Mayor Stephen Goldsmith

Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood Helps Neighborhoods Turn Themselves Around


In 1976, in an effort to change its image as a struggling urban community and improve the appearance of its neighborhoods and business districts, Indianapolis created Keep Indianapolis Beautiful (KIB) as a City agency affiliated with Keep America Beautiful, Inc. KIB's primary mandate was to focus on creating public awareness about the litter issue, which it did by producing public service ad campaigns through the late 1970s that carried a straightforward, "Don't Litter" message.

KIB became a non-profit, 501(C)(3) organization in 1980. By the late 1980s, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful had expanded its mission to address solid waste and recycling issues. KIB developed its own "Environmental U" curriculum, with 50 lesson plans that provided a hands-on and interdisciplinary approach to different issues facing the City, including litter, recycling, household hazardous waste and landfills. KIB made its curriculum available to all of the City's public and private elementary schools, and also conducted teacher-training workshops.

By 1993, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful had determined that it needed to increase its focus on community improvement and beautification initiatives. KIB's recycling and other initiatives, while extremely worthwhile, did not have the same kind of immediate and dramatic impact on neighborhoods. KIB also believed that community-improvement and beautification initiatives would attract area residents as volunteers, and area businesses as project supporters. At this time, KIB was dependent on the city for 76 per cent of its funding, so increasing private-sector involvement was a way for KIB to develop more programming and to diversify KIB's funding base. With the support of both the City and private-sector sponsors, KIB focused on increasing the number of neighborhood-based litter cleanups.

Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood

The idea for Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood was born in November of 1994. During an Indianapolis-to-Washington-DC plane ride, Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith cornered KIB President Greg Fennig. The Mayor was determined to find a way to get the City's private sector involved in turning around blighted neighborhoods, and he wanted Keep Indianapolis Beautiful to take the lead role in this effort.

The City/public sector alone simply did not have the necessary resources. Beyond the issue of financing, the Mayor felt that creating a sense of community ownership and involvement in these neighborhoods was even more important for achieving long-term success and sustainability. It was time to get the same people who depended on and benefited from a strong city economy involved in helping to turn struggling neighborhoods around 180 degrees.

Following a series of planning meetings between the Mayor and his staff and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Mayor Goldsmith unveiled the new program on February 10, 1995, at a breakfast he hosted for 250 community leaders. The breakfast was held at the Columbia Club, a private club located on Monument Circle and in the very heart of the downtown business district. There, the Mayor challenged the City's business and community leaders to get involved in the new program as a way to reverse the decline and decay that was affecting many older, inner-city neighborhoods. "If the core of the apple is left to rot," the Mayor told his audience, "soon the rest of the apple will be lost."

The response was overwhelming. Some 200 of those in attendance - including business leaders, health department officials, as well as members of the Urban League, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, and many other organizations -- filled out response cards on the spot pledging their support and willingness to get involved.

In addition, Indianapolis Power & Light (IPL), which had already partnered with KIB on a variety of neighborhood initiatives, agreed to be the new program's lead private-sector sponsor. IPL pledged an initial $25,000 to get the program started, plus an additional $150,000 for an advertising campaign that included radio spots, newspaper ads and bus boards. Televised public service announcements featured the Mayor and IPL's president asking the business community to become partners in the new "Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood" program. IPL also promised in-kind support, by recruiting project volunteers from within the company. For six years IPL has remained the lead Project 180° sponsor, and has already committed its support for next year.

For its recycling, education, litter prevention and cleanup activities, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful already had a professional services contract with the City's Department of Public Works. Starting in 1995, that contract was expanded to include KIB's new Project 180° activities. For all of KIB's services, Indianapolis provided $302,000 in funding for 1995, and $285,000 in annual funding from 1996 through 1999.

From the outset, the concept behind Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood was to engage neighborhood-based organizations in a partnership with the City, KIB and the private sector. Through that partnership, communities would be able to identify and implement the kinds of projects that they believed would dramatically enhance the visual and physical environment in their neighborhoods.

Creating Community "Buy-In"

To engage communities in the new program, KIB's first step was to set up a competitive process whereby any community-based organization could submit a Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood application, outlining a number of projects that they believe will most dramatically impact the way their neighborhood looks. "These neighborhood organizations are all looking for ways to make their communities look good, feel good, and be places where residents are proud to live," said KIB's Greg Fennig. "They're all very well aware of the fact that creating these kinds of neighborhoods, where it looks like people care, is a way to drive out drugs and crime. They tell us that all the time."

Each year, KIB mails Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood application forms to a list of approximately 400 community-based organizations (there is no fee to apply) and accepts completed applications in the fall. KIB staff reviews all of the applications and then submits its overview and recommendations to the 15-member Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood Review Committee, which includes community representatives, City personnel and KIB staff. Final selections are made before the end of the calendar year, and the actual projects take place in the March-to-November period.

On average, KIB receives applications from 60 community-based organizations every year, outlining hundreds of proposed projects. The Review Committee annually selects 25 to 35 community-based organizations whose 100 to 150 projects will be supported by the program.

In order to have their applications considered for Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood, in their applications neighborhood-based organizations must pledge money, volunteers, equipment or other in-kind commitments. No project is denied based on the amount of the applicant's pledge, rather, the commitment is an opportunity for the organization to have some ownership of the project.

Once the community-based organizations have been chosen, KIB develops a budget for the projects and solicits the private sector for monetary and in-kind support. For Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood, KIB acts as an oversight agency, to make sure that the community-based organizations have the capacity and determination to follow through on their commitment. KIB is also the facilitator for projects, arranging for food for volunteers and providing grant money to buy supplies.

With the help of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, City personnel, and volunteers from the neighborhood as well as private-sector companies, each community-based organization whose proposal is selected for Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood coordinates and implements the projects. This arrangement has led to sustainable results: community leaders get involved and stay involved, as do the private-sector sponsors.

Impact on Neighborhoods

Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood is designed to help neighborhoods with the greatest needs help themselves. Even though planning and organizing can take months, most of the actual work on the selected projects happens in a single, whirlwind day, and that is precisely the plan. Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood is designed to achieve a Cinderella-like transformation in neighborhoods, something that is plain for all to see.

Shortly after Project 180°/IPL Revive a Neighborhood was launched, KIB realized that schools were a focal point for community involvement in many of the neighborhoods where projects were planned. In some instances, these schools also offered the only green space available in the neighborhood. Based on focus groups conducted by IUPUI Opinion Laboratory, which is affiliated with Indiana and Purdue Universities, KIB discovered that teachers, particularly in inner-city schools, wanted access to materials and activities that would enhance their traditional classroom teaching, and were eager for student projects that had a clearly defined beginning and end.

KIB saw an opportunity to combine hands-on learning experiences for children with neighborhood-improvement projects that would have long-term benefits for the entire community, and it launched Project 180°--PIE (Partners in the Environment) as its school-focused component. On October 14, for example, 400 parents, 700 students, 100 teachers and private-sector volunteers and KIB staff converged on Abraham Lincoln Elementary, a Perry Township school in a Southside Indianapolis neighborhood. That Thursday, on the school grounds, this team created a butterfly garden, a rock garden, a wetlands habitat, a perennial garden and a nature trail, as well as planted trees and bushes and shrubs and perennials. The children had been learning in school about all of these mini-ecosystems, and now they will be responsible for caring for the plants and animals. This one Project 180°--PIE initiative represents an investment of approximately $70,000 in donated labor and monetary and in-kind support.

In the beginning, KIB undertook one school project a semester. That has all changed, due to the program's popularity with students, teachers, parents, neighborhood residents and sponsors. As a result, this year alone KIB and its partners will have completed 22 school/youth-related projects similar to the one described above. These projects bring community residents together while enabling students to participate in creating an "outdoor classroom," where they can put their academic knowledge to practical use.

Results of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Programs (1995 to 1998)

In four years, through initiatives like Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has worked with the City, the private sector, community-based organizations and schools to make a positive, lasting impact on the visual and physical environment of hundreds of Indianapolis neighborhoods.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has provided a total of $6.6 million in benefits to the community, by enlisting more than 55,000 volunteers, who have donated over 300,000 hours of person-power, as well as over 600 private-sector partners, who have supported KIB and its projects. Over $3.8 million of in-kind goods and volunteer services have been donated to KIB projects.

During this time, volunteers have removed 6.3 million pounds of litter from neighborhoods. Over 1,000 properties have been improved, and nearly 200 private homes have been repaired or repainted. More than 150 teenagers have been employed in neighborhood-based service projects. Thirty-plus community gardens have been established on formerly littered vacant lots, and over 3,300 trees have been planted.

In many instances, these neighborhood initiatives have helped to reduce crime and create safer neighborhoods. For example, on the near east side of the City, drug activity on the 1600 block of Washington Street has been virtually eliminated and other criminal activity has been reduced by as much as 13.5% through a creative Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood partnership between Shepherd Community Church, Pastor Jay Height, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the City and private sponsors. Pastor Height maintains that an alley across the street from the Church "had more drug traffic than the fast food restaurant next door had customers." The alley was legally vacated by the City and a long, narrow park was built in its place. The new Matt Faber Park was dedicated in August of 1998 to a police officer killed in the line of duty in the neighborhood.

Another Project 180°/IPL Revive A Neighborhood success story took place on the northwest side of the city, with $60,000 worth of in-kind support from local organizations, KIB staff and the City, plus 140 volunteers. In one day, Community Baptist Church organized the construction of a beautiful vegetable and perennial garden and play area for the children who attend the Church's day care program. The playground and garden space were built right across the street from the Church, on the site of a derelict vacant lot that had been a scene of gambling, drug dealing and loitering.

All of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful's neighborhood initiatives are designed to encourage children and teenagers to participate. In the fall of 1998, the Youth Advisory Council, representing 10 local youth organizations, was formed in connection with KIB's participation in Keep America Beautiful's first-ever Great American Clean-Up™ national event. The Youth Advisory Council determined that ridding their neighborhoods of litter was the most important activity they could undertake, so the Council developed and managed a cleanup event in April of 1999 that involved 1,000 young people cleaning up a Westside neighborhood.

After seeing television news coverage of a KIB project that involved a church group, Youth For Christ -- a national faith-based organization headquartered in Denver, with an Indianapolis affiliate -- partnered with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful on a very special community-service project. YFC brought 600 of its young adult members from all over the country to Indianapolis where, under KIB's and the City's supervision, and equipped with four flatbed trucks' worth of tools, they completed 13 major projects in just four days, including the removal of litter from 96 City blocks.

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful has been extraordinarily successful in attracting private-sector sponsors and support for its programs. KIB's annual budget is currently $750,000, with an additional $1.6 million of in-kind support from over 300 private-sector partners. KIB now receives about 35 percent of its funding from the City.

For more information, please contact:

Keep Indianapolis Beautiful

445 North Pennsylvania

Suite 330

Indianapolis, IN 46204

Phone: (317) 264-7555

Web site:

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