Chelsea Schneider, Municipal Innovations Specialist, Aim
As a major logistics hub, the warehouse and distribution industries that define Plainfield’s economy have jobs to fill.
But workers faced a steep obstacle in obtaining those jobs – unreliable transportation. Plainfield leaders knew providing a link between workers and area businesses was vital to the town’s continued success. So they used an innovative funding strategy to maintain and expand a bus system. Now, employees have a reliable way to access jobs in Plainfield’s industrial parks.
The bus service – with routes to businesses in the north and south sides of town – is experiencing a steady growth in ridership. And the service is one of several projects Plainfield is launching to further enhance the growing town, including a vision for its historic downtown along the key transportation artery of U.S. 40.
The mechanism that provides funding for the bus service earned the town a statewide award from Accelerate Indiana Municipalities. The town collaborated with its businesses to secure long-term funding for the service through Economic Improvement Districts. Typically, the strategy is used by businesses clustered in the downtown of a city or town, so they can pool their resources to enhance the area.
Plainfield extending that strategy out to its industrial hubs is unique and came at a time when the bus system was in jeopardy. Federal grants that had supported the service were running out.
“We took that concept and said our issue really is getting employees to jobs in industrial parks,” Plainfield Town Manager Andrew Klinger said. “(Our businesses) are constantly seeking ways to fill openings, and transportation is one piece of the puzzle.”
Among other transformative projects, Plainfield is finalizing a downtown development plan. The plan would grow the downtown area by focusing on Mill Street, which is just off U.S. 40. Community leaders envision creating public spaces along the town’s creek and encouraging mixed-use development along the corridor. As developers approach Plainfield, the plan will offer a vision for the downtown’s revitalization, Klinger said.
“It’s a plan that will encourage new development, while not just protecting but supporting our historic core,” Klinger said.
Plans for downtown come as Plainfield is on the cusp of an important historic restoration. The town is in the process of purchasing the 1920s-era Prewitt Theater. The future use of the building is undecided, but town leaders expect the space to become a draw to downtown.
Beyond downtown, Plainfield is serving as a catalyst for a new co-working space, which will likely be located near the premier shopping and entertainment destination of The Shops at Perry Crossing.
Plainfield also is exploring establishing a new municipal park as Indianapolis International Airport looks to divest land not used for aviation purposes. The town is working to acquire property that is designated as a habitat for the endangered Indiana bat. The hope is to find a recreational use for the land for Plainfield residents that also protects the species. The park is envisioned to look more like a state preservation area with dense woods and the potential for trails. It also could have an educational component for students and groups to learn about endangered species.
Discussions on the park are part of Plainfield’s focus on placemaking, Klinger said.
“Parks and trails are part of what attract people here,” he said. “What we’re talking about down there is unique and different from our current park system. It is wooded and really about getting away from an urban environment and into nature.”