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Naplab’s Indianapolis Neighborhood Map

Word about a new neighborhood map for the city came to me unexpectedly. Phil Hooper, from DMD and the Greater Indianapolis Neighborhood Initiative, stopped me in the lobby of the City County Building, and the first thing he said was “have you seen the new Indianapolis neighborhood map?” He was excited, and I was intrigued. I’ve loved maps since early childhood and majored in Geography, so sure, tell me more. He mentioned it was a paper wall map that was for sale at the Harrison Center for the Arts’ First Friday event. I was unable to attend, but thankfully, the website for the group who designed the map went live. And it was worth every bit of hype:

Close-up of downtown:

I sat down with the Naplab duo, Landscape Architect Josh Anderson and Graphic Designer Matt Hale to find out more about their inspirational creation.

Josh and Matt in the Indianapolis City Market

How did the idea for the map come about?
Naplab: Aaron Renn from the Urbanophile pushed for it, inspired by the Chicago Neighborhood Maps from Ork and other designers. We wanted to help create a dialogue about neighborhoods in Indianapolis and better establish a sense of neighborhood throughout the city. Initially, Aaron approached Ork about doing a design based on our research, but it wasn’t in the cards for us. We finally decided we would do a neighborhood-based map, but in our own design style. In the beginning, we had meetings with different people that have a good understanding of the entire city and we had a lot of discussion about what exactly constitutes a neighborhood in Indy and other cities. We wanted it to be a cool poster that people enjoy looking at, but also we also have a higher goal to promote a conversation about what it means to be a neighborhood in the city and help establish the identity of “the neighborhood” throughout the city.

What sources did you use?
Naplab: Human resources, as well as IMAGIS, city documents, google and wiki maps, official city neighborhood resources, Polis Center info, and of course, the internet. Chris Barnett, Matt Hostetler, and Sarah Lester were a tremendous help as well. We started out with a sharpie marker and a paper map, scanned it, and then spent months refining it with the multitude of sources we found.

Any personal favorite features of the map?

Matt: There are some really neat lesser-known neighborhoods that the map reveals. I grew up in Speedway, so the west side is my territory. North of 16th St (east of Speedway and north of Haughville) I never knew that that neighborhood was called Venerable Flackville, so that was a cool discovery for me. Also, though we don’t have the roads labeled, you can tell what they are if you know the city well. It’s neat to scan the map visually and fill in the informational blanks, so to speak.

Josh: Everything on the map is to scale. It makes it easy to see the difference in the scale of the airport when compared to downtown, the track, etc. It’s amazing to see the differences of neighborhood footprint size within the city. From the near southeast side, stretching around to the near north side, the neighborhoods are really small. Whereas the farther out you go, the neighborhoods increase in size, but also sprawl.

What font did you use?

Matt: It’s from a typeface family called Knockout by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. The specific weight/width is HTF26 Junior Flyweight. It’s ultra-condensed, and created better word-shapes across the wide spectrum of neighborhood word-lengths and combinations. Those word-shapes were more square, less horizontal, and that helped them fit in the varying neighborhood shapes more efficiently. In a nutshell, it’s a confident, condensed typeface that helped with legibility!

How has the reception been?

Matt: It’s been great. Snowballs are starting to roll. We just launched the website 2 weeks ago. Recently, we’ve been selling maps at the Harrison Center for the Arts on First Fridays. We have really seen the conversation that we were hoping for start to happen as we talk to people there. In one unexpected turn, Chuck Lofton from Channel 13 bought one last month. If we get people in the news organizations interested, it could have a huge impact on how neighborhoods are labeled in the city. Instead of always saying “a murder happened on the east side,” which is often blatantly false or misleading location-wise, a more specific area of the city can be specified. The City of Indianapolis is huge at around 400 square miles. We’ve got to stop labeling areas only by north, south, east, and west sides, or variants of those. It just makes less and less sense the farther out you go from Monument Circle.

Josh: I live on the east side, and if a crime happens anywhere within a particular 20 mile section of the city, then the entirety of that part of the city is dangerous. Also, regarding the map’s reception, people you don’t normally think of as urbanists do get very excited and proud when they see the name of their neighborhoods on the map and they begin to see the city in a new light. Especially for the lesser-known neighborhoods that people living on the other side of the city don’t know about.

Matt: You can see the lightbulb go off in their eyes. It’s really great.

What’s next for Naplab?

Matt: We’d like to find out more about the history of all these neighborhoods and display that somehow. The coolest way would be to have a clickable map online, but maybe just a wiki of some sort would be good too.
Josh: Yes, there are definitely more ways to promote this idea, make it more interactive, and expand the impact.

The Neighborhoods of Indianapolis 2011 map is available online for $35 at www.naplab.net
You can also pick one up at the Harrison Center for the Arts this Saturday, June 11 from noon to 8 as part of IMAF and the INDIEana Handicraft Exchange.

32 Responses to “ “Naplab’s Indianapolis Neighborhood Map”

  1. Curt Ailes says:

    This shows a tremendous sense of leadership to embark on a mission that is essentially trying to change people’s perception about our city. Not only does the map look cool, it will give people a sense of place. Instead of naming the streets near where you live, someday people will be able to simply blurt out one of these neighborhood names and a visual association will be sparked.
    .
    Well done guys!

  2. Brad Nemeth says:

    Now that’s a pretty cool map! I grew-up loving maps and geography (which was part of my major, too), so I always like seeing new ways of looking at a place I think I know decently well (even though I don’t live in Indy, I am very familiar with different areas of the city). I have to say I had never heard of some of those neighborhoods — so the research is awesome. I went to the Ork website to view their maps; although they are decent, I would have to say Naplab’s map is a) easier to read (by names, especially with the neighborhood names all in the same direction) and b) geographically easier to understand as well, helped along by the to-scale map. I hope more people find-out about this map and spread the word — and the more the media knows it, definitely the better. I plan to buy this map very soon. Great job Naplab!

  3. Mike says:

    i think i actually want to get a copy of it. it’s cool, functional, and a good representation of Indy.

  4. Chris Barnett says:

    Big kudos to Matt and Josh (and Aaron) for organizing and doing the work, and thanks for crediting my minor contribution. Twin-Aire rocks. :)
    .
    Like Josh, I live in an “east side” neighborhood and am sick of every sensational crime east of Meridian being labeled as “east side” whether it’s at 37th & Emerson, Prospect & State, Raymond & Southeastern, Sherman & Michigan, or 21st & Post. Astute observers will note that only one of those locations is really in a Near East Side Community Organization neighborhood.
    Given the grossly “misdirectioned” coverage of the recent arsons (Star had it, naturally, as an “east side” outbreak when the majority were in Fountain Square), perhaps we should take up a collection and buy one of these for each of the newsrooms in town.

  5. Elizabeth Friedland says:

    I’d love to have a print of this to hang in my apartment! Can I get my hands on one? (elizabeth.friedland@gmail.com)

  6. Mike B says:

    I’ll come get one on Saturday. This is a must-have for Indy urbanites!

  7. Rick Wagner says:

    The area designated “Pike” on the map sure covers a lot of area. For instance, the area from 79th down to Lafayette Square along Georgetown, has always been known as just that, “Georgetown” to me.

    There is a section between 62nd Street and 59th in that same area that has numerous Apartments, Condos, Shopping Centers with some permutation of “Oakbrook”.

  8. Zach Adamson says:

    Great story. As both a map junkie and neighborhood advocate, I can’t wait to get my copy of the map.

  9. IndyUrBen says:

    Already ordered mine! Josh is a great creative landscape architect and urban designer that I have been lucky enough to work with and I have followed Matt on Twitter for a while. GREAT to see this cool map get some exposure!! Almost an info-graphic quality to it. Creative minds at work in Indianapolis.

  10. Great idea. One of those why didn’t I think of that things. Are there any plans to eventually offer a online version?

  11. MetroCard says:

    Interesting map. It seems like a bit much though, as if the creators were trying to “invent” neighborhoods that don’t really exist (like Renaissance Place…it’s not really a neighborhood, just a couple of culs-de-sac downtown). I guess my view is biased because I now live in New York City.

    This is a good step in the right direction, but the question I have is this: are people going to actually take this to heart? Compared to most cities, few people in what constitutes Indianapolis proper have a neighborhood mentality; most folks seem to identify with their respective “sides” of town (even the news media does this), which is ridiculous for a city of 400 square miles. The obvious exception would be the legacy neighborhoods in the city like Irvington and Fountain Square. I believe the city should focus on strengthening their strongest actual neighborhoods and making those more visible.

    • Chris says:

      Metro, I think the purpose of the map was to start a conversation about neighborhood identity in Indianapolis, not to create an authoritative guide to Indianapolis neighborhoods. Also, I believe residents of Indianapolis who live in older neighborhoods (and this includes working-class places and not just tony places) and/or neighborhoods with strong neighborhoods associations or established commercial nodes generally have a strong bond with their neighborhood and identify where they live by reference to it. Examples of older neighborhoods (some much newer than others) that may also have active neighborhood associations or be classified as “included towns,” Irvington, Woodruff Place, Brendonwood, Butler-Tarkington, Meridian Kessler, Meridian-HIlls, Williams Creek, Homecroft, Golden Hill, Broad Ripple, University Heights, Haughville, Eagledale, Nora, etc. Examples of neighborhoods that are relatively newer (though they may be traced back to older small outposts) and identified by the neighborhood association or commercial development: College Park, Chapel Hill, Geist, etc. The downtown/central area also has several strong neighborhoods: Chatham Arch, St. Joseph, Old Northside, Herron-Morton, Fletcher Place, Lockerbie Square, Cottage Home, Fountain Square, etc. All of these are “real” places that people recognize.

      I do agree it would be best for Indianapolis to build on already established neighborhoods, rather than to attempt to create phony neighborhood identities, as seems to be the case with the example of Renaissance Place that you mention. The Naplab team may have attempted to drill down to a level of detail that only makes sense in a very dense walking city. A tiny generic condo cul-de-sac subdivision from 1980 with no commercial component and no parks or other public areas (no offense intended to any of the residents) does not provide enough of a sense of place to build a neighborhood identity.

    • MetroCard,

      The problems outlined in your second paragraph are exactly the problems we’re trying to tackle. We agree, Indy should strengthen its “strongest actual neighborhoods.” (We’re also not NYC, never will be. Our neighborhoods will inherently look and feel different.) Please don’t get it twisted, we aren’t attempting to wave a magic wand and create true urban neighborhoods simply by applying labels. :-)

      As Chris stated, the primary purpose of the project is to start a conversation about the concept of The Neighborhood in Indianapolis. That conversation is long overdue here. Knowing full well that major parts of the city lacked neighborhoods in the strictest sense, without precedent we assigned a neighborhood to every square inch of Marion County to create a touchpoint from which identity discussions can begin. Perhaps by labeling the “non-neighborhoods,” we’ll also help validate them for fledgling advocates. Some of the weaker neighborhoods can begin to better shape and wrestle with their identity. We also want to create just a simple sense of pride among Indy citizens about their neighborhoods and the city at large. We are already seeing evidence of that in the few weeks the poster has been out.

      We want the non urban-enthusiast/nerd of Indy :-) to ask:

      Do I live in a neighborhood?
      What is a neighborhood?
      Why is my neighborhood called “XYX?”
      My neighborhood is called “XYZ,” do I associate with that?
      Why does no one else call my neighborhood “XYZ?”
      DId I choose to live here because of the neighborhood?
      Do I like my neighborhood?
      How can I make my neighborhood better?
      Why is “XYZ” neighborhood more desirable than my neighborhood?
      Why have I never heard of/visited “XYZ” neighborhood?
      Etc.

      Regarding Renaissance place specifically, while more than a “couple of cul-de-sacs downtown (it includes Lugar Towers on our map), it ultimately became part of this version because:
      A. It has a strong neighborhood group (or block-club as Aaron likes to say) that meets regularly
      B. It’s boundaries are well-defined by the strong neighborhoods around it. We certainly wouldn’t want to offend the well-defined neighborhoods of St. Joseph or Chatham Arch by arbitrarily absorbing Renaissance Place into one of them. ;-)

      Renaissance Place is certainly not the only area where liberties were taken with the definition of “neighborhood.” Like many areas of the map, it was not included without debate. Our exercise was impossible to attempt without such overlaps or judgement calls. Someone had to make them.

      If you think Renaissance Place is bad, check out some of the “neighborhoods” outside of 465. :-)

  12. Chris says:

    Matt, your response was very interesting and informative.

    Just out of curiousity, why did you choose to separately demarcate Renaissance Place on the map to avoid lumping it with the neighboring well-established neighborhoods, while also separately demarcating the “SoBro” area that the well-established Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association has always included within its stated neighborhood boundaries (Kessler is the northern boundary for MK, and the southern boundary for BRVA). I know the restaurants and bars on College in that area have used the term “SoBro” for marketing for some years, but at least my experience has been that the residents say they live in Meridian-Kessler. I guess its just a judgment call, but I was still curious.

    • John M says:

      It is an interesting issue with no right or wrong answer. A comparison might be “Wrigleyville” in Chicago. Officially, that part of the city is the Lakeview neighborhood, with the Wrigleyville designation evolving over the years and without clearly defined boundaries. A quick Google search reveals that some Chicago neighborhood maps have it, and some don’t. I do think the distinction between the residential and commercial areas makes sense.

    • Chris,

      While we did make several judgement calls in the eastern portion of the “Midtown” area, I believe our Meridian Kessler boundaries are spot on, according to “official” MK neighborhood borders.
      -
      We drew the eastern border along E. 40th St./Monon Trail, starting at 38th, up to Kessler. (You can use the edge of the State Fair Grounds on the map as a reference point.)
      -
      Our MK boundaries followed those stated at http://www.mkna.org/about-mkna , as well as those listed in the Indianapolis/Marion County Registered Organizations book, among other things.
      -
      We gave SoBro its deserved due by putting it on the map, but also respected the well-established boundaries of Meridian Kessler.
      -
      Regarding Renaissance Place: that was more a case of negative space being created by neighboring ‘hoods.
      The Midtown area’s “problem” on the other hand, is more about overlap and competing designations for the same area.
      Forest Hills, for example, was a casualty of this problem as it fell inside MK’s “official” boundaries.

      Thanks for your question!

      • Chris says:

        Hi Matt,

        Thank you for the clarification. The map is very thought-provoking, but one problem I have with it is being able to tell exactly how the neighborhoods are being demarcated since there are no major streets names on the map.

        Yes, I agree that MK’s eastern border is the Monon Trail, but it was not clear what area you were marking as “SoBro” on your map. Though, my understanding has been that people who do use the name “SoBro” are generally referring to the northern part of MK that borders Broad Ripple, especially the area around the College corridor. I think the area you are calling “SoBro” is the Canterbury Park neighborhood, as others have noted, and there is an active neighborhood association — http://www.cnaindy.org

  13. Kevin says:

    I’m most familiar with the north side, so I would like to see boundaries for Forest Hills, Canterbury, and the quintessentially awesome Bacon Swamp. Bacon Swamp!

    But on the whole, I think they’ve done a great job here. I now have my copy in my office. It will be a great conversation piece for anyone who comes in.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      What was left of Bacon Swamp became some apartments and a retirement center with a lake called American Village. It’s south of the Bishop Chatard baseball complex and was built up in the 80s. The 1970s-era 46220 post office east of Keystone on 54th is officially called “Bacon Station”; I dimly recall some old county maps showing the swamp originally stretched from about Crittenden to the Nickel Plate tracks. It was never really a “neighborhood”, more a geographic feature from the era when intrepid engineers “drained the swamps”.

      Canterbury is the subdivision name of the blocks from Monon to Crestview, 54th to Kessler. In 1946, that was infill suburbia…the houses east and west are generally older. North to McNamara Florist and BRHS and south to about 49th is also postwar vintage. Because of the industrial/commercial development (the Spickelmire site plus what’s now Reese Central) to the south along the Monon, it was probably not as desirable as the College corridor. The immediately-postwar houses at the south end of Canterbury started out as small 2-bedroom bungalows and 3 or 4-bedroom “Cape Cod”. Further north, it’s mostly larger late 40′s and 50′s ranches with a few 2-story colonials thrown in, set in a former woods where many large trees were preserved. Only in the past 10 or so years, with the redevelopment of the scrungy office/warehouse buildings along 54th into interesting shops and restaurants, can Canterbury claim to be a real neighborhood. It used to be just a postwar subdivision with a park.

    • Bacon Swamp! That is the best neighborhood name ever!
      Sorry about Canterberry and Forest Hills they fell prey to the monster that is Meridian Kessler. :-)

      • I just noticed that Wynnedale is missing. Any reasons for its exclusion?

        • I’m not sure exactly why we didn’t include it, Kevin. It made have had to do with scale and legibility, since it’s only a couple of streets tall and wide (betweend 42nd and 44th I believe). There were a couple I can’t recall off the top of my head that didn’t make it just because they were too small to be seen at our scale. But It may have been an honest mistake as well. I’ve added it to our list of potential revisits. :)

          My wife and I just drove through that area exploring last weekend, along with Golden Hill and other little hidden communities around there. She’s new to the city, so I’ve been relishing showing off the strange little nooks of Indy. Like other areas of the city, it’s disappointing to see the effect that 65 had on the nearby area.

  14. Crossed Wires says:

    I believe Eastgate is inside 465.
    The Far Eastside should include the following neighborhoods:
    North Eastwood 38th/Post
    Eastwood 30th/Franklin
    Heather Hills 21st/Mitthoeffer

  15. Mark Nagle says:

    I just relocated from Memphis to this city, and what a nice find with this Web site and the feature on the map.

    Like some of the commenters pointed out above, Indy is not NYC and will likely never be. But that’s the beauty of a city like this one: its urban identity is not fixed yet, and there’s a lot of opportunity to observe and shape (as you people on this site seem to be interested in doing) the transition to what Indy can become. Having just lived in Memphis for 4 years, a mid-sized city trying to reckon with its past and find a vision for its future, I’ve realized that being in the midst of that process can be far more rewarding than enjoying the already-established urban environs of “cooler” cities. It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon in Brooklyn. But watching and making change happen in places like Indy or Memphis: that can be much more inspiring (even if it comes with the challenges and frustrations of a suburban past).

    All that to say: Well done Naplab and Urbanindy!

  16. Kara says:

    This is a very cool and real map! I didn’t read through all of the replies nad this may have been answered already, but do the size of the letters and/or names of the neighboorhoods represent a population size or a neighborhood size or do they represent anything? Just curious..

  17. Joe Virgin says:

    From a 66-yr.resident of Indy, specifically the west side, and a 44-yr. history teacher, on the west side, I am more than impressed by this project. I would have much more praise should you desire to engage in discussion, but I will take this opportunity to simply offer a few more areas of existence that I have known of. These are west side related, and I can give you the boundaries if you like, however there are other parts of the city that I am familiar with as well. A sample listing would include: Bridgeport, Fleming Gardens, Mickleyville, Drexel Gardens, Alexander Heights, Westlake, Lafayette Heights, and Speedway Woods among others.

  18. Josh says:

    Joe, if you wouldn’t mind, could you send an email to info@naplab.net. I’d love to engage in a discussion with you. Thanks, Josh

  19. Jeremy says:

    This is a great piece of art. I have it in my small office over in Community Heights, and I cannot take my eyes off of it. I would suggest that if you make another, or another digital version, that the Chapel Hill area be extended east all the way to 465, and the Ben Davis area to be renamed Farley. All of the neighborhoods to the east of your current Chapel Hill neighborhood are called Chapel-something, most likely to capitalize on the original. The area around Ben Davis HS, mostly consists of newer neighborhoods from the 80s-00s. The only neighborhood around there previously is Farley, which has a well known and still current identity.

  20. JCoonce says:

    We love our copy of this map and are including it as part of our home decor. Any ideas for framing since its such an odd size?

  21. Kathy Brown says:

    I’ve noticed that Lafayette Heights was not listed – its within the Mars Hill area. It only includes a few street & this may be why it wasn’t included. Love this map. Thanks

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