Downtown plan proposes street changes, parks, lighting

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An ambitious five-year vision to improve downtown Indianapolis proposes a slew of enhancements that include converting a few key thoroughfares to two-way streets, creating neighborhood micro-parks and installing more street-level lighting.

The plan, dubbed Velocity, was initiated and compiled by Indianapolis Downtown Inc. The not-for-profit is set to officially announce the goals late Tuesday afternoon at Union Station.

One of the driving forces behind preparing the plan is the ongoing transformation of downtown into a collection of residential neighborhoods, IDI President Sherry Seiwert said.

“We are now looking at downtown differently,” she said. “Historically, we have planned downtown for those who work and visit. But now, with the unprecedented amount of residential growth that we’re experiencing, we need to think about downtown as a neighborhood.”

Velocity follows up on a housing study released by IDI in November that said 3,500 additional apartment units are expected to be built within the next three years, bringing the total number available to more than 8,000.

To meet that growth, downtown’s neighborhoods need to be linked by pedestrian-friendly streets, according to the plan. For example, Velocity calls for converting one-way streets such as Michigan Street and the section of College Avenue south of Massachusetts Avenue into two-way roads to slow traffic.

“Just the idea of calming traffic would benefit downtown,” Seiwert said.

IDI launched Velocity in April and held a series of forums to gather public input about downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. A committee of 30 civic leaders helped to mold the plan.

City officials, including Department of Metropolitan Development Director Adam Thies, have been involved in the process, and Mayor Greg Ballard will help unveil the plan Tuesday, city spokesman Marc Lotter said.

“The downtown that we enjoy today has been planned over the course of 30 to 40 years,” Lotter said. “Having a plan like this to outline the goals on where we want to go in the future is critical to ensure that downtown continues to be a magnet for residents and new investment.”

IDI’s Seiwert said her organization will work with other groups such as Visit Indy, Indiana Sports Corp., Indy Chamber, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful and the Arts Council of Indianapolis to help ensure that many of the proposals come to fruition.

“I am quite confident that most of it will get implemented,” she said.

Velocity is divided into six subject areas: housing, neighborhoods and livability; downtown environment and experience; multi-modal transportation; vibrant economic development; public spaces and activation; and arts, culture sports and attractions.

Here are highlights from each category:

Housing, neighborhoods and livability

• Identify eight sites in residential neighborhoods to create micro-parks, community gardens, play spaces and dog parks.

• Target and enhance underpasses at key gateways that connect to surrounding neighborhoods by incorporating lighting and murals.

• Identify vacant office space to convert to day-cares, primarily for infants and pre-schoolers, and investigate the feasibility of an additional public K-8 school to entice more families to move downtown.

Downtown environment and experience

• Increase the number of downtown trees to promote sustainability and beautification.

• Use street-level ambassadors on Georgia Street to improve safety and cleanliness.

• Install more street-level lighting to reduce crime and increase beautification.

Multi-model transportation

• Participate in the rollout and promote the new electric car-share program a French company plans to establish in the city.

• Investigate a plan to convert Vermont Street as primarily a pedestrian and bike corridor connecting the east and west sides of downtown.

• Install more bike racks at key locations and develop a bike-demand plan.

Vibrant economic development

• Develop an inventory of catalytic sites to house entrepreneurial businesses.

• Create a real estate task force to gather market information to better retain and recruit businesses.

• Create free Wi-Fi zones within the downtown core.

Public spaces and activation

• Connect developers with designers or artists to enhance projects near public spaces with artistic amenities.

• Advocate for the installation and maintenance of public restrooms.

• Create a fully functioning urban park (University Park) that includes a play area, interactive water features, recreational activities and food/beverage options.

Arts, culture, sports and attractions

• Initiate a two-week Indianapolis Arts Festival, launching with the Start With Art luncheon, to showcase the diversity of local artists.

• Investigate the feasibility for subsidized artist live-work spaces and small venues to showcase artists’ work.

• Encourage guerrilla-style street events that surprise people and use public spaces.



  • Other ideas for consideration
    I like the ideas in the proposal. Establishing a K-8 school to compliment Herron High School on the outskirts of downtown is a great way to bring young families to the area. Adding more apartments is a good way of drawing these families as well as single residents downtown. Like most cities, the downtown area is supposed to be densely populated, making way for apartments as opposed to actual houses as someone mentioned earlier. I wonder how much of this plan stemmed from potential employers considering downtown Indy, but turned off for one reason or another. Downtown Inc. should make an effort to understand what potential companies are looking for and what would draw them into downtown as well. Downtown will thrive not just with more residents, but with more jobs as well. Has Downtown Inc. or anyone had a conversation with Target Corp to determine what it would take to bring a "City Target" to downtown? Since the plan includes options for livability, I think that would be another option to attract people downtown knowing that major retail centers such as Target are within walking distance. As another poster mentioned, there should be a focus on expanding mass transit, but until the plan developed by the summer study transit committee actually makes it to a referendum, city leaders seem to be continuing on with other agendas. Finally, I agree with one of the other posters that more emphasis needs to be placed on other neighborhoods so that the city as a whole is found attractive, not just downtown. I've seen plenty of areas that need developing in Pike township, Warren Township, and Lawrence township, especially in the 56th street - Fort Harrison area. I'm not for certain on how development proposals are created within each separate area, considering the Unigov structure and all, but as the mayor of the entire city, Mayor Ballard should show interest in the entire city as whole.
  • Chucky Baby
    "Slower traffic results in a better and more welcoming pedestrian environment, something local residents desire in almost every area not just downtown." The speed is 25!! How slow do you want it? Free flowing traffic and pedestrian friendly are not enemies. Do you walk and bicycle to and from work? It's a long walk even from one end of dt to the other. I avoid getting in my car but it's still a must. My suggestion to you, Chuck, is move back to Carmel.
  • Banal
    These mediocre ideas are barely anything. Where is the push to create owned housing? Apartment dwellers are transitory and don't care for or about their places like residents do. Where is the mass transit to help eliminate Hoosiers compulsion to each drive downtown to work alone then speed up residential streets to get to their outlying county as fast as traffic will allow? As usual the arts are given a passing nod to appease them slightly. Georgia Street ambassadors to keep it secure and clean? So, what, armed litter picker uppers? City adopt a median and adopt a stop programs both need many more adopters annually than volunteer. Where are these ambassadors going to be found?
  • Traffic too slow?
    Yogi says: Nobody goes downtown anymore. It's too crowded.
  • genius
    Well that's just sheer genius make traffic go slower? That's the reason I don't go downtown now not just the terrible traffic but also knowhere to park oh and the crime too. So sick of this.
  • A few points
    "most logical people would like to see their commute times decrease" - the overarching focus of the plan is to improve downtown for current and future residents, not for commuters. Slower traffic results in a better and more welcoming pedestrian environment, something local residents desire in almost every area not just downtown. "who pays and maintains?" - property development and increased numbers of residents will greatly expand the tax base. I'm not involved with the project, but I imagine this is one way they would justify the expenses.
    • Cookies?
      Thought the same thing about the Sports Corp being involved. Honestly, I didn't even know they were still around. And IDI? Christmas cookies anyone? Ya think??
    • Slow Traffic?!?!
      Good ideas, but the thought of trying to slow traffic is absurd. Traffic moves slow enough. Most logical people would like to see their commute times decrease. The same genius probably thought of putting in all the turn arrows and no turn on red signs. If I wanted to live in suburban hell with bad traffic I'd move to Fisher, Avon or Greenwood.
    • Sounds great, but...
      ...what sounds even better is doing a lot of these things like: "Install more street-level lighting to reduce crime and increase beautification", plant more trees, convert one-way streets, etc. in areas outside of downtown that actually NEED improved infrastructure to attract private investment. It would be great to do all these things downtown too, but last time I checked, downtown was thriving with lots of private investment occurring. Wouldn't we get a better return and benefit the City more by identifying neighborhoods (outside downtown) that could attract private investment with some well-designed investments in the public infrastructure/streetscape?
    • Long Term Maintenance
      Dee, to answer your question: The city pays for maintenance of public spaces, so ultimately the local taxpayers pay for maintenance and upkeep through the various taxes that they pay. This is how maintenance and upkeep is generally paid for in most places in the country.
    • Arts Festival
      Like the idea of an arts festival. Don't like the idea of IDI being at the center of all these things. They are suspect to say the least. Why is the Sports Corp. involved in this..curious? They have become another suspect operator in the downtown.
    • Maintenance
      Anyway you could take care of the upkeep and maintenance Dee? Thanks, we really appreciate it.
    • Long term maintenance ?
      Sounds like a great proposal but who pays and maintains the common areas described ie bark parks,mini parks,public restrooms etc. There is always a lot of enthusiasm for these projects initially but long term deferred maintenance plans don't seem to be included in the scope.
      • Vermont Street- Great Idea!
        Would love to see Vermont Street turned into a pedestrian walkway similar to Church Street in Burlington, VT :)
      • Sooner the better
        As a downtown resident, these proposals all sound wonderful (especially converting one way streets to two way streets, and adding more parks/dog parks). Can't wait!

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