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Cultural Trail opens, fuels development

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rop-cultural-trail13-1col.jpg Even before it formally opened in May, the Cultural Trail was helping spur development along its path. (IBJ file photo)

Hatched in 2001, Brian Payne’s original idea for the Cultural Trail (full name: The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick) was to create an urban version of the Monon Trail, only connecting the city’s newly designated cultural districts.

The trail officially opened in May at a cost of $63 million, including $6 million for a maintenance endowment. The funding split ended up at $35.5 million from the federal government and $27.5 million from private donations. No local tax dollars were used.

While it has yet to be determined how much fitter Hoosiers and visitors are thanks to the nearly 8-mile winding foot and bike path, development has been sparked along the spur leading to Fountain Square as well as along Mass Ave northeast of College Ave.

The Cultural Trail also garnered worldwide press. Project for Public Spaces said Indianapolis “is taking what may be the boldest step of any American city towards supporting bicycles and pedestrians.”

“If it had been done in New York or Chicago, it would be seen as a paramount national project that everybody would be looking to imitate,” said Aaron M. Renn of Urbanophile.com. “I don’t think it’s gotten its due.”

How the deliberately unwieldy landmark will play out programmatically—and whether the problematic “Swarm Street” LED-lit artwork under the Virginia Ave. parking garage will ever see completion—is yet to be seen.

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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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