The conversation that Rev. Charlotte Lohrenz and I had with Mark Flanary, the Executive Director of Binford Redevelopment and Growth, Inc. was both exciting and informative. Mark is passionate about organizing efforts that continue the revitalization of the neighborhood around 71st and Binford.
To tell you a little bit about their history, I share some words from their website.
“During the 1960s, young families moved away from downtown Indianapolis and into suburbs where better schools, homes with backyards and quiet, tree-lined streets were a big draw. This scenario describes the 40 plus neighborhoods in the BRAG area. They form a solidly middle class community that continues to enjoy a highly-educated population, above average family household income, a low crime rate, and excellent quality of life.
As the BRAG area matured in the 1990s, commercial and retail establishments – especially at Binford Boulevard and East 71st Street – moved to newer suburbs and left empty store front shells. Alarmed at the visual blight and deterioration, over 350 residents and business people met at Skiles Test Elementary School’s cafeteria on April 27, 2005 to ‘stop the blight’ and began the process to form what is now Binford Redevelopment and Growth, Inc. or BRAG. In June, 2005 over 50 people came to the first official BRAG business meeting to brainstorm and discuss the actions the residents could take to return the area to its former glory. Over the next few months the BRAG board was formed and they set about forming an organization that addresses economic and quality of life issues facing the 35,000 residents of BRAG.“
As we talked, Mark listed a few accomplishments of BRAG, Inc.
- The development and redevelopment of commercial and retail properties in the BRAG area.
- The creation of the Binford’s Farmer Market
- Improving safe walking and biking trails
Moving forward, Mark wants to continue the effort to improve ways for people to walk or bike in the community. There are plans to create a walk way to safely cross Binford Boulevard at 71st street. Mark also is trying to figure out ways that BRAG, Inc. could champion local businesses and organizations that continually work to improve the quality of life for the entire BRAG area.
One project that Mark has been recruited to work on is to secure a consulting company that will both do a study and create a strategic plan to deal with the strip malls in Castleton that are blighted by empty store fronts. As more consumers purchase items shipped to their homes from online companies, stores are closing at an alarming rate. In an attempt to rethink what to do with malls that are slowly losing stores, the city of Indianapolis is working with local community organizations to figure out how they might redevelop Castleton Mall to maximize both space and to continue developing the community. Might the mall be transformed into a village with shops on the first floor and living space above? Or might the mall be turned into a green space amidst the sea of concrete? The goal is to consider all possibilities and create a plan that enhances the community for all.
Mark understands that strategic plans like this directly impact the people of BRAG community. He champions this community and works to improve the neighborhood with one initiative at a time. With the generous support of the Community Health Network, Mark continues his work with energy and enthusiasm. Continue to keep Mark and the Binford Redevelopment and Growth, Inc. in your prayers.
If you are interested in knowing more about Binford Redevelopment and Growth, Inc., go to their website at https://www.binford71.org.