People Inform
the Place

Many communities are focused on place-based strategies. We believe that coupled with that should be people-based strategies – strategies built around the unified culture of the residents, businesses, and amenities of the neighborhood.

It’s important to recognize there is a healthy tension and loving loyalty to the districts that are joined by Virginia Avenue. Our plan will honor and exemplify the individual brands but allow for the value of the shared identity. This will happen through a collective and shared design focus and placemaking and wayfinding based on historic precedent, best practices, and input from neighbors and stakeholders. Our collective expertise is constructed by a nimble group of three professionals with deep experience and connection to the corridor.


Our Approach: Design Thinking and Communication

We are excited to have the opportunity to support the building of a unified identity, placemaking and wayfinding plan. Our plan will aim to give the GVAC EID a clear path forward for implementation and marketing. Because every community has its own strengths and weaknesses, our approach is not linear, but one that is calibrated by the community’s distinct environment, assets, and opportunities.

Design Thinking is a process for creative problem solving that has a human-centered core. It encourages organizations and committees, like the GVAC EID, to focus on the people it is serving and creating for, which leads to better tools, services, and processes. Based on the objective of Design Thinking, the team will utilize a digital tool called Mural ( to collaborate, give/ receive input, and stay up-to-date on the planning process.

As a team, we approach projects with a high priority on collaboration, engaging diverse stakeholders and project leadership throughout the planning process. Clear and effective communication is key to fostering a sense of transparency and opportunities for engagement. We will partner with the GVAC EID to establish a Steering Committee to develop an internal communication Plan. This plan will include monthly update meetings in-person and a biweekly Mural collaboration meeting to gather feedback and provide updates. To launch the project, our team will hold an on-site Launch Meeting with the Steering Committee to review the work plan and identify timelines. Most importantly, outcomes will be clearly defined and used to measure progress throughout the project.

Our Work

Through our work, we will engage the community and stakeholders around values, identity, and culture conversation. From this work and an assessment of current assets and tools, we will develop a comprehensive communications, wayfinding and placemaking plan that will reinforce corridor identity and pride, while promoting and sharing value with outside customers, potential residents, visitors, and stakeholders.

The Land Use Plan 2020 designates the Virginia Avenue corridor, including Shelby and Prospect, as a Village Mixed-Use typology with a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) overlay. These mapping elements highlight the walkability and connectivity of the corridor while encouraging development that is human-scaled and pedestrian friendly, honoring the small businesses and compact neighborhood built environment. 

Future identity, placemaking, and celebration of the corridor should work with the existing assets, respect the significant community investment of the Land Use Plan, and focus on enhancing these core features.

The master plan must start with baseline research and hard data analysis. Layered then are the core community-based perspectives and national and international successful practices. This master plan should continue to build social capital while providing a guiding framework for future GVAC project and program decisions, community land uses, promotion and publicity about the corridor, and business development.

Execution Process

Milestone 1: Foundation

At the start of the project, we will do initial baseline research of the corridor neighborhoods, as well as an assessment of current marketing efforts to build an outline of where to enhance, add, and create. The team will work with the EID board to develop a stakeholder list and degrees of input needed at stages of plan development. These community engagement opportunities and stakeholder interviews will shape the gaps in the unified vision and identity and will be critical in ultimately visioning what the future is and how the history must continue forward. Community outreach is critical and will require various stages of engagement – business owners, association support, neighborhood surveys, hands-off visual preferences, and discussion activities.

Milestone 2: Stakeholder Engagement and Communications Plan

During the next phase, the team will  conduct stakeholder interviews and kick off the corridor identity exploration process for branding.  The identity exploration process will include both targeted active engagement including public meetings, interactive feedback collection. Additionally, passive engagement opportunities will be offered for neighbors, business owners, and visitors to contribute feedback about how they interface with the corridor to understand what values and characteristics most align with where they see the corridor moving in the future. Passive opportunities may include boards or surveys inside businesses, online/social media input options, and voting. The team will partner with the EID board for logistical support regarding public engagement meetings and fielding feedback. The team recognizes that a bottom-up, organic approach – the people ultimately shape the place – must be the frame of reference for the efforts taken.

Additionally, we  will develop a communications plan driven by the  understanding how people currently receive information and assess market trends via the most  effective channels to share information digitally and face-to-face.

Using the concept of Design Thinking, this second milestone will focus on selecting critical wayfinding location needs (again, viewing things through the lens of the ‘user’ of the corridor), gathering costs of local fabricators to best use resources, placemaking opportunities, and targeted partnerships. With this information, we will  integrate the work from the creative branding process — running in parallel with this Milestone — with a more formalized wayfinding structure, organization, and designs. Wayfinding and certain elements of placemaking should focus on orientation, corridor distinction, and business development.

During the creative process to engage individuals and groups, we understand gathering input is often most authentic when the reason for engaging is primary and the input is secondary. Examples of questions we will ask include:

  • What are the ways the corridor currently engage families, youth and or multi-generational families and property owners? 
  • What is the place and role of GVAC? How does it fit within larger downtown, near south context? What is the GVAC’s role in relation to the big institutions nearby and the other neighborhoods?
  • Who are the residents who have lived along the corridor for generations ? What is their perspective and how will they continue to feel involved and heard?
  • Who are the businesses who have been invested since the 1990s? What is their perspective and how will they continue to feel involved and heard?
  • Who are the newer businesses and stakeholders, neighbors and visitors? What is their perspective, why did they invest here, and how will they continue to be heard?


Milestone 3: Draft Recommendations

During this milestone, the communication plan with a refined budget, schedule, and recommendations will be formed. Recommendations for tools, the wayfinding and gateway branding process,  and the built environment assessment (with regards to public art, gateway, placemaking efforts, and regulatory requirements) will be finalized.

Milestone 4: Master Plan and Presentation

A final cohesive report will summarize targeted topics, background research, the process, and a recommended multi-year plan schedule with a budget for communications and marketing; placemaking and programming; and wayfinding.

Team Bios + Project Examples

Our Team

Our approach and backgrounds differentiate us from normal consultants. With a collective blend of expertise — branding, urban planning, economic development, public outreach — we give the project a cross-cutting approach that will prepare the corridor for the future.  Additionally, our experience working with organizations, neighborhoods, and communities across the U.S. means the plan will be guided by tried-and-true successful practices and case studies.

Courtney Zaugg of Plaka + Associates will serve as Project Manager and lead research, market and built environment strategy components. 

Lauren Day of CityStrategies will serve as subject matter expert and lead community engagement, placemaking, and communication plan milestone components. 

Ryan Hunley of 2nd Street Creative will serve as subject matter expert and lead the visioning, branding and identity components, as well as supporting in wayfinding and communication components.

Courtney Zaugg, MA, CEcD

Courtney leads Plaka, a multi-faceted firm supporting communities, industry, start-ups, and economic development leaders in real estate and economic development. Based in Indianapolis and known for expert leadership in difficult projects, Courtney assists local economic development organizations and governments across the U.S. in analysis and strategies, redevelopment and revitalization planning, strategic planning, project management, capacity building, and innovative economic development through a unique blend of expertise including a certified economic developer. Her services include business attraction, retention, and expansion, entrepreneurship, impact analysis, consensus building, and helping leaders connect the dots to get deals done. Her clients include a wide range of entrepreneurs, investors, developers, industry executives, public officials, and economic developers.


Lauren Day

CityStrategies is a nimble consulting team based in Indianapolis with a focus on urban and mobility planning, strategy, research and project management. Led by a team of urban planners with experience in transit, mobility, housing, culture, and communication work, CityStrategies is focused on adding capacity to agencies, organizations, and projects while producing actionable and comprehensive work. 

Lauren Day is an urban planner focused on the intersection of community values, mobility, and livability. While at the state’s largest transit agency, IndyGo, Lauren led the multifaceted public relationship strategy that included engagement and partnerships with stakeholders and the public, media relations, and an annual messaging plan. In addition, she served in a leadership role on special projects including advancing the agency’s greater mobility work. Motivated by values-based work, Lauren excels at coalition and relationship building. For the last 5 years, Lauren was the Director of Public Affairs for IndyGo where she led the multi-faceted community engagement, public relations, and special projects around the transit referendum and service expansion, and most recently the Red Line. Additionally, Lauren worked with community partners including Arts Council, Indy Reads, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the Indy Chamber, and MIBOR on special projects and cohesive engagement.

Ryan Hunley

Ryan Hunley is owner and art director at Second Street Creative, an Indianapolis-based creative boutique, specializing in web and brand development. While he has collaborated with clients from all over the world, Ryan takes special pride in his work focused in Indianapolis.

Ryan serves on the Board of Directors of The Speak Easy, central Indiana’s premier coworking organization, and recently helped to open the new downtown location, servicing hundreds of local entrepreneurs and thought leaders. He also serves on committees and volunteers with Urban Initiative Indiana and The Denver Hutt Legacy Foundation.

While passionate about the craft of design, Ryan’s most fulfilling project is raising his two wonderfully stubborn, endlessly curious and altogether irresistible young daughters. He also spends a good bit of time each day in awe of the strength, poise and beauty of his wife Andrea, principal of an IPS magnet school. Their family of four lives, works, and plays in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. Ryan escapes the city life each winter to spend some quality time with his snowboard in the Rocky Mountains.

Ryan believes deeply in the power of a community’s collective will. Combining a global perspective with a local heart has allowed Ryan to devote himself to shining light on the people, places, and passions that he believes weave together a community’s shared experience.


Lauren excels at building consensus with varied audiences and stakeholders. At IndyGo she led partnerships with city stakeholders to build community around transit, and she executed effective marketing, communications, and public outreach campaigns.

Bryan Luellen
VP Public Affairs, IndyGo

We were looking for a firm that shared our goal of becoming the right partner to create a bold, optimistic, collaborative brand system. Ryan and the 2NDst team worked closely with our leadership to intentionally examine our objectives, as they developed a brand that demonstrated an awareness of our essence. The new brand system is nimble, modern and forward-looking while still connected to our heritage.

Timothy P. King

I’ve worked with Courtney on several occasions, with various products, each with different intended outcomes. Courtney is engaging, thorough and has a diverse professional background that’s necessary to deliver well-thought and practical results. In my experience, Courtney listens to understand the desired result and takes pride in delivering a quality product. I’d highly recommend Courtney and Plaka + Associates.

Rob Cleveland
President & CEO of the Cornerstone Alliance (Michigan)

Particular expertise related to:

Stakeholder and Community Engagement:

Lauren served as Director of Public Affairs at IndyGo and led the engagement and outreach strategy and execution for the Transit Referendum, Marion County Transit Plan, and Red Line – daily work to outline goals for, structure of, and channels to share and collect input from neighborhood leaders, business owners, elected officials, residents and transit riders);

Courtney approaches all economic development studies and master plans with a foundational stakeholder engagement process. Driving the recommendations from the bottom-up approach, while marrying the qualitative analysis with successful practices from across the globe provides the fundamental process for effective master planning. Courtney has held dozens of community engagement sessions, open houses, public meetings, and interviews throughout the course of her career.

Ryan worked collaboratively with the IndyGo team and community members to design and develop the MyKey brand system. In 2019, he also worked closely with the City of Indianapolis on their bicentennial initiative by spearheading a digital design product involving many diverse stakeholders and decision-makers.


Lauren was integral leadership in the creative process for developing IndyGo’s updated wayfinding, customer communication signage and integration of all relevant existing brands for rapid transit and MyKey. She worked with many stakeholders and external firms (including Second Street Creative) to implement these systems.


Courtney has worked in communities across the U.S. to incorporate placemaking into any economic development strategic plan. In order to grow and attract talent, industry/business, and visitors, communities and neighborhoods must devote time and resources to Placemaking.


Digital Communication

In her role at IndyGo and Cultural Trail, Lauren directed the public relations messaging, goals, advertising and marketing work for all agency projects and regular communication – includes digital, social, print, and radio outlets; oversaw annual strategy and execution for social media, newsletter, and website content;  led process for complete overhaul of and websites including branding, user experience, content, and ongoing digital presence.

Throughout his career, Ryan has woven digital communication with intentional design. Political campaigns, retail, tech, mass transit initiatives, non-profits and everything in between, Second Street Creative has experience developing effective and engaging digital products.


EID, Economic Development, and Research Work Experience

Courtney has worked on numerous similar projects encompassing economic development, research, and EIDs, including:

  • Hot Springs, Arkansas – Comprehensive Downtown Redevelopment Plan
  • Scottsbluff, Nebraska — Economic Development Strategic Plan and Corridor Redevelopment
  • Mt. Comfort Corridor (Indiana) Development Study
  • Plainfield (Indiana) Downtown Conceptual Redevelopment Plan (including EID recommendations)
  • Noblesville (Indiana) Downtown Streetscape Master Plan and Market Analysis
  • McCordsville (Indiana) Downtown Market Analysis
  • Yorktown (Indiana) Downtown Market Analysis

Relevant Brand and Digital Work

by Second Street Creative

Fee Schedule

All activities to be billed at a rate of $125 per hour. 

The team proposes a milestone-based payment schedule in which 50 percent of the fee associated with a milestone would be payable at the commencement of activities associated with that milestone and the balance would be paid at the conclusion of activities associated with that milestone. As such, the project would be billed as follows: