Monument Circle face-lift set to move forward

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An international design competition held two years ago generated ideas for Monument Circle that ranged from striking and extreme to pleasantly mundane.

One of the finalists would have beamed lights from inside the historic Soldiers and Sailors Monument, while others suggested outdoor dining.

The city of Indianapolis is ready to move forward with a more basic improvement: resurfacing the brick-paved circle and adjacent blocks on Market Street. The Department of Public Works recently signed a $555,750 contract with Indianapolis-based RW Armstrong and Associates for design work on the circle.

The design contract uses $444,000 remaining from a 2011 federal transportation grant, which must be spent by July, plus $111,750 from Rebuild Indy, the fund created from the sale of the city’s water and sewer utilities to Citizens Energy.

The final design could also include some of the less-controversial concepts that emerged from the 2011 Monument Circle Idea Competition, such as narrowing the traffic lane to create more dedicated space for pedestrians and adding high-quality lighting and street furniture.

“Our biggest goal is to preserve what everyone enjoys, and that’s the monument and Monument Circle,” Chief Engineer Andy Lutz said.

The brick pavers were last replaced in the late 1970s and early '80s. Since then, the city has done patch work at a cost of about $125,000 a year. By comparison, the city can repave one lane-mile of road for $156,000, Lutz said.

The area below the circle is deteriorating, and utility lines are about 100 years old and in need of replacement, Lutz said.

A scoping study completed in 2011 suggested resurfacing the circle in granite, but Lutz said that was under money-is-no-object conditions. The design phase will take into consideration costs, plus stakeholder feedback on materials and other details.

At this point, the city doesn’t have enough money on hand to complete the design. Part of RW Armstrong’s task is to find another $1 million in grants for its own work, as well as federal funding for the project itself.

If everything lines up, construction would begin in 2016 and last about two years. The circle would remain open to traffic.

RW Armstrong helped the city coordinate the Cultural Trail, a project of the Central Indiana Community Foundation that was built on city right-of-way with $42 million in private donations, plus a $20.5 million federal economic-stimulus grant.

The same team involved with finding money for the Cultural Trail is working on the Monument Circle team, deputy project manager Mark Zwoyer said.

The design phase will mean a new round of stakeholder meetings with Monument Circle building owners and tenants, probably in the fall, Zwoyer said.

Coming to consensus on a final design will not be easy, predicted Brigadier Gen. Stewart Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorial Commission, which oversees the monument.

Having sat through past meetings with property owners on the circle, he said, “You couldn’t get those people to agree on what day it was, let along how those properties ought to be used.”

One long-discussed goal for the Circle is more daily activity, beyond office workers’ lunch time and special events. Zwoyer thinks that will happen if the circle’s design encourages retail instead of offices at street level.

“You have to build an infrastructure that supports activity, so the private sector will play along,” Zwoyer said.

Entrants in the ideas competition took liberties with the monument that probably won’t fly with its overseers. The State Historic Preservation Commission has already told the city public works department that it won’t allow physical changes to the monument, Goodwin said.

The war memorial commission will weigh in on the final design, but Goodwin said Monument Circle is important enough to the state that that opinion would probably come from the governor himself.

Two seemingly modest suggestions included in the scoping study were to redesign the lawn quadrants at the monument’s base for public access and to allow interaction with the fountain pools.  

Ice skating in the frozen basins, which was allowed until the 1980s, doesn’t seem likely for a comeback. The freeze-thaw cycle damaged the pools, and Goodwin said the commission has spent several hundred thousand on repairs in recent years.


  • You don't understand grants.
    Shame on anyone who thinks Indianapolis is a crappy city. Show some pride; this is a beautiful and interesting place that gets better every year. Developing the downtown area will only help to reverse or stem brain drain and disconnection. It is possible to uplift a city by improving its transportation and public spaces. @Richard Baker, the money comes from a grant. There are lots of restrictions associated with grants. You should research it before making statements about how the money should be spent - blind opinions like this are what keep us from understanding what is really happening in politics.
  • Need all car lanes; thugs will be the pedestrians
    It's slow going around the Circle as it is. Don't kill these businesses, which require access. Only need to close the Circle for pedestrians for special events such as the Super Bowl or the Red Bull Motorcyle weekend. Indy is not the Mississippi or a great lake, so it is where it is. People are not going to hang out of the Circle - unless you're looking for a place for the thugs that get run out of Circle Center Mall - if they are run out.
  • Project Cost
    Just a little information from someone who works in this field. The 500k design contract is only for a portion. As the article states, RW Armstrong still needs to find an additional $1million to finish the design. Typically the design is under 10% of the project cost; putting the City's estimate for the construction cost somewhere between $17-$22 million. The question you have to ask yourself; could this amount of money do more good somewhere else.
  • Bricks?
    Are the bricks they are talking about replacing the same ones they got people to buy and put their names on back in the 80's?
  • Yep
    Bravo, Chris. Sometimes I feel like I'm living on the wrong side of the looking glass. It's nice to know that others see this city and it's delusions of grandeur for what they truly are. Leadership in Naptown is pathetic. Real cities don't try to be something they're not. Real cities don't let the rot take over as Indy has. Look at Georgia Street. Just over 1 year old and already falling apart. Mayor Bollard, this is a cowtown. It's never going to be anything else. Pick up The Onion, Sir. The world is laughing at you.
  • Velarium
    The Roman Colosseum had a retractable awning that kept the elements off the spectators. 80AD. I have been to several events on the Circle and been soaked. A velarium around the Circle sure would be a nice add. Could use the same hooks that hang the Christmas Tree. Just a thought.
  • @Deborah
    Or eliminate the parking altogether. There's plenty of parking elsewhere. Pretty sure I've only parked along the circle itself once or twice in nearly 15 years.
  • Glad to hear it
    Im glad the city is concerned not only about replacing utility lines but keeping the circle beautiful. It is the center and the focal point of our community and we should take care of it and be proud of it.
  • DIAGONAL parking!
    If you want retail business to survive and thrive on the Circle, provide DIAGONAL PARKING to allow for more spaces!!
    • Richard, Learn the Facts
      Richard, the Circle is part of the city, just like any other part. And, like most of the rest of the crappy city of Indianapolis, it is falling apart beneath the thin Potemkin-village facade. The Circle needs to be completely dug up and have the subsurface replaced--this would cost much more than $500,000. This repair merely buys time.
    • The Subsurface is Falling Apart
      Unnecessary poster, these are REPAIRS, not cosmetic fixes. The subsurface under the Circle needs to be completely replaced, which is probably a multi-million dollar project. This patch just buys time.
    • Unnecessary
      Monument Circle is one of the only parts of downtown that DOESN'T look bad. Why not spend the money cleaning the urine stains off the sidewalks and removing the rude panhandlers from the rest of downtown?
      • Quote of the Day
        The quote of the day: “You couldn’t get those people to agree on what day it was, let along how those properties ought to be used.” Love it! Hope all works out for the Circle - I grew up in Indy, worked downtown for years and despite having moved away 20 years ago, visit frequently and drive or walk around the Circle every opportunity I get.
      • Design Fees
        The $555,000 contract is the design fee only. It does not include any associated construction costs. Those fees would be bid out at a later date if the project goes through.
      • Circle Face Life vs Real Needs
        I think it is ridiculous that almost $500,000 is going to be spent on a face life for the Circle, when there are so many real needs that are not going to be met. We should be finding ways to fund things like homeless families needs, schools, police, fire fighters, and the list goes on. I think that we need to re-evaluate our priorities in this time of so much need and so little funds.
        • Broken Link
          The link to the "Controversial Circle Idea Competition" is broken.

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        1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

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