The Blog
Rain Gardens are Introduced to Mass. Ave.

Media Contact:
Molly Deuberry
Director of Communications
Department of Public Works
Office: 327-5893 Cell: 677-6469

INDIANAPOLIS – In a precedent setting partnership for environmental stewardship, the city’s Office of Sustainability has partnered with the Athenaeum Foundation and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. to develop the City’s rain garden permitting process. City staff worked closely with Athenaeum staff on their development of a rain garden in order to create a streamlined procedure for future rain garden projects.

The Athenaeum rain garden is the first to utilize the City’s permitting resources for rain gardens. In association with Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’s IPL Project Greenspace Program and over 75 volunteers, the Athenaeum Foundation is planting a rain garden on East Michigan Street this Friday and Saturday. The installation of this rain garden will help make the trendy Massachusetts Avenue District a more sustainable area of downtown. Mayor Greg Ballard noted, “This is one of those partnerships that not only benefits our economy, but also our environment. Our ultimate goal is to make Indianapolis one of the most sustainable cities in the Midwest. The rain garden at the Athenaeum is a big step in that direction.”

The rain garden is a planted (cup-like) depression that allows rainwater runoff to soak into the ground instead of flowing into storm sewers. This process works by redirecting storm water into these low-lying, landscaped depressions. Once there, the rain garden acts as a natural filtration system for the storm water. It utilizes local plant species to absorb and clean polluted storm water. Currently, rainwater runoff flows directly into storm sewers which ultimately causes erosion, pollution, and flooding.

Kären Haley, Director of the Office of Sustainability, expands:

“Last spring, the Office of Sustainability, in cooperation with the Engineering division of DPW and the Department of Code Enforcement, created the Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative. This initiative, launched with significant input from private sector partners, encourages the use of green infrastructure to help manage storm water run-off and improve water quality.

Green infrastructure is a general term for a variety of methods that manage, carry, and treat storm water runoff at the local level through the use of natural systems or engineered systems that mimic natural systems. The primary goals of green infrastructure are to capture and store storm water as close to where it falls so that it can be cleaned, infiltrated into the soil, and slowly released into rivers and streams. The core element of the Sustainable Infrastructure Initiative was the Green Supplemental Document, which provides design guidance to the private sector and plan review staff for projects that utilize green infrastructure. The Green Supplemental Document was released last year and is available here

Today the City announced the development and release of three new resources:
• design details for various types of rain gardens,
• a rain garden permitting flow chart, and
• permitting forms created for storm water retrofit projects when property owners are voluntarily changing surface or land type to manage storm water on their property or in the adjacent City rights of way.

These resources will provide a standard permit review process for innovative projects to encourage the use of rain gardens. The Athenaeum project was the first in the City to utilize these new resources, which are available here

The Athenaeum, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, and the Office of Sustainability are grateful to the many private sector companies and volunteers who donated their valuable time and resources to this project:
-Schmidt Associates
-Smock Fansler Construction
-Elements Engineering, LLC
-Neighborhood/Downtown Zoning Assistance, Inc.
-Decorative Paving Company
-The Gould Family Foundation
-Firestone Specialty Products

About The Athenaeum Foundation 
The Athenæum Foundation is a not-for-profit organization, formed in 1991, dedicated to restoring this architectural treasure. Our new mission statement: “The Athenaeum preserves and enhances its historic German-American landmark to advance the Sound Mind in a Sound Body values of its founders through programming that lifts spirits and engages in diverse communities.” The Athenæum Foundation sponsors a number of family and heritage related events and programs throughout the calendar year.

About Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIB) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit engaging neighborhoods in environmental and community improvement projects throughout the city. Last year, KIB engaged over 40,000 volunteers on projects around the city. The mission of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. is to unite people to build community and transform public spaces through aesthetic and environmental improvement. To learn more, visit

To learn more about Mayor Ballard’s vision of making Indianapolis one of the most sustainable cities in the Midwest, visit