What is Neighborhood Spotlight?
Neighborhood Spotlight provides a framework for capacity-building, planning and implementation block by block. It is modeled after successful community development work in Indianapolis and Chicago.
Neighborhood Spotlight guides a cross-section of community members to work collaboratively and collectively on improving quality of life. A convening organization, usually a community-based organization, spearheads the coordination of neighborhood relationships. With support from Legacy Foundation staff and consultants, Neighborhood Spotlight communities organize, decide and act upon projects that can profoundly change their future.
Gary’s Miller Spotlight is part of quartet of communities chosen by Legacy Foundation to participate in the Neighborhood Spotlight (a placed-based initiative for reinvesting in Lake County).
The Miller Beach Arts & Creative District wrote and received the grant for the community in 2014. The original focus of the initiative was hyper local and to build capacity. The perimeters were set between County Line Road to Clay Street to Rt 12 to Lake Michigan. Anyone who lived, worked, worshiped, studied, or played in area specified for the grant was welcome to participate.
The Legacy Foundation conducted trainings over the course of 2014, in which community members from neighborhoods teamed up with a local non-for profit (Convening Organization) to learn about and apply to the Neighborhood Spotlight initiative. The Legacy Foundation then selected two communities to pilot the program in Northwest Indiana. The Legacy Foundation granted Gary-Miller’s Convening Organization, Miller Beach Arts and Creative District, one of two Neighborhood Spotlight distinctions. Gary-Miller hired a community builder, Jessica Renslow. The Miller Spotlight Steering Committee was then formed to help carry out their community quality of life study.
How the Community was Chosen
Gary’s Miller Community was chosen by Legacy Foundation for the following reasons: Gary-Miller’s proximity to the lakefront is a notable asset as is the renovation of its Marquette Park and the historic Pavilion. Several Gary-Miller structures have historical significance with a number of them on the National Register. Collaborative bodies are working in the community and include those focused on civic engagement, professional development, philanthropic resources, and safety concerns.
Legacy Foundation awarded Gary-Miller’s Convening Organization, Miller Beach Arts and Creative District, a Neighborhood Spotlight distinction. Gary-Miller’s proximity to the lakefront is a notable asset as is the renovation of its Marquette Park and the historic Pavilion. Several Gary-Miller structures have historical significance with a number of them on the National Register. Collaborative bodies are working in the community and include those focused on civic engagement, professional development, philanthropic resources, and safety concerns.
Gary’s Miller Spotlight hired community builder, Jessica Renslow in February of 2015. Our Steering Committee was then formed to help carry out their community quality of life study. Our all volunteer-run Steering Committee members included: Zully Alvarado, Terry Cera, Susie Galantee, Sue Kallimani, Richard Leverett, Rasheedah Muhammad, Terry Payonk, Derreka Rollins, Meg Roman, Tim Petrites and Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt. The eleven-person, all-volunteer group, are very invested in the Neighborhood Spotlight process. Along with the community builder, they’re working to build relationships with local community groups, businesses, residents, and leaders. The steering committee began conducting one-on-one resident interviews of those in the spotlight area in February of 2015. Together the Steering Committee and Community Builder conducted 203 one-on-one interviews, asking community leaders to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in Miller. The feedback was presented in a kick off in June 2015 and used as a basis for the vision statement written in July. Local volunteers delivered their findings on the seven themes that merged from the Community Quality of Life Conversations Report at the kick off. The Community Quality of Life Conversations Report, detailed the 4,013 comments collected from 203 resident interviews.
- Access Miller (Transportation and Infrastructure)
- Area Context
- Education, Youth and Child Programming
- Environment and Ecotourism
- Jobs and the Economy
- Property Improvements
- Safety and Code Enforcement
In July of 2015 attendees of the Visioning Session helped construct Gary’s Miller community vision for 2025 and signed up to join Action Groups to assess the themes presented in the Report.
Our Community Vision for 2025:
Miller is a beautiful, high density, universally designed neighborhood in Gary, Indiana, known as an active arts community and a destination for beach and waterfront recreation. Miller provides quality education and programs for its youth and a variety of activities for residents of all ages. Inviting gateways and transit options make Miller accessible to visitors from throughout the region, and Miller’s inclusive community design make it easy for residents and visitors alike to enjoy the area’s activities and natural environment. A vibrant downtown supports a strong business community and provides quality employment opportunities. Resident leadership and initiative create a thriving, safe, and inclusive neighborhood with government, philanthropic, and business support enriching those initiatives. The Miller neighborhood is a vibrant and functional community to live, work, and play in.
Seven action groups were formed based on themes identified in the report and vision in the June of 2015. Each action group recruited volunteers from all sectors of the Miller footprint to discuss their goals within the respective themes. Groups used the kickoff report, the vision statement, census data, area statistics and other feedback to ensure that they addressed the needs and priorities of the whole community. After identifying goals, the groups wrote action steps to lay out how the goals would be achieved. The 7 groups reached out to a variety of partners and got their commitment to support the community plan and participate in the action steps.
The goals and action steps presented in Gary’s Miller Community Plan in November of 2015 were just the beginning of our work to create a stronger, more vibrant community. You can read and download the entire 76 page document here for free.
Our original 29 goals we created in 2015 included steps that were to take place over the next five years. From the beginning our volunteers understood that a community plan is a living breathing entity that could over time, have new ideas and priorities that emerge as the original goals are accomplished and checked off the list. Our volunteers continue to revisit the 2015 plan, adding new partners, goals, and strategies, and celebrating the work that has already been successful.
In 2016 we had 28 of our 29 goals funded and/or implemented. So, in January of 2017 we hosted a celebration and added new goals/ focus to our Community Plan. The updates will be listed in a series of blogs here at millerspotlight.blogspot.com. A major addition to the community plan is that we officially included Aetna and Glen Ryan into our Neighborhood Spotlight perimeters. As the original grant capped area population for Neighborhood Spotlight communities, we couldn’t include all of the 46403 zip code, but are happy to report that our block by block approach is working.
We have started to conduct cross-Neighborhood Spotlight events with our Sister Spotlight Communities (NW Hobart, Gary’s Downtown-Emerson and Griffith). So, adding all of the 46403 into the community plan’s goal updates made perfect sense. Our outreach now goes from County Line Road to I-65 to the Edge of Lake Station to Lake Michigan.
We have some exciting projects drafted for Aetna and Glen Ryan for the fall of 2017 and are working to implement them with our 73 community partners (businesses, organizations and clubs committed to the Miller Spotlight initiate) and our amazing volunteers. As of the summer of 2017 we have had over a 1,000 volunteers donate time to Gary’s Miller Spotlight and over 7,000 people participate in our activities. If you are interested in joining the fun please contact Jessie Renslow at email@example.com. All are welcome to join the process.
Community Kickoff Presentation can be accessed here:
Community Quality of Life Conversations Report can be accessed here: https://www.slideshare.net/MillerSpotlight/gary-miller-spotlight-community-quality-of-life-conversations-report-6-272015
2015 Community Plan can be accessed here: