With the help of IndyGo, the Indy Arts Council, and Rieth Riley, among others, we managed to salvage well over 500 linear feet of old Indianapolis interurban streetcar track for use in artistic placemaking projects. The railing was dug up during Red Line construction; It had been resting beneath layers of street pavement for generations. The idea was to make use of these steel rails by highlighting their history while simultaneously creating unique works of art using these as the media. In response to a request for proposals of artistic ways to use these old (and incredibly heavy!) steel rails, we narrowed down the list of projects to eight and have since been distributing railings to those project groups.
So what do old steel rails have to do with community development again? Well, a lot in fact. Our work at Midtown Indy revolves around connectivity. We connect people to place by activating public spaces, revitalizing commercial nodes, and advocating for improved transit, often along the same corridor from which the streetcar rails were dug up. The rails are similarly steeped in connectivity. More than hunks of metal, these rails were once the literal connection for people to commercial, residential, and public spaces. They laid the foundation for creating a sense of place along the College Ave corridor. Current project proposals range in scope from public benches to a recreated trolley display using the rails as the era-appropriate base of the display. The Hoosier Heartland Trolley project, for instance, pays homage to that history of connectivity by artistically extending the life of what appear at first glance to be simple metal tracks. Now we excitedly await the creative finished projects.
As a final note, a HUGE thank you goes out to Reiss Structural and Architectural Products near 38th and Illinois for their help in storing the rails on site in their steelyard and distributing them to our various project groups. We did exactly have space for literal tons of rails in our office or even for a flatbed semi trailer to get anywhere near the door!