Tuesday, May 31st, 2011
I want to invite all of my readers in greater Indianapolis to join me next Monday night, June 6th, for a farewell happy hour at Scotty’s Brewhouse downtown. I am planning to be there from 5:30p-8:30p so come on down! Shoot me a note if you are planning to come.
With a move forthcoming, I wanted to make sure to have a chance to reconnect (or connect for the first time) with my Indy readers. Already now that I’ve gone carless, I’m rarely in Indy. Other than for a brief professional trip at the end of the month, this could be my last visit for a long while. I feel bad that I didn’t do something when I actually left Indy, so this is also my make up event for that.
It’s no secret that the Urbanophile started out as a heavily Indianapolis-centric blog. In fact, the blog has its roots in the Indianapolis development discussion forum at Skyscrapercity. I am often accused of being an Indianapolis cheerleader and booster. I’d like to think I’ve thrown plenty of pies in Indy’s face where warranted (see here and here for example), but nevertheless, I guess you can say guilty as charged. I do love the city.
This puzzles many because to the outside urban enthusiast, Indianapolis is a singularly unimpressive city. Even its urban core is among the least dense in America, with mostly single family homes and few urban commercial districts. It has only the 99th largest bus system in America. Its architecture is generally undistinguished. It is dominated by chain restaurants. Much of its urban design quality is very low. The list goes on.
But over the years I’ve come to appreciate that Indianapolis may be the worst city in the Midwest – except for all the rest. All of those things might be true. This is a city that has no stately form or majesty – no appearance that we should be attracted to it. In other places, those are what define the urban greatness of the place. But they are not wherein Indy’s greatness resides.
Instead of a lively cafe culture with all those serendipitous meetings we always here about in Portland or where ever, in Indy that social life occurs in people’s back yards or homes. That doesn’t make it any less real. I know because I’ve experienced it for myself.
While Indy’s culture might lack sophistication by the definition of some, it’s got a quality about it few other cities can match. Other cities might have more talk and plans for stuff, but Indianapolis actually accomplishes things. And it’s far more forward thinking than you might think. That’s why from the city-county consolidation and amateur sports strategy 40 years ago to the Indy Cultural Trail, roundabouts in suburban Carmel, and much more today, Indianapolis has in fact often been not just a good executor of best practices, but in many ways an innovator and urban leader. I don’t think it’s any accident that my blog started in Indianapolis and grew to what it is.
There are probably few cities, and certainly no Midwest cities, that have done more with less raw assets than Indianapolis has. So regardless of what many might think, I believe there’s a real story to be told – and it’s backed up by the numbers. The fastest population growth in the region among peers, the fastest job growth, the #3 fastest percentage growth in Hispanic population among all large US metros, the #5 fastest percentage Asian growth, the #6 best state for business according to Chief Executive magazine, etc. While this is a city and region with huge challenges, I think the results speak well for themselves.
I think for those who come without a preconceived notion of what a great and thriving city ought to look like, there’s a lot of goodness to be discovered in Indianapolis. It’s not for everybody. But for a lot of people, it really is a great city I’m proud to have lived in and blogged about. Get to know the city at more than the surface level and you’ll come to say about your time there what I do – “O welche Lust!”
So for those of my readers in Indianapolis, please come on down next Monday night. Since it’s a Monday, you know you don’t have plans. It would be great to be able to see everybody. Hope you can make it.
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About the Urbanophile
Aaron M. Renn is an opinion-leading urban analyst, consultant, speaker, and writer on a mission to help America’s cities thrive and find sustainable success in the 21st century.