Turning on the charm: SERVE Noblesville launches neighborhood activation initiative


With 12 historic neighborhoods, downtown Noblesville has a unique character that a local organization wants to enhance and preserve.

SERVE Noblesville, a nonprofit dedicated to building a strong and resilient community, recently launched Charming Noblesville, an initiative introducing three “asset-based” programs to enhance the community.

Patrick Propst, executive director of SERVE Noblesville, said the initiative was created to revitalize Noblesville’s historic neighborhoods.

“Noblesville has the largest historic downtown of any city in Hamilton County,” Propst said. “It is a great asset we have, but if we don’t pay attention to it, we’ll lose it, and it will disappear. Nobody wants to see that happen.”

The 12 historic neighborhoods are Central Square, Plum Prairie, Old First Ward, Gentleman Farmers, Pioneer Homestead, Johnstown, Gilded Age, Midland, Federal Hill, Lincoln Park, Old Second Ward and New Frontier & Broadview Manor.

“Most people don’t even know all of them,” Propst said. “There are mainly two that people know of, Old First Ward and Old Second Ward, but there are 12. We want to bring those back to life. Let’s create signage. Let’s create the zones. Let’s decorate the crosswalks and create gateways that bring them back into recognition and make them unique. Let’s give them a sense of identity.”

Michelle Schmidt, a board member for the Noblesville Preservation Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the city’s history, said the organization is a “long-standing supporter and collaborator with SERVE Noblesville.”

“Our partnership with SERVE Noblesville is a testament to our shared commitment to preserving and enhancing our community,” Schmidt said. “We take pride in their impactful work and eagerly anticipate their next initiative, Charming Noblesville. Together, we celebrate their dedication to enhancing our community.”

The Charming Noblesville initiative consists of three programs: Impact Noblesville, Neighborhood Activation and Neighborhood Beautification.

“The entire historic downtown area is significant and beneficial both to the businesses and the city at large,” Propst said. “The initiative is about building the network, building the connections and creating relationships so that connectivity can happen.”

Propst said the Impact Noblesville program is a “communitywide volunteer database that helps to streamline volunteer engagement and maximize impact across local nonprofits.”

“It is a website that serves as a centralized platform where individuals and organizations can connect, discover volunteer opportunities and contribute their time and skills,” Propst said. “It is about making introductions and inviting people to form relationships in simple but meaningful ways. We have to dust off the maps, then move into neighborhoods and find team captains who live there and are willing to own that and go out and meet the neighbors and the businesses that care to be known.”

The second part of the initiative is the Neighborhood Activation program, which Propst said “empowers the 12 historic neighborhoods within downtown Noblesville.”

“We will work closely with residents and businesses within those neighborhoods to identify and address specific aspirations while providing a playbook to create a sense of community pride and ownership,” Propst said.

Propst said the activation program allows Noblesville’s “aging population” to connect with their neighbors.

“It allows the aging population to have support around them, so they don’t have to age in isolation,” Propst said. “They can find neighbors who will check on them and help them with some general maintenance that maybe they’re not able to do anymore without feeling like they have to be ashamed. Then, everyone will care for their neighbors, which we used to do, but it’s been lost slowly over time. So now, let’s build that back into the fabric of our community.”

Propst said the third program in the initiative, Neighborhood Beautification, will improve the “physical environment that complements Noblesville’s expansion and updates.”

“The Neighborhood Beautification program is a little more comprehensive,” Propst said. “It is a five- to 10-year program that we want to implement within the 6 1/2 square miles of historic Noblesville to create pocket parks along alleyways, enhance alleyways with a 3-mile mural walkway throughout the neighborhoods, implement sustainable landscaping projects and install gateways into neighborhoods providing placemaking and connectivity.”

The program started with cherry trees planted in Old Second Ward.

“We want Noblesville to be seen as a blooming city by having flowering trees throughout the entire 6 1/2 miles of the neighborhoods so that by the second week of April, Noblesville is a destination that people come to because it’s in bloom,” Propst said.

Propst said the next part of the initiative is getting neighborhoods and businesses involved and getting nonprofits signed up to help.

“Our idea is to activate three neighborhoods a year,” Propst said. “That’s what we feel is manageable for us. We’re working with Old Second Ward, and Plum Prairie has already mobilized. Really, for us, it’s just starting a conversation and giving neighborhoods a little structure and direction.”

SERVE Noblesville will hold Come Together Week from May 22 to May 29 to encourage neighbors to connect through events and activities.

“In 2023, we hosted the Longest Table during the week for local nonprofits and board of directors to share lunch and network,” Propst said. “The goal is to grow that event and extend that table every year to connect more community members.”

SERVE Noblesville will also hold Serve Week from June 26 to 29 this summer, during which many beautification and activation projects will take place.

“During Serve Week, we do a lot of clean-up and restoration of the brick sidewalks that are still in some historic neighborhoods,” Propst said. “From repairing homes and cleaning up neighborhoods to serving multiple nonprofits, this event has a significant impact on the community.”

For more, visit servenoblesville.com.

Volunteers paint a mural in Noblesville during Serve Week 2023.
(Photo courtesy of Patrick Propst)

Continued Growth

From 2008 to 2021, Patrick Propst said SERVE Noblesville was exclusively led and run by volunteers. When Propst was contracted as the executive director in 2022, he said the nonprofit was able to expand and grow financially.

SERVE Noblesville has invested more than $118,000 back into the community, and for every $1 it receives through donations and individual and family gifts, $5 goes back to the community. Through its annual Serve Week event, 76 projects have been completed and 16 nonprofits have been served.

Charming Noblesville will continue to help SERVE Noblesville expand its mission, according to Propst.