Alumni Voices: Britt Redd
Can you describe your career trajectory?
During my senior year of college, I was trying to figure out my next steps. I decided to pursue a term of service with Public Allies Indianapolis—an apprenticeship program that pairs emerging leaders with nonprofit organizations where they help address critical community needs. I was placed at a community development organization, which was my entry point into the world of planning and community development. My primary responsibilities were managing volunteers and acting as a liaison between the organization and neighbors.
After my term of service ended, I accepted a staff position with the organization. For the next few years, I worked on a variety of community development projects—from developing neighborhood parks to redesigning a busy traffic intersection. I discovered I had a passion for the work, but I wanted to develop technical expertise. So, I applied to CAP’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program.
I never imagined myself working for the government, but my graduate assistantship with the City of Indianapolis helped broaden my understanding of the role the public sector plays in shaping the city. Since 2019, I’ve worked at the Department of Metropolitan Development as the Principal Planner for Land Use Strategy. I’m a member of the Long-Range Planning team, which is responsible for the comprehensive plan—a framework that provides a long-term vision for the city’s future, including policies that guide development decisions.
Most of my time is dedicated to ensuring new developments align with city policies. I review development proposals and work with other city staff, developers, and neighbors to reach agreements on acceptable site plans. I also serve as the Hearing Officer for the Board of Zoning Appeals, where I help decide land use cases that seek a relaxation of the zoning ordinance.
Please tell us about a favorite project and why it makes you proud.
I’m passionate about democratizing planning. I think everyone plays a role in shaping cities. However, not everyone understands city planning policies and processes. In 2017, the City of Indianapolis, in partnership with the Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, established the People’s Planning Academy. The initial goal of the academy was to create a space for historically underrepresented communities to learn more about city planning and participate in upcoming land-use decisions and projects.
In 2021, we revised the training curriculum to include a focus on local history. The team wanted the participants to understand the basics of city planning but believed it was also essential to examine how past decisions still affect the city. We invited neighborhood historians and other community experts to help craft a curriculum that examined the built environment through a historical lens. The class topics included the history of affordable housing, transportation, waterways, and housing discrimination in Indianapolis.
We also dedicated class time to equipping participants with tools to discover the unique history of their individual neighborhoods. They learned how to use city resources, local archives, and online data tools to conduct neighborhood research. Those resources were used to conduct research for their final projects.
I’m a bit of a history nerd. So, it was fun for me to watch the participants go on their own journeys exploring local history. Their final projects were really impressive. One person wrote an article explaining how housing policies impacted her family from 1910-2019. Another person made a video presentation about equity issues in the bicycle network.
I’m so proud to be a part of a training that empowers everyday people to become city planning ambassadors.
What advice do you have for students who want a career similar to yours?
I think it’s important to be curious. I don’t believe my career would be the same if I stopped being curious—asking questions, meeting new people, trying new things, exploring different perspectives.
Do you have a favorite Ball State or CAP memory to share?
My favorite memory was during field trip week. I joined a trip to learn about planning practice in the industrial Midwest. During the trip, we visited four states (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania) and eight cities. The trip helped broaden my understanding of how the changing global economy has impacted people’s lives.
The tour guides explained the complex history of each city. Although the geographies were different, the challenges were similar. Each city we visited faced significant housing foreclosure, population loss, and property abandonment. We walked through neighborhoods with huge empty factories and abandoned homes. We visited different land banks and spoke to professionals about issues facing their cities and various approaches to address them. The conversations with planners and life-long residents in those cities really opened my eyes to the scale of planning issues we often discussed in class.
We also toured the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago, learned the history of the Eight Mile Wall in Detroit, and ate the most unique hot dogs I’ve ever heard of in Cleveland.