in these environments to be more conducive to what our students came here to study. The students who participate in our programs are significantly more likely to retain to the building with these amenities as well as retain to university and graduate on time.

What implications does the Living Learning Community have on the overall design?

It doesn’t really change how we do the ‘rooms’, but it greatly impacts the common spaces. Around 2010, in Schmidt/Wilson before it was renovated, the top floor penthouse was a open space with equipment for Emerging Media students. It wasn’t very big and was a bit of a pilot. Students really liked it and used the equipment for classes, personal projects, and to hang out.

Later, I got linked with Dr. Kate Shively, who introduced me to the concept of ‘makerspaces’ that was beginning to catch on and has now taken off on campuses and in communities all over the nation. Dr. Shively teaches first-year Elementary Education courses at Ball State and wanted a makerspace for her students studying education. We reconditioned some under-utilized lounge space to make that makerspace, and the students love to use it, especially in relationship to what they are learning in the classroom with Dr. Shively.

Around this time, we were starting to look at renovating Botsford/Swinford and wanted to build in a makerspace for the Communications and Emerging Media students who would be living there. Now there are two media studios and a large equipment storage area stocked with DSLR cameras, light kits, sounds kits and all sort of gear for students to check out and use as an amenity associated with living in this community. The students can study in the space or use the green screens and open space to rearrange furniture and set up video shoots and use the computers right there to edit. All of this is available to students living in this community before they have completed their communications gateway courses, which allows students in these majors to start developing their skills earlier and allows them to immediately get their hands on equipment to start making a thing.

BotsSwin - Living Learning Community

Botsford/Swinford Residence Hall

Gen Z students want to have hands-on experience now. While we can’t teach the class, we can provide equipment, some basic workshop instruction, and space for them to start learning on their own immediately. For those students who might need a little nudge, we provide opportunities for students to engage in major-oriented or skill-oriented co-curricular projects. The success was so strong, we decided to do a dance studio, design studio, and black box theater for our Theatre, Dance, Architecture, Art and Design majors in the next residence hall, Schmidt/Wilson. The students love having these specialized spaces where they live to practice in, to work in or to play with something new in line with their studies.

Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall - Living learning

Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall

 

What feedback are you hearing from students?

We haven’t put out a survey or anything like that until right now, but anecdotally, there has been a transformation on campus and there are now students coming to Ball State University for the learning communities. The students want to live in the buildings that are connected to their major. It has shifted the conversation to “I want to live here because of the amenity”, not because of its location or age of building. It’s because they want access to the amenity spaces related to their area of study.

Before any experience with Ball State University, prospective students are asking about the learning communities, not the residence hall. It’s exciting to see. We don’t know what all it means yet, or what it will lead to, but it’s positive feedback. It’s not just defining the experience a student has here, but before they even get here.

Do you have any measurable data on the effect the Living Learning Community model has on student recruitment or retention?

I don’t have data about how the space impacts the student’s decision, but we have some very basic use data from the Botsford/Swinford equipment storage area. The first year it wasn’t used much, but the response from students was positive about having the space. Equipment use has more than tripled since then. and we have had to keep adding equipment to the space to keep up with demand. The use data drives the decision of what other equipment we need to buy.

When we opened Botsford/Swinford, which is on the edge of campus and has traditionally been a hard sell to get students to want to live there, the question was whether they would want to return their Sophomore year. We were nervous as to whether this would retain students, but this building now has one of the highest return rates of freshman to sophomore year on campus, despite the location.

Overall, the retention to buildings with makerspaces is significantly higher than those without. Student participation in Living Learning Communities on our campus has been recognized by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness as one the leading predictors for student retention on our campus.

Describe the process of working with Schmidt Associates?

In my role as the Assistant Director of Living Learning Communities, typically I would not have had a seat at the table in a new building or renovation design. Not because my opinion isn’t valued, but generally my role is not one of decision maker in matters of building design. When the idea for a specifically designed amenity came across, Schmidt Associates asked questions to seek an understanding of what was needed in the space and how the space would be used to inform its design. From my perspective, I enjoyed the process because it felt like we were creating something new, something tailored to Ball State University. I had the opportunity to sit at a table I don’t usually sit at and appreciated the questions Schmidt Associates asked about how to design a space that would fit our needs. Equally, I am appreciative of my Ball State University Housing leadership and facilities colleagues for allowing me the opportunity to speak directly to Schmidt Associates about my vision for how the space would be used. I very much see the product of those conversations in the design elements of our spaces.

I think after the early design conversations, we got into the nitty gritty details about where to put focal points, sound treatment, electrical outlets, etc. It was new to me, but I appreciated going through the process because I learned a lot about how the design process works and was able to help shape and form the building. The questions asked drove what the space would be, and how students would actually use and experience the space to ensure it was functional and would add value.

The Effects of Natural Daylight

Daylight - Marian University

It’s not a secret — it is scientifically proven that we, as humans, thrive best when we have access to sunlight. If you are having a long and stressful day at work, a walk around the block is a good way to clear the mind. Restaurants with outdoor seating tend to be packed during those sunny, 75-degree days. Homes typically include large living room windows that allow sunlight to coming flooding in.

When designing for an academic space, whether K-12 or higher education, keeping this biophilic factor in mind is essential in producing an effective learning environment.

Design considerations:

  • Include large, floor to ceiling windows in common spaces like cafeterias/dining halls, library and media centers, hallways on the upper level floor, etc.
Daylighting - media center and dining hall

Left: West Lafayette Intermediate School Media Center | Right: Marian University Dining Hall

  • Utilize glass walls between interior spaces adjacent to a room or hallway that includes plenty of windows. To add privacy, use clearstory windows or semi-transparent glass that will allow light to pass from space to space.
Daylight - expandable walls

Clark Middle School – Expandable glass walls between classroom and hallway let light flow throughout a large space

  • High, small, frosted windows in gyms/fieldhouses allow natural light to come into the space without resulting in glare on the court. Include windows near cardio machines in campus’ fitness center to give runners a little sense of being outdoors.
Daylight in gym and fitness center

Left: Plainfield High School Fieldhouse | Right: DePauw University Lilly Center

  • Residence hall bedrooms can feel a little tight and stuffy to students, but providing large windows for daylight to spill throughout common areas will help give them a sense of relief.
Daylight residence hall

Left: University of Indianapolis – Greyhound Village | Right: Ball State University – Schmidt/Wilson Residence Hall

  • The second-best option is LED lighting if a space is limited in natural light potential. Sunlight and full-spectrum LEDs expose people to blue light wavelengths, which has a positive impact on our hormonal levels compared to other lighting systems.
Daylight - LED lighting

Before & After LED Retrofit at Bunker Hill Elementary

 

Benefits of natural daylight:

  • Positively impacts cognitive performance, resulting in better test results, information retention, and productivity levels. The U.S. Department of Education states that classrooms with the most daylighting saw a 20% better learning rate in math and 26% better in reading when compared to classrooms with little to no daylight.
  • Sunlight increases levels of serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved moods and overall mental health of students.
  • Daylight helps regulate circadian rhythms, reducing stress and enhancing the brain’s readiness to learn.
  • Provides opportunity for sensory change, giving students a mental break from what’s going on in the classroom. These short mental breaks help students stay focused and motivated. It is proven that the opportunity to interact with the natural world is particularly helpful to kids with ADD/ADHD, which effects an estimated 1 million children.

Introducing natural daylight into schools for maximum benefits needs to be done in a controlled and responsive manner. Proper building orientation means maximizing southern and northern exposures and minimizing east and west exposures. Worried about the energy costs and thermal comfort issues that come along with a wall full of windows? This is the importance of engineers to help design with tools for energy savings. Exterior shading devices, elements that push daylight deeper into the building, and proper interior window treatments can be incorporated.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can incorporate natural daylight into your existing space or your next projects – give us a call!

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!

What are the Roles of a Design/Build Team?

Typically there are three primary team members on a design/build project. They include the Owner, the criteria developer, and the design/build (D/B) contractor. Each one is explained in more detail below:

1. Owner

•  Work with criteria developer to capture needs and desires in criteria documents/contract documents
•  Implement a process to select D/B contractor
•  Work with D/B contractor to finalize design and construction (sometimes through criteria developer/project manager)
•  Communicate changing needs to D/B contractor
•  Participate in punch list process
•  Move in and enjoy the new facility

2. Criteria Developer

•  Work with Owner personnel and stakeholders to draft criteria documents/contract documents
•  Sometimes hired to represent the Owner throughout construction and review design/construction/completion activities
•  May review pay applications and change orders and assist Owner in the punch list process
•  Advise Owner on contractual matters and D/B contractor compliance with contract
•  Assist Owner to maintain budget integrity

3. Design/Build Contractor 

•  Provide qualifications proposal and initial renderings to demonstrate their vision of compliance with the criteria documents
•  Confirm pricing with subcontractors that meets design criteria
•  Provide scope compliance information and agree on cost with Owner
•  Design the project using qualified design professionals and obtain Owner approval of code- compliant design that meets the criteria documents
•  Design team maintains engagement in project throughout construction
•  Construct the project, draft changes, punch out and complete the facility
•  Maintain budget and schedule throughout the duration of the project
•  Provide clear and regular communication with Owner on project status and any changes
•  Obtain good reference from satisfied Owner

So, why should an Owner select design/build?

  1. Single source of accountability – this goes for design and construction
  2. Budget management – discussing budget throughout the duration of design
  3. Enhanced communication – early and ongoing communications between Owner, design contractor, and subcontractor(s)
  4. Faster project completion – can shorten overall schedule since construction starts while design is being completed

If you have more questions or want to get started on your next project with us, reach out!