Downtown on the farm: Developers hope unique urban farm draws residents to Near West Side
Central State hospital left a 150-acre void when the psychiatric facility closed in the heart of the Near West Side of Indianapolis about 20 years ago.
Now, developers plan to transform the vacant property to revitalize the area with new homes and apartments, trails and parkland, offices and retail space — and a farm.
While most developers use parks or golf courses to tie together communities, an Indianapolis developer wants to use a farm, a newer concept and the first of its kind of Indiana.
“We’re really trying to weave the Central Greens development into the neighborhood, as opposed to making it an island unto itself,” says Mike Higbee, president of Development Concepts. “The Near West Side really has not seen much investment for a few decades, so Central Greens was meant to be a catalyst for new activity.”
Higbee envisions mixed income housing connected with about 2 to 3 miles of trails — tied to existing bike paths — where residents can drop their kids off at a new charter school, walk past historic buildings and buy produce at their neighborhood farm for a cheaper price than you can find at the grocery store.
In its first year of operation, with the help of neighborhood volunteers, the 4-acre Seven Steeples farm already yields various vegetables, including kale, beans and cucumbers, and hosts about 30 chickens.
Where it’s at
The development sits on 150 acres in the near west side, between the 2800 and 3300 blocks of W. Washington Street, about five minutes away from downtown, IUPUI and the International Speedway. Developers plan to invest about $200 million into the new community.
Developers envision a mixed-income community, meaning apartments for college students who attend IUPUI, a senior living community, affordable family housing and market-level homes.
Plans call for another 500 to 600 housing units, a new charter school scheduled to open this fall and an 8-acre park.
Along both sides of Washington Street, developers want to attract retail shops, such as banks, drycleaners, clothing stores and a few restaurants.
About the farm
The farm started this year and produces fruits and veggies, including kale, lettuce, mustard seeds, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans, watermelon and cantaloupe.
Residents can buy produce from the farm and volunteer there.
“We want this to become a neighborhood institution, that the neighborhood feels they have some ownership of and involvement with,” Higbee says, adding the farm will benefit schools, too.
“We’ve already had a couple schools come out to help with the farm,” he says, noting they’repromoting healthy living, teaching the community how to grow food and how you can work that into your diet. “There’s a very significant educational element to the farm.”