People for Urban Progress

TGW Business Spotlight: People for Urban Progress

There's an interesting connection between sports fans and the stadiums or arenas of their favorite teams, but what happens when the stadium is torn down or left to rot away in favor of a new stadium? People for Urban Progress took this challenge and decided to take the materials and pieces of out-of-use stadiums and arenas to make unique accessories, bags, and apparel. What started as a project to recycle materials from sports stadiums and arenas, has progressed into a program that recycles a variety of materials from different cities to create one-of-a-kind products consumers can feel good about. 

What’s the process of obtaining recycled materials and making something new out of them?

PUP: We’re really good at hacking our city to salvage large amounts of a single resource and transform it into a product that anyone can enjoy. We’re equal parts dumpster-divers and trend-setters, such that an old baseball stadium seat becomes a bus stop bench and a beloved football arena roof becomes a messenger bag. We work with local designers and makers to create these products, which not only fund innovation and creativity, but also kickstart urban improvement projects throughout our city’s public spaces.

What kinds of projects have you worked on?

PUP: Since 2008, we have salvaged 13 acres of RCA Dome roof, 9,000 Bush Stadium seats, 640 Hinkle Fieldhouse seats, 80 parking meters, and 5 miles Super Bowl XLVI banners, and 5 firehoses. We have sold over 20,000 products made from these resources, which have partially funded 50+ installations throughout Indianapolis ranging from shades structures and urban farm pavilions to bus stop seating. Since 2011, PUP products have generated over $500,000 in revenue that has helped fund PUP’s operations and has contributed to the creation of additional installations and projects throughout Indianapolis. We don’t have a donor database, we have fans, customers, and citizens.

What impact do you hope to leave behind on Indianapolis and the other communities you work with? 

PUP: We’re creating a new mythology for Indianapolis. We’re more than just a non-profit, we’re a lifestyle brand that stands for quality, community, and design. We’re obsessed with this city, and do everything we can to shape it, improve it, and export it. Over the past two years, we’ve pushed this agenda more than ever, taking our products and stories to conferences in New York and Toronto, and shows in Chicago and Los Angeles. Our recent features in Dwell Magazine and Archinect Sessions prove that our work has national relevance, and we’re in early discussions to expand to Atlanta.

What does your team look like?

PUP: Our small team includes 3 salaried employees, 5 contract workers, and a handful of regular volunteers. We have a board of 10 members that hail from major Indianapolis institutions including Eli Lilly & Company, Cummins, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Indianapolis Museum of Art.


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