Butler embarking on $3M, year-long streetscape project

February 13, 2014
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The street bounding the main entrance to Butler University is about to get a massive makeover.

Work is set to start in April on the roughly $3 million upgrade of Sunset Avenue that will last about a year and ultimately lessen the sharpness of the avenue’s curve near historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

butler sunset
                              street scape 225pxThe streetscape project calls for the installation of a boulevard lined with trees, in addition to sidewalks and bike lanes, in hopes of distinguishing the college from the surrounding neighborhood.

“The ultimate goal of the streetscape is to stamp the outer perimeter of the campus,” said Ben Hunter, chief of staff to Butler President James M. Danko and a City-County Council member. “”Sometimes you don’t realize you’ve arrived at Butler University.”

Improvements to Sunset Avenue will run from 49th Street near Hinkle south to Hampton Drive. Hampton also could be beautified, in a second phase, though no timetable has been set, Hunter said.

Butler has earmarked $1.5 million for the project, and the city of Indianapolis is kicking in the other half. Once finished, Butler will maintain the street and pay the electric bills associated with new streetlights that also will be installed.

The university owns the vacant lot on the south side of the curve where 49th meets Sunset, allowing for the restructuring of the bend. The roadwork, coupled with ongoing renovations to Hinkle, has prompted university officials to move spring commencement ceremonies from the fieldhouse to the Butler Bowl.

“There’s a lot of change on the campus,” Hunter said.

Indeed, last fall Butler wrapped up a $4 million project that’s largely out of public view but should benefit the campus by alleviating the growing college’s parking problems.

The university finished improvements to 90 acres it owns west of the Central Canal that’s accessible from the campus only by pedestrian bridges or via Lester Road, which runs through the hamlet of Rocky Ripple.

Butler’s softball complex, soccer fields, tennis courts and campus farm are on the 90-acre site, which gained three parking lots with a total of 520 spaces as well as a multi-use path extending from the softball field to the farm. The path links to the towpath along the canal.

The addition of the parking spaces has caused Butler to put off a project it announced in 2012 in which it selected locally based Keystone Realty Group to build a parking, retail and residential project on campus between Clowes Hall and Hinkle that would have cost as much as $45 million.

The plans called for about 1,000 parking spaces, up to 10,000 square feet of retail space, and 300 beds of student housing on three acres of university-owned property between Sunset and Lake Road on the Butler campus.

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  • Improvements
    Butler has done a wonderful job with their campus and area. But, coming from the South off of 38th is a mess on Clarendon. They really need to work with the city on that approach. The road is terrible.
    • City Effort
      I hope the city and BTNA will give some attention to the 4300 block of Sunset too. The block is riddled with potholes. It still has the old brick gutters on each side of the street, which could be retained after resurfacing, if done well.
    • @Jim
      I agree, Jim. If they could connect the north end of Crown Hill, that would be great for everyone, including me who bikes through Butler to visit my dad at Crown Hill. :)
    • 49th Street
      I have wondered for several years now why 49th Street between Meridian and Butler has not been repaved, especially when I see streets in Meridian Kessler area with much less usage get repaved. 49th continues to be a mine field of potholes. I would think that it gives those visiting Butler via 49th street a less than pleasant experience and a poor introduction to the campus.

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    1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

    2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

    3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

    4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

    5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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