Group eyes Midtown revival

June 30, 2008
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Indianapolis HARMONI projectA community group called Historic Midtown Neighborhood Initiative, or HARMONI, is hoping to mix private and public money to fund major infrastructure improvements and establish a collective identity of Midtown for four neighborhoods north of downtown Indianapolis. The group, which has adopted “walkability, bikeability and creation of inspiring places� as its mission, is working on a five-year plan that would transform portions of Meridian Street’s middle turn lanes into landscaped islands, add dozens of new raised crosswalks and give Alice Carter Place Park between Meridian Street and Westfield Boulevard a whole new look. The group already has raised $300,000 in private funds toward a goal of $2 million for the first phase, and plans to use the private money to fill gaps between what the city plans to spend and what is needed. The full story is here. And check out the HARMONI's homepage. What do you think?
  • I apologize if this sounds ignorant.
    What are the neighborhoods described in the full story? What is their history and where can I find images of them?
    I like this idea though. We drove back home once on Meridian and one side of the road seems very isolated from the other.
    I like what they do with the old bridge and the calming of roads.
    Wasn't their mention of restoring a rail-line nearby?
    I hope Indianapolis has more projects like this!
    Gotta love those nostalgic street lamps.
  • Looks good to me.
  • I am quite impressed with this! Let's hope the momentum can carry south to get rid of the blight between 38th & 16th Street along Meridian. But yea, way to go Midtowne. :)
  • This is quite impressive and wonderful! I'm really liking this Midtowne.

    Hopefully the momentum on Meridian can carry southward between 38th & 16th Street.
  • Hey Cory, congrats on all the awards!
  • I agree the idea of place-making and inter-neighborhood connectivity is a great idea.

    However, as noted in Cory's story, one of HARMONI's first initiatives is to slow down traffic on Meridian to 30 mph. Like it or not, Meridian Street is the main north-south commuter artery between downtown and the northern suburbs. Putting such a restrictive clamp on that artery would at best force commuter traffic to streets like Capitol, Illinois, Central and College, none of which are configured to handle that volume of traffic.

    At worst, restricting traffic on Meridian without a viable higher-speed alternative would have negative economic consequences for downtown Indianapolis, possibly causing even more businesses to relocate to Hamilton County because of travel concerns.

    HARMONI is off to an impressive start in terms of fund-raising and support. I fear, though, much of it is from Meridian Street and nearby homeowners with a we're too rich to have to deal with traffic mentality.
  • I think the plans are good for the area overall. It's great to see people organized and dreaming big. If realized, concepts like this are what will help bring people back to the urban centers where they should have stayed in the first place. And (Flack) quit saying like it or not. That's the mentality of people who live elsewhere and have little regard for our neighborhoods and quality of life.

    One improvement that would be a lot more immediate and less costly is the enforcement of the current speed limits on both Meridian and Kessler Blvd. The 35 and 40 mph limits are a joke. I drive one or both of these streets every morning with cars zooming around me like I'm standing still....even in the areas close to school zones. For sure, seeing people pulled over for speeding - cosistently - would have a REAL calming effect.
  • Cory - a question about the website: Seems like I remember not long ago being able to make a comment, click submit after entering the code, then immediately seeing your comment posted at the end of the list. That no longer happens....which leads me and others to re-submit the same posting. Has the process changed?
  • Congrats Mr. Schouten on your many honors and awards. I do hope the IBJ realizes what a treasure they have in you.

    This is a splendid idea. When I'm out of town and try to explain to others where in Indy I live, I commonly use midtown to describe it.
  • brguy: The process should be the same, but I have noticed more comments are getting caught in the spam filter. I'll try to keep a closer eye on it. Weird how your second comment showed up immediately but your earlier one did not.
  • I have to agree with Flak. Meridian street is a MAJOR north-south artery. It is not a neighborhood road, but (like it or not) is instead a major highway (US 31) that happens to cut through neighborhoods. It would be crazy to destroy this major thoroughfare without any thoughts to the consequences of the economic mobility of the county. This plan should only go forward with some thought given to an alternate flow for traffic.
  • Well let's see... what was here first, the affluent yet historic Meridian Street neighborhoods OR the massive suburbs to the north? That's what I thought!
  • As a Meridian Street resident I would like to chime in. Like it or not :) Meridian Street is also a neighborhood. We have homes filled with children and pets just like everyone else. Granted it will never be as quiet as a cul de sac, but cars careening down the street at 50 to 70 miles an hour is just plain frightening. Slowing to 30 miles an hour for about 30 blocks will not add significantly to anyone's commute.

    The upside is it allows the adjoining neighborhoods to be connected instead of being seperated by a virtual 4 lane highway. That connectivity leads to biking, walking and a cohesiveness that will allow Midtown to prosper.

    This blog and its readers often promotes New Urbanism. If we really want to support the core of our city and make sure these neighborhoods don't fall into disrepair and disfunction as they did in the 60's and 70's, we should do all we can to promote safe and welcoming environments.
  • DRT, Meridian Street/Madison Ave. (former US31) inside I-465 is no longer designated as state or federal highway. The same is true for a long list of other streets, including Keystone Ave., Brookville Rd./English Ave., Washington St., Lafayette Rd., Southeastern Ave., West St./MLK/Michigan Rd., Rockville Rd., Binford Blvd., Mass. Ave./Pendleton Pike.

    Almost all of those streets were neighborhood streets or two-lane country roads first; Madison, Binford, and Keystone north of White River are the only real exceptions. They have now become primary or secondary arterials for Indianapolis, owned and maintained by the City and its taxpayers.

    Those who want to have a say in how they're built or maintained are welcome to join those of us who live, work, vote and pay taxes in Marion County.

    I don't mind rebuilding North Meridian to force folks from Hamilton County to be better neighbors while visiting Indianapolis. Those in need of speed always have the option of using 465 instead of Meridian when they hit the county line.
  • cory, congrats on your awards. hopefully katterjohn will be giving you a substantial raise to keep you from running of to greener pastures.

    unless an alternative mode or route becomes available for the north/south trip from carmel and westfield, i can see how lowering the speed limit COULD have major reprocussions. with that said, surely someone can come up with a creative solution to revitalize meridian as the center of midtown rather that a divider of neighborhoods. maybe they could hire the urbanophile (finder's fee, please!) to deliver an aesthetic and practical solution.
  • DRT,
    It isn't as if they are turning it into a pedestrian only area.
    They are just making it more pedestrian friendly.
    Perhaps if they had more alternatives to driving like a train they wouldn't have such an issue with this?
  • Yes, a train from downtown so affluent people can be whisked back and forth between Carmel and the Mile Square. In a city with the worst bus service in the nation. Good priority scheme.
  • As a resident of one of the adjacent streets to Meridian in this area, I wholeheartedly endorse this plan. Thundermutt is right on. These are Indianapolis streets. The people of the neighborhoods should decide what to do with them. Meridian is NOT an expressway to Carmel. I have no sympathy for people who use the resources of my city and do not pay for them. If you have to hurry that much on your commute, move closer! Don't speed down my street in your Hamilton County Hummer and I won't do donuts in your culdesac.
  • I always considered the area between 38th & Fall Creek (or maybe 16th) to be Midtown.

    At any rate, I don't think requiring traffic to slow to 35-40 (that's right. people aren't likely to drive 30, just because it's posted at 30) is going to lead to massive traffic jams. I don't see how that would reduce the street's capacity, and I think Thundermutt's point about these being City streets is a good one. I would suppose that the State could reacquire them as state routes if they were so inclined.

    Does anyone know what led the State to relinquish all those routes to the City?
  • Good points about the positive effects of calming traffic on Meridian. However, that still doesn't address the fact that if traffic were slowed on Meridian, there would be significant spillover of traffic onto other neighborhood streets. If this were truly a Midtown-wide plan, some consideration of the impact on the entire neighborhood would be included.
  • By the way, this looks wonderful!
  • Flack...regarding the possible spillover issue: The likely scenarios is that the majority of far north commuters would just SLOW DOWN a bit and hardly notice the changes IF the city does an effective job of timing the stoplights. They would probably arrive at their destinations as (or more quickly than) now if the stream of traffic was kept moving.

    The smaller perecentage of folks who might be bothered by the change would scatter to a variety of other routes. Some would go around on I-465 and come in on I-70 to North, Ohio, or other streets. A few might take Pennsylvania, Central, or Capitol.

    The probable result would be negligible. Do you remember the chaos predicted when I-70 was recently shut down for months. People were sure that the thousands of cars and huge trucks would tear up local roads and clog neighborhood streets. You'll recall that it just didn't happen. Police were stationed at the ready to direct the snarled traffic...and they had little to do. And I-70 carries much more traffic, and at higher speeds, than N. Meridian.
  • Flack,
    I am not saying that there would be no impact to the surrounding neighborhoods at all, but you need to take into consideration that until you get south of 38th street (outside the boundaries of Midtown per the article) you have to deal with stops signs every few intersections on those neigbhorhood streets, which would deter people from spilling over off of Meridian. The idea harmoni has come up with does have potential.
  • I'm guessing most of the people who own homes on Meridian in Midtown didn't buy when Meridian was a county road. And there are thousands of taxpayers in Washington township that take Meridian street to downtown every morning, specifically neighborhoods between 71st and 96th streets. Those north of 96th have the option of taking 465 to I-65 and then down.

    Not to say I'm against this, it's just that I don't like the argument: We live in Marion County, you don't. We want a neighborhood feel. Deal with it.
  • I agree that the timing of the traffic lights during rush-hours is the key. If they're timed for 30mph and are kept green long enough to handle the amount of traffic flow, commute times will most likely be better than the current approach of racing to the red light.

    This will also require some compromise from the Neighborhoods. You can't have a long red while grandma is crossing with her walker during rush hour.
  • A planner told me years ago that slowing traffic can increase the carrying capacity of an artery, as there is less distance between cars at lower speed.

    A 10mph reduction in average speed on a 2-mile stretch of Meridian (from Westfield to 40th) would add a whopping 1 minute to the commute. If you're so busy that it's an issue to take one extra minute to be neighborly to the folks whose neighborhood you're driving through, you probably need to consider your priorities a little more.
  • Flack is right. 30mph on Meridian is a joke. They don't do that south of 54th St., where the street narrows. The left turn lanes are the best thing they ever did on this stretch of Meridian. Now they want to take them away. How are you going to control the left-turners which only slow traffic and cause rear-enders? But, of course, the North Meridian blue bloods wouldn't go along with that, I'm sure. Look at how north of White River has improved.
  • While it is true that technically it is not US 31 after the county line that doesn't mean the road magically changes into a neighborhood street. It is about how it is currently being used today. It's not about what it was in the past or what it's technical designation is. I'm actually ok with this revival project, but I think it is VITAL that there be some thought and consideration into an alternate route. You can't tell people to go 15 or 20 miles out of their way by going around 465 to get to 70 or 65. A better solution might be to alter other arteries, maybe make them one way north up to 56th St. or one way south from 56th St. Something like that might be reasonable, and would allow Meridian St. to function as a neighborhood street like it once did.
  • I got it. We lower Meridian Street and put in Roundabouts at the major intersections. It’s going to work for Carmel. ORRRR, How about a Tunnel, 38th to 465. Cut and cover. They'll never know it's there.

    I say put 4 way stops at each corner and Bumps at every 10 feet. all over the whole neighborhood. That will slow them down.

    realy who care what they think or want, up in hamilton county. they don't care what we think. All in all, I think this is a good plan.
  • I live on Capitol. Got pinched years ago in front of the governor's mansion - thought the 30-35 there was a joke. Illinois and Capitol have too many stop signs to be a preferred route over Meridian for most people, but that may be due to poor traffic signal timing. When I'm downtown, I take Illinois up to 38th since it's one way and then jog over to Capitol.

    On Meridan, if you ignore red lights under either scenario, a 30mph limit vs. 45mph for 3 miles extends the drive from 4 minutes to 6 minutes. I always speed, but for most people, if you know it's going to take 2 minutes longer, leave home a little earlier for God's sake!
  • I think this is a great idea. How does it fit with the design done for Kessler? I would assume the design elements would be similar since the same design firm did both studies.
    I read the first phase of Kessler would connect the Monon Trail and Glendale. Anyone know if this plan is still in the works?
  • So DRT, your solution is to make the rest of the neighborhoods around Meridian (Central, Washington, Illinois, and Capitol) just as inhospitable to the people who live there as Meridian, by turning MORE streets into raceways? I don't think so. No more one-way raceways in Indianapolis just so suburbanites can fly over everything that's in their way.

    What part of SLOW DOWN, THIS IS A REAL NEIGHBORHOOD WHERE PEOPLE LIVE is unclear? The people on those other streets certainly didn't bargain for raceways either.
  • idyllic, they turned over the highways in two phases. About 25 miles of highways in 1999 and the rest in 1995. They sold it as a rationalization effort in 1999 i.e. the city takes care of its streets while INDOT takes care of highways. I have no idea how they sold it in 1995 or who initiated and ProQuest isn't helping much. Meridian Street became the city's in the 1999 deal.
  • Socrates, I noticed no one answered your questions: The neighborhoods involved in the HARMONI project are Meridian-Kessler, Butler-Tarkington and Broad Ripple. They are all older, established neighborhoods. I would suggest you simply look them up on Wikipedia, they are all listed on that site and you can read about their history. Just type, for eample, Meridian-Kessler--be sure you include the hyphen for both Meridian-Kessler and Butler-Tarkington. As for images of the neighborhoods, just type their name into Google images and you should pull up some shots. They are basically fairly affluent neighborhoods with nice homes--some of the homes are quite large, while others are smaller but very pretty.
  • Thundermutt, what is so hard to realize that this is the major north-south artery on the north side of Indy. Just because there are neighborhoods there doesn't change that fact.
  • another neighborhood that could/would be impacted is Warfleigh
  • DRT, the trend in cities (including Indianapolis) is to become more people-friendly and less car-friendly, especially on major arteries that afflict city neighborhoods. Meridian is not ONLY a primary arterial. It has other functions in the urban fabric.

    So, from a narrow traffic engineering viewpoint, you're absolutely correct. Fortunately, the traffic engineering viewpoint isn't the one in charge. Engineers are very good at designing and building things but tend to forget social factors and livability.
  • My take on this overall solid proposal here:

    It's too long to repost here.
  • Excellent post, Urbanophile!

    TABzealot, I live in Warfleigh: How do you see Warfleigh being impacted? (And PS Sssshhh! Don't tell anyone about Warfleigh or the secret of how amazing it is will be out!)

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