IBJNews

Hotels spark expansion of downtown skywalk system

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Guests of the new Marriott Place hotel complex will be able to walk as much as three-fourths of a mile to the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, Circle Centre mall and even the Statehouse without ever stepping outside.

That’s because the 1,600-room, four-hotel project will add two walkways that connect to an extensive network of skywalks and underground pedestrian paths.

The walkways are the first new spans for the city’s skywalk system in almost a decade, since the 615-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown opened in 2001 with a convention-center connector.

With the new spans, the system will connect 12 hotels with more than 4,700 rooms—the most of any downtown in the United States, according to Marriott. Other cities like Minneapolis have large skywalk systems, but they are designed more for the convenience of downtown office workers, not as convention amenities.



The first new span will connect the $425 million JW Marriott-anchored hotel complex to a state-owned parking garage over West Street, and the second will connect the garage to the convention center over Maryland Street.

The hotel developers are splitting the cost of the skywalks with the state since the connectors will bring in new customers for the parking garage, said Jeremy Stevenson, vice president of development for locally based REI Investments, which is developing the complex in partnership with Merrillville-based White Lodging.

Costly connections

The walkways will cost $12,000 to $15,000 per square foot—or $1.5 million to $1.8 million each, Stevenson said. They are on schedule for completion by the fall. Three hotels in the complex—a Courtyard by Marriott, SpringHill Suites and Fairfield Inn—are scheduled to open next month. The flagship JW Marriott is scheduled to open in February 2011.

The span over West Street in particular represents an important milestone: It will connect the skywalk system and the downtown core to the front door of White River State Park over what had been a daunting eight-lane pedestrian divide.

A covered walkway from the convention center to the Westin protects visitors from the elements. (IBJ Photo/Robin Jerstad)

Developers shelved a plan for a tunnel or bridge connecting the hotel complex with the park itself because such a connection was cost-prohibitive; instead, the state plans to install a signalized crosswalk between the hotel complex and the Indiana State Museum.

In addition to the 4,700 rooms the skywalks will connect, almost 3,000 more are available within walking distance of the skywalk system, said Julia Watson, a vice president for not-for-profit city booster Indianapolis Downtown Inc.

“Meeting planners and convention planners seek locations with ease and convenience,” Watson said. “Certainly, downtown Indianapolis offers that.”

Design diversity

The city’s most architecturally interesting connector is the Artsgarden at the corner of Washington and Illinois streets, which connects Circle Centre mall to Claypool Court and the Conrad Indianapolis.

Another memorable span is the three-story Circle Centre mall bridge over Maryland Street that features retail stores; most shoppers don’t even know they’re crossing to the next block (that was the goal of the design).

The span that will connect the Indiana Convention Center to Lucas Oil Stadium will be at street level—the first of its kind for the system—and is under construction now and scheduled to open this year. The path that connects Claypool Court to the Statehouse and state office buildings is underground and used mostly by office workers, not convention visitors.

The city does not have specific requirements governing the look of skywalks, said Jeff York, a city planner. But the spans can’t be built without a vacation of air rights above city streets, so planners review them on a case-by-case basis.

Factors considered include construction materials and how a bridge relates to the buildings it is connecting. All the bridges have some glass, but too much can make them pricey to heat and cool.

“We want to see these mimic, not imitate, the facades they connect,” York said.

Street-life conundrum

One of the potential drawbacks of a skywalk system is that it can put a damper on street-level activity, said Greg Jacoby, executive vice president at locally based Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects, a firm that helped design both Circle Centre and the Artsgarden.

When Cincinnati tried to move retail to the same level as its skywalks, it practically killed the street life.

That’s part of the reason Circle Centre’s developers built the mall’s second elevated walkway, which connects over Illinois Street to a parking garage, on the third level, making it less visible from the street.

“I don’t think [the skywalks] have taken away from street activity here in Indianapolis,” Jacoby said. “The reason is, we’ve been really good about putting in retail and wide sidewalks with trees. It’s just a convenience factor. Most people take the walkway if it’s raining or cold, but otherwise will walk on the street.”

In a perfect world, visitors to the city would take a scenic stroll along Washington Street to return to their rooms at the JW Marriott, said Aaron Renn, a local scholar of urban planning who writes the blog Urbanophile.

“The reality is that you first walk down a wide and uninviting Washington Street, mostly lined with government buildings, hotel complexes and parking garages—not stores, cafes or other places of interest—then have to cross West Street,” he said. “It simply isn’t realistic to expect visitors to brave that, especially in the winter.”

Renn said the skywalks may have “over-optimized” downtown for convention events, making it seem lifeless when there are no events. Still, he supports the hotel links.

Pedestrian connections don’t have to preclude street-level activity. Renn noted that Minneapolis’ skywalk system has extensive skywalk-level retail. And even Chicago has an underground pedway system that links downtown buildings, showing the value of weather-proof connections even in an eminently walkable city.

“Having those protected hotel connections is an important part of the sales package for Indianapolis as a convention destination in a cold-weather city,” he said. “It is a key asset few other cities can match and a big plus for conventions.”•

 

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I am a Lyft driver who is a licensed CDL professional driver. ALL Lyft drivers take pride in providing quality service to the Indianapolis and surrounding areas, and we take the safety of our passengers and the public seriously.(passengers are required to put seat belts on when they get in our cars) We do go through background checks, driving records are checked as are the personal cars we drive, (these are OUR private cars we use) Unlike taxi cabs and their drivers Lyft (and yes Uber) provide passengers with a clean car inside and out, a friendly and courteous driver, and who is dressed appropriately and is groomed appropriately. I go so far as to offer mints, candy and/or small bottle of water to the my customers. It's a mutual respect between driver and passenger. With Best Regards

  2. to be the big fish in the little pond of IRL midwest racin' when yer up against Racin' Gardner

  3. In the first sentance "As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss are build quality & price." need a way to edit

  4. As a resident of one of these new Carmel Apartments the issue the local governments need to discuss is build quality & price. First none of these places is worth $1100 for a one bedroom. Downtown Carmel or Keystone at the Crossing in Indy. It doesn't matter. All require you to get in your car to get just about anywhere you need to go. I'm in one of the Carmel apartments now where after just 2.5 short years one of the kitchen cabinet doors is crooked and lawn and property maintenance seems to be lacking my old Indianapolis apartment which cost $300 less. This is one of the new star apartments. As they keep building throughout the area "deals" will start popping up creating shoppers. If your property is falling apart after year 3 what will it look like after year 5 or 10??? Why would one stay here if they could move to a new Broad Ripple in 2 to 3 years or another part of the Far Northside?? The complexes aren't going to let the "poor" move in without local permission so that's not that problem, but it the occupancy rate drops suddenly because the "Young" people moved back to Indy then look out.

  5. Why are you so concerned about Ace hardware? I don't understand why anyone goes there! Every time ive gone in the past, they don't have what I need and I end up going to the big box stores. I understand the service aspect and that they try to be helpful but if they are going to survive I think they might need to carry more specialty parts.

ADVERTISEMENT