Indy DNA: A network for Downtowners

By BILL BROOKS, Editor and publisher

I found the unique Downtown neighborhood known as Lockerbie Square nearly 30 years ago. It was an experience immediately enhanced by a neighborhood association known in those days as the People’s Club. It served as both a network with my new neighbors and a conduit to city government.

A year earlier, I had relocated from the hinterland to Riley Towers, a perfectly acceptable residential facility – but without the advantages of a neighborhood association.

Kevin and Carol Sears had much the same experience when they moved from Morton, a small Illinois town, into a condo at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. “Morton is a small town with a very neighborly culture that we loved. We truly enjoy urban living – the only thing missing for us is a neighborly culture.” They tried to create a link between other Downtown homeowners associations, but that effort didn’t take.

So they have donated a considerable amount of time to the creation of a new membership-based organization – the Indy Downtown Neighbors’ Alliance – because they see its great potential. Indy DNA is being shepherded into reality by Downtown Indy, Inc., with objectives outlined below.

Said Kevin, “A broader organization will have more to offer all Downtown residents. We are pleased to assist with getting this bigger community alliance off the ground as this effort fits well with our original objectives.”

Roxanne McGettigan is another member of the small task force which has brought Indy DNA to reality. She and her husband, Tom, are residents of Firehouse Square who have called Downtown home for 19 years. She said they love living Downtown, “However, the dynamics have changed – mostly due to the pandemic and the slow recovery. I have hated watching businesses and restaurants that we loved close over these last few years, because the workforce isn’t bringing the same numbers of people Downtown.

“I believe it is vitally important to bring our neighbors, who like us love urban living and are proud to call Downtown their home, together to be a collective voice and work together to make sure Downtown is a safe, thriving and vibrant community.”

Another member of the task force, Dennis Erpelding of the Watermark community along the Downtown Canal, sees Indy DNA as a mechanism for an organized voice for those living Downtown. “We as individuals, and collectively as a group, can be powerful drivers of shaping our Downtown. We live Downtown by choice, and we can each ensure Downtown living is an amazing experience by becoming an active member of DNA.

Spark on the Circle has exceeded all expectations as it has taken over Monument Circle’s Southwest Quadrant through the coming fall season.

“City officials listen to those that engage – a political voice,” Erpelding said. “When one thinks of what they want the Indy experience to be, we need to ensure we communicate this to our representative officials. If we ask in a unified voice for specific actions, share the reason for our request with context, and then seek to work with our representative officials, we can achieve success.”

Sheila Kennedy heartily concurs. She and her husband, Bob, have over the years called several Downtown historic neighborhoods home – neighborhoods with active neighborhood associations. Now that they reside in The Whit, she sees the need for a vehicle such as Indy DNA.

“I’ve seen how important a neighborhood organization can be,” she said. “It provides a voice to the city and a forum for those living in an area to discuss issues that affect that community.”

She said that if one of her current neighbors asked why Indy DNA, “I would argue that Downtown residents should have the same ‘voice’ that other neighborhoods have.” She said an organization such as Indy DNA is  even more important than in more conventional neighborhoods, “because Downtown faces unique challenges – the mixture of offices, entertainment venues and residences; the prevalence of a mythology about ‘urban’ people; and the real challenges presented by a mix of people from the very wealthy to the homeless.”

Like other members of the Indy DNA task force, Kevin and Carol Sears have high hopes for success. “We hope our Downtown neighbors will want to be a part of making the organization grow into what they want and need.  DNA has unlimited potential to be a place for all of us to connect and build important relationships that will enrich the livability of Downtown for everyone.”

What Roxanne McGettigan would tell neighbors about Indy DNA is this: “That we are initially getting as many Downtown residents as we can to sign up for the targeted resident weekly e-newsletters and eventual text messaging. And as we grow the Indy DNA network, we can share pertinent information on what is going on Downtown.

“This could be traffic alerts; a call for action in needing voices to come together to advocate for specific initiatives; letting businesses, restaurants, theaters, etc. offer deals to those who live in their backyard; and any other outreach that needs to get out to residents in a fast and efficient way.

“And in turn,” she added, “a key component will be to find a way for Downtown residents to reach out to Downtown Indy if they need help or have concerns. I think all of this will assist in creating a bigger sense of community and pride.”

Looking to learn more? Take part in the Residential Roundup from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, at SPARK on the Circle. The festive celebration will feature music, food and beverages, and opportunities to sign-up and get involved.

Strategic objectives

o To engage Downtown Indy’s residential community through a sense of community and opportunities to participate in Downtown-focused programming.

o To increase resident-led advocacy for Downtown livability, safety, and urban amenities.

o To inform and enlighten Downtown residents via communications and information-sharing channels.

Indy DNA member benefits

o Access to an exclusive Indy DNA webpage with a curated events calendar to keep them in the know on happenings Downtown.

o Text updates with pertinent Downtown information – events, traffic, and safety precautions – and access the See Say app, a tool for reporting cleanliness and safety concerns directly to Downtown Indy Inc.’s operations team and public safety partners.