Like most mid-sized cities in the heart of the country, the city of Anderson, Ind., is in the process of reimagining itself. Transitioning from its manufacturing past into a new and vibrant future, the city of Anderson is poised for community growth, and its new transit center is paving the way.
Years in the making, the new transit center will do more than relocate the hub of Anderson’s public transportation system — a service utilized by some 200,000-plus travelers. Slated for completion at the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022, the Anderson Transit Center also stands as a physical reminder of the way the city is committed to investing in future downtown growth.
According to Mayor Thomas Broderick, a lifelong Anderson resident, “The new transit center is not just a bus station. It’s a statement about our commitment to rebuilding our community. Through this large investment from both federal and local government funds, we’re telling the community that we’re committed to improving the quality of life and quality of place for our citizens.”
It’s a process that has garnered considerable buy-in from local architecture firm krM, which designed and managed the project.
Sally Meyer, a director of marketing and business development at krM Architecture, explained, “Investing in public transportation contributes to both the economic and physical health of a population. It brings financial benefits to communities and is a key component of a healthy business ecosystem by increasing mobility options for working commuters, students and consumers.”
Everything about the project, from its strategic location and intentional design to its proposed LEED Gold status, positions it as a key structure, not just for downtown Anderson but for regional growth as well.
First discussed in 2008, the new transit center was originally slated for possible construction at another downtown location, one near the railroad tracks. A feasibility study four years later considered four other possible sites for the project, but a lack of funding curtailed any further development. Finally, with a new mayor and new resolve to make the project a priority, the transit center really took off in 2016, this time with a broader scope and purpose than originally considered.
“Mayor Broderick wanted the project to have a larger community and civic impact,” said Kevin Montgomery, lead designer for the transit center and partner at krM. “He saw the transit center as an opportunity to be a spark for downtown development and proposed a mixed-use building, with half of the first floor dedicated to transit function and the other half reserved for retail and restaurant spaces.” Incorporating office space for the upper two floors of the project further expanded the mixed-use concept.
The selection of materials and architectural forms also played a crucial role in the project. “Our design concept focused on a balance between our historic roots and projected future. The project is located on the edge of our historic downtown,” said Montgomery. Into that rich context, krM incorporated large-scale limestone paneling on the first floor, tying in to the materials of the surrounding historic buildings.
For the second and third floors, the design team introduced terra cotta elements. “Terra cotta is made from the same material as brick,” said Montgomery, “but it’s much more modern.” Finally, exposed steel components reflect the city’s long history in the auto industry.
“The project uses timeless design principles but employs them with modern materials and details,” said Meyer. “In balance with both the material and scale of the surrounding downtown buildings, the transit center sets the tone for the city’s bright future of innovation.”
The first visible building on the drive into downtown Anderson from the Interstate, the new transit center maintains current transportation routes within the city but also creates connections between the surrounding rural communities and downtown Indianapolis, the state capital.
“We selected this particular build site because it’s a gateway location,” said Montgomery. “The hope is that the transit center can connect with transit lines to Indianapolis and potentially even Chicago, making it a true intermodal transit center.”
Connecting with regional transportation lines is nothing new for the city of Anderson. As Mayor Broderick explained, “Anderson has had connections to regional transportation in the past. We wanted to make sure that commercial transportation companies could continue to come into town and provide a service to our community, using the new transit center as a hub for those connections.”
Not only is the project providing a physical and symbolic gateway to the future; it also preserves that future by making responsible design and material selections. Everything from building on a brownfield and developing in a dense community center to serving the transportation purpose itself contributed to the decision to pursue LEED Gold certification.
“The whole building is on a closed-loop geothermal system,” said Montgomery. “We also make use of solar panels, recycled content and air quality control.”
The narrow design and overhangs help the building avoid heat gain, while window placement takes advantage of natural daylight, creating warm, inviting spaces within.
Funded through an 80/20 federal grant, the transit center makes full use of local funds, including the local Metropolitan Planning Organization and city block grants.
“Once we created buy-in for the location,” said Broderick, “we were able to promote this reinvestment in our downtown.”
And while a required archeology study and an abandoned sewer line — discovered in the same location as one of the footings — slowed the transit center’s progress, city contingency money helped cover these additional expenses. Overall, the new transit center, complete with larger walkways, streetscaping and glass box entry, is sure to serve as a welcoming public facility, increasing civic pride and paving the way for a bright and innovative future.