Grant Type:
2010 Community Challenge
& 2013 Brownfields Area-Wide Planning

Grant Amount:
$1,197,622 and $200,000

Lead Organization:
City of Indianapolis

The City of Indianapolis is located in central Indiana. As a unified city-county, Indianapolis-Marion County is home to just over 928,000 residents and covers an expansive 402-square-mile area. It is the economic engine of Indiana, home to nearly 19% of all jobs in the state, including a growing life sciences industry anchored by pharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Company. The larger metro area has nearly 2 million residents.

Indianapolis recently completed a multi-hazard mitigation plan that ranked flooding as the greatest potential shock event. The plan identifed more than 28,000 structures within the flood hazard area with potential impact of more than $11 billion. Reports have also identified extreme precipitation events as a likely localized impact of climate change, exacerbating this existing risk. Perhaps the greatest challenge presented, however, are the chronic stressors that impact Indianapolis’ ability to recover from a flood or other shock event. With the decline of the manufacturing base, Indianapolis lost over 18,000 manufacturing jobs within the past 10 years, leaving more than 500 brownfield properties throughout the city – impeding redevelopment and creating environmental justice concerns. The 2010 Census estimated that 12.5% of housing units were vacant, and a foreclosure rate of that was double the national rate. These losses are further evidenced by growing poverty, with an estimated 20% of residents in poverty (eighth fastest growing metro in the nation).

In addition to the distress caused by industrial and residential vacancy, Indianapolis’ surface infrastructure has endured hardships caused by environmental and climate effects. In 2010, the city had a $2 billion infrastructure deficit related to transportation-oriented infrastructure and estimated a $1.63 million annual spend to keep up with the backlog of basic repairs. Suburban sprawl further exasperates these chronic stresses.

Indianapolis was awarded a HUD Community Challenge Planning Grant in 2010 to rewrite its 1970s-era, highly suburban zoning code. The new code, known as Indy Rezone, is nearing completion and is expected to be presented for adoption by the City-County Council in early summer of 2015. The code accommodates the variety of development patterns and features that make Indianapolis neighborhoods unique. It promotes walkability by accommodating more mixed-use areas, enables higher-density transit oriented development, and introduces a new “green factor”
system that promotes more sustainable development.

This grant award followed on the heels of a related Sustainable Communities Partnership pilot award by the EPA to study and remediate brownfield properties in a designated Smart Growth District, which was subsequently selected for detailed study in Indy Rezone. Because the rezoning made mixed-use density and transit-oriented development patterns possible, the grant also became necessary to build a regional rapid transit system, supported this year by a federal DOT TIGER planning grant to move the nation’s first all-electric bus rapid transit system closer to
reality. In conjunction with this work, the city is also updating its comprehensive land use plan to incorporate the transit-oriented development districts enabled by Indy Rezone.


  • Addressing chronic stressors, including poverty, education, unemployment and housing.
  • Developing a long-term regional water supply strategy.
  • Declining tax base, as property taxes have been capped by a 2010 amendment to the state constitution and higher-income earners are increasingly leaving the county. This inhibits the city’s ability to provide basic public services, let alone respond to significant shocks.
  • Indianapolis merged city and county in 1969, delaying the impacts of sprawl by 40 years by capturing suburban tax base. Today, the county is ringed with exploding exurbs attracting middle-class families, and the taxes they pay. This sprawl causes significant strains on the physical infrastructure as 205,000 daily commuters utilize city services, but pay no taxes toward the maintenance of city infrastructure.
  • Rural interests dominate state policy, inhibiting strong urban policy to address these issues


  • An EPA-funded brownfields pilot program helped lead to our Indy Rezone project, which enables creation of transit-oriented development, a necessary component to support and capitalize on a regional transit vision. This vision is important in creating the type of walkable neighborhoods increasingly demanded by residents, addressing tax base challenges while promoting increased job access for residents. Federal community development investments have been prioritized along these transit lines, adding necessary density and maximizing job access for those who need it the most.
  • Indianapolis is emerging as a national leader in sustainable transportation systems. Over 2 million annual visitors enjoy the 60 miles of greenways connecting parks, schools and employers throughout the city with an additional 200 miles planned. This system is anchored by the world-renowned Indianapolis Cultural Trail, an eight-mile bicycle and pedestrian path that links cultural and entertainment amenities in five cultural districts throughout downtown and defines a new standard for contemporary urban design.
  • Partnerships between the city and the private sector have launched a bike share program and an all-electric car-sharing program – the largest in the United States. Regional rapid-transit planning progresses quickly, and thanks to a TIGER planning grant, the nation’s first all-electric bus rapid transit system will be shovel-ready by the end of this year.
  •  Indianapolis is known as a model for public-private partnerships, and many of the accomplishments just noted, including the Cultural Trail, bicycle share program, and electric car share program, are recent examples.