A vacant lot near campus will soon become a community park and nature education center, thanks to the collaborative efforts of UIndy, the University Heights Neighborhood Association, and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful. Representatives of all three groups announced the plans Homecoming day from the one-acre site at the northeast corner of Mathews and Edwards avenues, which once held UIndy’s Cummins Apartments. The University Heights park project is one of just six in the city selected for a development grant under KIB’s IPL Project Greenspace 2014. “We’re thrilled to be a part of it, because we know the University is going to play an even bigger role,” KIB President David Forsell said.
Plans call for the site—three blocks south of Hanna Avenue and still owned by the University—to be transformed with walking paths, new trees, and native plants and grasses to create a wildlife habitat. UIndy will construct a shelter and use the site as an outdoor lab for students in biology and related fields, but the facilities also will be open to the public for community events, such as the annual University Heights Halloweenie Roast. The park also could benefit the nearby IPS School 65 and University Heights United Methodist Church, among other community organizations. The plantings and hard landscaping will be provided by KIB and tended by neighborhood and student volunteers. UIndy will provide water service, any necessary heavy maintenance, mowing, trash removal, and police coverage.
Long-term plans include the eventual construction of a classroom/lab building and a greenhouse. The park master plan by Southside-based Mader Design LLC was funded by a $5,000 University grant, based on a proposal by Assistant Professor Kevin McKelvey of the Department of English. Dr. James Pennell, chair of the Department of Social Sciences and also a University Heights resident, prepared the KIB grant application. After noting the park’s many potential benefits to students and the community, UIndy President Robert Manuel, himself a resident of University Heights and a member of its Neighborhood Association, said his wife and daughters are also enthused about the project. “As a family, we’re excited because we’re going to get a park,” he quipped.