Early last week, the city of Indianapolis announced that it would hire architect and educator Lourenzo Giple to fill the newly created position of deputy director of planning, preservation, and design. Giple will oversee a wide variety of initiatives and programs within the city government, including those related to long-term development, urban design, transportation, and the preservation of historic structures and neighborhoods.
Giple received training in architecture and urban design at Ball State University, where he has since taught classes on urban sociology, architecture, and real estate development in varying contexts. He has also worked as a designer and consultant for various local firms, including as a project director at the Indianapolis-based firm Blackline Studio. In the mid-1990s, having escaped unrest and violence during the First Liberian Civil War, Giple’s father made his way to New York and then to Indianapolis, where he eventually brought his young family, including Lourenzo. Twenty-five years later, Giple will be the Department of Metropolitan Development’s first Black deputy director.
Giple’s central objectives in city planning will be to improve conditions for low-income families and marginalized groups wherever possible. With lived experience in some of the city’s lower-income neighborhoods, he brings a perspective to the job that has never been present at such high levels.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Giple remembers times in his early life when his father was forced to choose between paying rent or lighting bills, an ordeal that has embedded in the 36-year-old planner a deep understanding of the experiences of many minoritized and immigrant communities: “Historically, zoning and planning have not been equitable. I want to do my best to shift some of those inequities.”
Indianapolis mayor Joe Hogsett lauded the new appointment as a step in the right direction: “Lourenzo analyzes the built environment with a socio-economic lens that aligns with our administration’s vision for the city.”
In an area with long-underserved predominantly Black neighborhoods and increasing rates of gentrification, Giple hopes that his commitment to investing in minority communities without spurring displacement will bring about change. “To have the opportunity to come in and help elevate the city,” he told IndyStar, “is something that I’m truly hopeful for.”