By BRADEN LAMMERS
Imagine getting on a light rail car and taking a short ride to Louisville from Southern Indiana for lunch. Or even more exciting, flying over the Ohio River on a zipline from one river bank to the other.
Those are just two of the ideas that have been collected during the Vision Louisville campaign, an initiative designed to collect 45,000 ideas in 45 days to improve the region.
“It’s called Vision Louisville, but it really is envisioning for the entire metropolitan region,” said Vision Louisville Project Manager Jeff O’Brien. “We want ideas from everywhere, not just downtown Louisville or the Highlands, we want ideas for the region.”
The plan, which is based off of similar efforts other cities have undertaken, like Plan NYC and Imagine Austin, took seven focus areas and is asking for the public’s input on what to do to make life better in the metropolitan area.
“This process really allows us to think beyond the realm of the current technological and economic capabilities,” O’Brien said. “We’re looking for things we can do in 25 days, 25 months and 25 years.”
Organizers for Vision Louisville hosted its sixth town hall-style meetings on Thursday, this one at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg. It was the only town hall meeting out of a total of eight being held in Indiana.
O’Brien said the town hall meetings have generated 3,000 ideas and have averaged about 50 to 60 attendees per event. However, only a handful of people were in attendance early during Indiana’s town hall.
But it didn’t lessen the importance of the input organizers want to gather from their Hoosier neighbors.
“We really want to make sure we’re getting ideas from Southern Indiana and making sure they’re included in the process,” O’Brien said. “[Southern Indiana] is a main part of the metro area.”
One of the recurring themes for the region, especially with the inclusion of Southern Indiana, is connectivity. Calls from residents have repeatedly included a desire for better public transportation, completing the pedestrian and bicycle loops on both sides of the river and opening the K and I Bridge to bike and pedestrian traffic.
“I think that’s a big part of it, is trying to have some of those connections,” O’Brien said. “And whether it’s having a recreational connection, or it’s a connection for economic purposes the region is inter-dependent on one another.
Connectivity is not the only area where organizers are looking for input.
The Vision Louisville project is looking at seven different focus areas including the economy, health, identity of the region, living — which encompasses neighborhoods and quality of life issues — energy, connectivity and creativity.
Maria Hampton, co-chair of Vision Louisville, said part of the effort’s purpose is to position the region for the future and for growth, which is occurring faster in Indiana.
Hampton said population growth for the region is about the same as the national average during the last decade — 2002 to 2012 — was around 9 percent. But in Clark County, population growth was about 14 percent during the last decade.
“When we say Louisville is growing, we have to respect all parts of the MSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area),” she said. “And if we want Louisville and MSA to grow even more so, and to be a bright spot in the area economically, then we need to continue to think progressively.”
Improved connectivity also means more traffic and Hampton added those types of concerns must also be met. But it will take regional cooperation.
“If you can think of authentic ideas, leveraged off of the assets you have here, or the assets we have on the other side of the bridge to grow the marketplace in a collegial and a collaborative way to advance the entire economy, why in the heck wouldn’t we be over here asking you to do that?” Hampton asked.
She and the other organizers were asking just that.
“You have to start with a vision, you have to start with an idea, then we figure out how to finance things,” she said. “If it’s really, really good, we’ll figure it out.”
Ideas will continue to be accepted through phase two of the outreach effort and will be completed in the fall. Phase three, which will be reviewing and identifying projects to implement is expected to be completed in spring or fall next year.
People unable to attend the town hall meetings can submit their ideas online at visionlouisville.com or on Twitter @visionlville (use the hashtag #visionlou); on Facebook/VisionLouisville; or via text message to 502-603-6060