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Downtown officials outline future plans for Georgia Street

February 13, 2012

Officials for Indianapolis Downtown Inc. on Monday afternoon will meet at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with Mayor Greg Ballard and area business leaders to discuss future uses of the Georgia Street corridor that constituted the Super Bowl Village earlier this month.

Transformed by $12.5 million in upgrades last year, the three-block stretch of Georgia Street now blends a pedestrian walkway, a new lighting system, landscaping and other improvements. It connects the Indiana Convention Center, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Circle Centre mall, and a collection of restaurants, residences and hotels. Much of the money—more than $8 million—for the upgrades came from federal grants.

The city has hired IDI, an independent not-for-profit, as the Georgia Street manager, effective Monday.

IDI President Tamara Zahn said her organization will further develop, manage and market the street “to enhance the vitality of adjacent properties and attract and host major special events and gatherings.”

Zahn added that outdoor cafes and other programming are part of the long-term plan for Georgia Street. The city retains ownership of the street and will continue to be a key partner in the use and development of the space, Ballard said. Generated revenue will be dedicated to Georgia Street operations.

Several business owners along and around Georgia Street have said they are interested in the outdoor area hosting concerts and other entertainment acts.

IDI officials declined to comment on specific plans for the space until after they met with downtown business owners at 3 p.m. Monday. Some concerns have surfaced that the growing popularity of Georgia Street as a gathering place could detract from traditional downtown gathering places such as Monument Circle.

Officials involved with the project tried to allay those fears.

“The goal is to complement that and not take away from what the Monument Circle is,” said Bill Browne, president of Ratio Architects, which handled architectural planning for the Super Bowl Village and Georgia Street project.

“Monument Circle obviously is a circular urban space. Georgia Street is a linear space," Browne said. "The two spaces are different. We want to find events that can complement and add to the downtown events and excitement that are already here. There are certain events that don’t make sense with a circular space, where a linear space makes more sense, so hopefully Georgia Street will provide that opportunity."

Browne said having a manager like IDI in place will be key to successfully developing Georgia Street as a downtown hot spot.

“By having a street manager, they’ll be able to vet the event and be able to communicate to various vendors and businesses along the way so they can co-exist appropriately,” Browne said.

Local Super Bowl Host Committee CEO Allison Melangton said last week that the remade Georgia Street was a critical element in creating the carnival-like atmosphere that drew 1.1 million people downtown in the 10 days leading up to the Super Bowl.

“The city is really going toward focusing on outdoor space and people being outdoor with the Cultural Trail and other initiatives, and [the Georgia Street development] will just add to that,” Melangton said.

“Almost every other major city that hosts a lot of events has an outdoor event area. And while we’ve had the Circle, it hasn’t had the technology and some of the structure needed to really showcase it. Going forward, [Georgia Street] is a huge attraction for people looking to book conventions, especially those looking to use the Fieldhouse and Convention Center and connect it all together. It puts us in another realm,” Melangton added.

From the beginning, Browne said, the idea was to build something progressive and sustainable. The space is gaining national attention, having been featured in publications such as the New York Times and Boston Globe in the run-up to the Super Bowl.

“From a design standpoint, we wanted to make this sustainable and be very responsible from an environmental standpoint,” Browne said.

One of the elements gaining national attention is the fact that rainwater collected from Georgia Street will be percolated into the ground rather than dumping it into the storm sewer system.

"Some folks from the New York Times are very interested that we in the Midwest are doing something that could have potential to be implemented in other urban environments around the country,” Browne said. “It’s that kind of thinking that has gone into that project that goes beyond the fact that this [was] a space for a wonderful Super Bowl event."
 

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