Opinion and Urban Design column

RACE: 10 East Main brings together ingredients for revitalization

May 5, 2012
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urban-design-race-bruce.jpgThe ongoing revitalization of East 10th Street is well documented. The coordinated investment in public facilities, housing and green infrastructure has been substantial—and makes a statement about community persistence and visionary investment.

It tells us there are advantages to coming up with an urban design plan and sticking to it. The East 10th Street Gateway and Urban Design Plan came out of a consensus-building process. The process galvanized support and provided a road map for making the plan happen.

Much remains to be done, but there is enough visible evidence of the corridor’s recovery to take a look at how the physical improvements have been executed and weigh how effective they are likely to be.

Branded as the 10 East Main Street Business District, the still somewhat spotty and edgy 10th Street is coming back to life serving new bohemians and longtime residents. There’s plenty of potential. The nine-block stretch between Temple and Olney streets is the traditional commercial service street for 20 neighborhoods that fall under the Near Eastside Community Organization umbrella. And the corridor is home to about 30 businesses.
 

race-boner-center15col.jpg Halstead Architects designed the Boner Center from both renovated and new buildings. (Photo Courtesy of Bruce Race)

New buildings, such as the Boner Center, The St. Clair mixed-use senior housing project, the remodeled and expanded Jefferson Apartments, and The Peoples Health Center line the sidewalks, filling in some of the gaps that once detracted from the streetscape. The scale and cadence of these buildings should—and for the most part do—perform well at the 250-feet-per-minute pace of urban foot traffic, providing visual interest for pedestrians and complementing the richness of existing historic storefronts.

But some mistakes have been made. In some cases, the new and renovated buildings have dark glass in the storefronts and some stretches of blank wall, both of which discourage activity along the street. The St. Clair project is set back from the street edge with an outdoor patio area, presumably for outdoor seating. It will be interesting to see if that is really going to work.

Several blocks east is another historic commercial area between Rural and Dearborn streets. This five-block space includes renovated storefronts, the Clifford Corners mixed-use development that is under construction, the historic Rivoli Theater that is awaiting restoration, and a co-op grocery.


race-pogues-run15col.jpg Pogue’s Run Grocer at North Oxford Street was renovated by One 10 Studio Architects along a former strip commercial storefront. (Photo Courtesy of Bruce Race)

The Indy Food Co-op’s Pogue’s Run Grocer is an important addition for a district that wants to be a fully functioning central place for the surrounding neighborhoods. The grocery building is a good example of how to invest in a district where adaptive reuse of existing buildings and local independent businesses will and should lead the way. Pogue’s Run Grocer is a sensitive and well-done adaptive reuse and restoration in which urban-minded architects, rather than low-bid contractors, made the design decisions.

The contemporary and sustainable streetscape design for 10th Street between Jefferson and Keystone adds a fresh continuity to the district, especially at night when the modern streetlights wash the sidewalks in light. On-street parking, rain gardens, trees and pedestrian-scaled lighting create needed separation from traffic, making it a more comfortable walk. The commercial area between Rural and Dearborn will benefit eventually from completion of the same streetscape treatment. At the moment, it is still an uncomfortable walking environment.

The near-east-side neighborhoods are not out of the woods yet. There are still too many vacant houses and storefronts that need attention. However, 10 East Main looks as though it is delivering a revitalized main street for the NESCO neighborhoods. It has many of the ingredients that nouveau- and indigenous-urbanites are looking for.

Great start. Hard work ahead.•

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Bruce Race, FAIA, FAICP, is an award-winning architect and urban planner and owner of RACESTUDIO. He lives in a historic Indianapolis neighborhood and teaches urban design at Ball State University’s Downtown Indianapolis Center. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at br@racestudio.com.

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