Gathering Spaces: City, Nickel Plate Arts team up to improve look, feel of downtown Noblesville


Pedestrians who haven’t visited downtown Noblesville lately might be in for a surprise as they walk around browsing different shops heading into the holiday season.

The city and Nickel Plate Arts have worked to activate Noblesville’s Cultural Arts District by improving its alleyways in an effort intended to bring people together, said Aaron Head, community engagement manager with the city of Noblesville.

Cultural arts are a significant factor in the vibrancy of our community. Not only are cultural arts important to the quality of life for our residents, our Cultural Arts District is routinely used to feature our historic downtown as a destination for out-of-town visitors,” Head said. “In addition, the impact of Nickel Plate Arts’ focus on our downtown allows for the city to use this unique asset for economic development and talent attraction opportunities.”

Improvements have also been made to three alleys – the north, south and east – that also offer opportunities for people to gather and enjoy the space in general. They have also become locations where people have taken opportunities for photos, according to Head.

“Alley activation allows the city to increase the amount of unique gathering spaces in underutilized areas of the downtown. The north and south alleys, in particular, provide beautiful gateways for pedestrians into the downtown square from our public parking areas,” Head said.

Head said the east alley has been utilized by local businesses for events such as Matteo’s Ristorante Italiano, which routinely uses the space for outdoor dining on the weekends.

“In the past, the alleys have been used for a multitude of events such as live music, markets, unique dining experiences, and are routinely one of the most popular locations for photo opportunities. We anticipate growing the amount and type of events held in the alleys as we continue our alley activation plans,” he said.

Ailithir McGill, executive director of Nickel Plate Arts, also said by utilizing the alleys, it not only allows for pedestrian space, but provides more space for people to use during events in downtown Noblesville.

“We just want to make it a better space for everybody,” McGill said.

Other than the alleys, some downtown crosswalks have also received a new look, particularly at 8th and Maple streets and at 9th and Maple streets. Deanna Leonard, whose business, Caravan Classes, is adjacent to the crosswalks, developed the designs.

Head said the city is always looking for ways to improve its downtown core and provide a vibrant platform that is unique from other communities. A Downtown District Committee made up of council representatives and downtown stakeholders, such as Nickel Plate Arts, help identify opportunities to create new and exciting features in downtown Noblesville, according to Head.

“Creating this beautiful atmosphere assists in driving economic vitality to our locally owned small business community in and around the downtown square,” Head said. “The unique blend of local arts, beautiful spaces and historic architecture make downtown Noblesville an amazing destination for people to visit. We are very fortunate to have a partner in Nickel Plate Arts that help leverage grant dollars to fund projects in our alleyways.”

McGill also said the activation of alleys has been a major priority the last several years. The east alley, in particular, has a large mural painted by artist Andrea Haydon.

“They’re great canvasses to show off what makes Noblesville so unique,” she said. “It’s utilizing the structures that are already here, so you might as well turn them into cool spaces.”

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Ailithir McGill, executive director of Nickel Plate Arts, at the corner of 9th and Maple streets near decorative crosswalks that were designed by local business owner Deanna Leonard. (Photo by Matthew Kent)

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