May 9, 2014

Cultural Trails – More than just Culture | A Wise Infrastructure Investment

Indianapolis is a poster city for how to create a brand, then continually build that image to create amenities, making a place where people want to be.  From the "Unigov" effort of the ’70s, which brought the region under one government,  to branding itself as the amateur sports capital of North America and maybe the world (home to the NCAA, host of the Pan Am games, world gymnastics championship, world rowing championship), this city has done a lot of things right. While many of Indy’s efforts may not appear to be direct economic generators, they have, in fact, become the key to the city's growth and increasingly positive image. 

Lighting is critical to the success of any pathway.
The Indy Cultural Trail combines recreation, business growth, green storm water infrastructure, cultural institutions and more.  The trail connects many neighbourhoods, bringing new clients to local businesses.  Business owners have seen increased foot traffic as more pedestrians and cyclists move into places they want to explore.

Here is an example of how a restaurant has opened up onto
the enhanced sidewalk creating a better space with the
green infrastructure corner treatment.
I know Indy well and have been on the stretch of the Cultural Trail not far from the football stadium. What becomes obvious immediately is that building this type of infrastructure is a big boost for the local and regional economy and image. As we move forward here in Calgary with the recently approved cycle network, we can see how this type of investment has paid off in Indy and many other places.
The Cultural Trail is built into the side of the roadway with
plenty of functional green space added. 

People from all parts of Indianapolis -- suburbs, inner city and established neighbourhoods have bought into the local and regional benefits of investing in this type of infrastructure.  The business community was a partner in realizing how connecting people to new places was an excellent way to help economic development.

A similar Cultural Trail in Calgary  would happen differently.  In Indy, the local philanthropic community and federal government invested $63 million after 12 years of planning and six of construction. Can this happen here?

Intersections are made much safer for pedestrians with the
green infrastructure - an important part of the design.
Take a look at some of the photos and you can see how the trail winds through the neighbourhood commercial areas, past some less active buildings and how it is used by a wide variety of people.  This example really shows how a community can benefit from this type of public investment.

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