Mayor has monumental plan for Georgia Street, delays name change

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The $12 million overhaul of Georgia Street into a three-block pedestrian mall in downtown Indianapolis could feature monuments saluting many of Indiana’s most famous Hoosiers.

Mayor Greg Ballard was expected to join 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee Chairman Mark Miles Friday morning to make the announcement, one day after the mayor temporarily halted a controversial plan to rename Georgia Street.

Georgia Street 15col Construction employees install pavers on the $12 million Georgia Street project in downtown Indianapolis. (IBJ Photo/ Mason King)

The historic street will retain its current name at least through the city’s hosting of the Super Bowl on Feb. 5, but the mayor makes clear he still prefers a more suitable name with a local flavor.

“I never felt comfortable honoring great Hoosiers on a street named after another state,” Ballard said in a written statement. “But after listening to a lot of public input, I have asked Indianapolis Downtown Inc. to stop the street-renaming process while we finalize the plans for these memorials and gather additional public input.”

Plans call for up to 30 columns along Georgia Street paying posthumous tribute to the greatest Hoosiers. The 6-foot-tall monuments would include an image of the person and an accompanying biography. Possible candidates include Col. Eli Lilly, Madame CJ Walker and Virgil Gus Grissom.

The Super Bowl Host Committee has donated roughly $75,000 to fund the first 15 monuments. Each monument is estimated to cost about $5,000.

Ballard has asked the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee to assemble the inaugural class, possibly up to 10 native Hoosiers, whose monuments could be erected in the spring, said Marc Lotter, the mayor’s spokesman. A few monuments would be unveiled each year until the street is lined with all 30, he said.

Lotter said the mayor chose to back off the renaming effort for now to instead focus on the larger project.

“Obviously, there are some passionate thoughts on the concept of renaming it, and the mayor’s always listening to public input,” Lotter said. “He also wants to get this broader vision out.”

Opposition to the renaming includes an official resolution from City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield urging city officials to retain the Georgia Street name.

Mansfield still intends to present the resolution at Monday’s Council meeting.

“It’s standing up for what you believe is correct, and that’s retaining the name,” said Mansfield, a Democrat, who asserted that her resolution has support from councilors of both political parties.

A Facebook page created by Joan Hostetler also makes a case against the rebranding and had 1,042 supporters as of Friday morning.

City and community leaders began considering the name change for the 190-year-old street earlier this year after construction crews began the massive overhaul.

Residents could submit their suggestions in an online survey from Indianapolis Downtown Inc. that ended Sept. 13.

The idea, they said, was to create a fresh identity for the street in time for the Super Bowl. The project is designed to create a major public gathering place between the Indiana Convention Center and Conseco Fieldhouse.

The pedestrian mall also could attract visitors for the Big Ten football championships—the inaugural game is set for Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium—and for conventions and for events at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The street is listed on the 1821 Alexander Ralston “Plat of the Town of Indianapolis,” and is home to the city’s oldest hotel, the Omni Severin (98 years), and oldest Catholic church, St. John the Evangelist (140 years).

Construction on the street is set to be finished by Nov. 1.


  • You Said It
    Great catch!!
  • Do the public art right, please!
    Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee...and what experience do they have with public art? How will the artist(s?) be chosen for the monuments? What will they look like--contemporary or traditional? What will they be made of and how will they weather? How long has this been in the works, who's been involved in the major decision to install this long-term project, and, most importantly, why are we just hearing now about this apparently vital addition to the city? And, if this was the plan all along, how come "Championship Way" or whatever was the Mayor's preferred name...when it seems that so many of those honored will not be sports figures? This all seems relatively last-minute, but I'm not passing judgment quite yet.

    Just don't outsource the design and fabrication of the "monuments" (!!) to China like the people behind the MLK monument in Washington, DC did. Doesn't have to be Hoosier artists necessarily, but it would be nice to keep at least the making of the pieces local.
  • The scary part is who they will pick...
    If Curtis Painter can lead the Colts to victory Monday night will we get a statue of him in his Member's Only jacket and his goofy haircut down there?
  • What's in a name...
    Actually, there is one alternate proposed name that actually makes sense:

    St. John's Way (Ave, Blvd, Place, whatever). Recognizes that the west end's anchor is actually one of the oldest churches, serving the city continuously since before it WAS a city. St' John The Evangelist Catholic Church is the oldest Catholic parish, with the oldest church, in Indianapolis. Historic building, itself dating from the late 1800s.


    If hizzoner wants to put up a marker, start there with Bishop Brute' (first bishop of Indiana), Rev. Vincent Bacquelin, St. John's first pastor; Nov 1837 - Sep 1846...

    Of course, we should probably include Bishop Chatard, the first bishop of Indianapolis (oversaw the move from Vincennes), Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Ritter(Bishop when Indianapolis became an Archdiocese, hence became first Archbishop)... (And yes, Cardinal Ritter was a Hoosier, born in New Albany, IN, July 20, 1892)

    Lessee... who else to nominate...

    Or just leave the official name of the street alone. We don't seem to have any issues with adding special-event names (cf: all the dinosaur streets around the Children's Museum, for example. Or "Hulman Way". Or "USS Indianapolis Memorial Highway".)
  • It's not over yet
    Promoting history along Georgia Street is a great idea. However, I'm sad that our Mayor is uncomfortable with one of the oldest aspects of our city's history.

    There is a less disruptive way to pay tribute to Indiana's heroes. Name the venue "Heroes (or Indiana, or whatever) Boardwalk" but retain "Georgia Street." The marketers are happy, people who value Indy's history are happy, taxpayers are happy, voters are happy, and Georgia St. residents and businesses won't have the cost of changing their addresses.

    I attended the press conference and got the distinct impression that this renaming controversy is far from over for Mayor Ballard (but I'm guessing delayed until after the election). Please make your thoughts known so we can get past this non-issue and focus on more pressing problems.

    If you oppose the name change, please do the following:
    1. Sign the online petition http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/keepgeorgiast/
    2. Or sign the paper petition: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/9620518/Keep%20Georgia%20Street%20Petition.pdf
    3. Leave comment Mayor Ballard :http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Mayor/getintouch/Pages/ContactUs.aspx
    4. Contact your city-county councillor: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Councillors/Documents/2010publicc (they vote on a resolution to stop the renaming on Mon., Oct. 3, 7pm)
    5. Join Keep Georgia Street Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Keep-the-historic-name-Georgia-Street-Indianapolis/283498898332005?sk=wall

  • This is all you have for us?
    Oh great, after his street naming contest hits the wall, he comes up with a new contest for naming useless sign posts along the street to try to bolster a stupid idea.

    I was expecting much more from this announcement. All I got was a excuse to delay renaming the street and another goofy idea on top.

    Our Mayor appears completely out of touch and possibly incompetent.

    Here are some serious questions for the Mayor.

    Who are the anchor retail tenants who are going to attract people to this area considering it currently is lined with solid brick walls?

    How could any restaurant or bar provide the outdoor cafes you envision on this sidewalk median sandwiched between two streets with passing cars?

    What are you going to do with the 210,000 square foot of vacant retail space on Georgia Street since Nordstrom closed?

    Other than an over glorified sidewalk, what is going to be in place before this years Superbowl?
  • No one's getting rich
    No one's getting rich on 30 statues @ $5K each. $150,000 when it's all said and done; far from a Corporate windfall anymore.
  • Why the cynicism?
    Seems as if some people will complain no matter what decision is made, simply because it's Ballard or not exactly how they would do it.

    When the renaming of Georgia Street was proposed, the mayor ran with what was presented as a good idea from a group (IDI) who's done a lot of very positive things for Indiana, has a great track record longer than Ballard's term of office. Turns out this idea had quite a backlash, so he listened to the people and stepped back from the idea. That's called being responsive, not a campaign move, simply being mayor to a big city.

    We have LOTS of very positive and memorable people from Indy of varied races, genders and eras, and most of us could stand a review as to who they are and what they contributed. Sure, we might identify with one more than another, or value his/her contribution to history more, but picking the intial 15 should be easy.

    No one has to be in anyone's pocket or have any secret agenda for this. What city doesn't have monuments to significant figures in their city or state? Walked the streets of Chicago lately? Monuments are all over, and people do stop and read them.

    These will be very interesting accents on a wonderful new feature of our amazing and vibrant downtown, for which we should be very grateful (been to St Louis or Louisville lately?). Although I didn't vote for Mayor Ballard, I applaud his initiative and responsiveness on this exciting and non-partisan upgrade, and look forward to frequenting whatever the street is eventually called.
  • Problem identified!
    Thank you Mayor Ballard for pointing out a major problem. We now need to take this a step further. Let's rename all streets that have non-Indiana names that border government offices.. Next on the chopping block: the streets surrounding the City County Building are Delaware, Alabama and Washington (and Market, but that's okay). We need to rename just the portions of those streets that surround the CCB to Hoosier names!

    I'm sure there are many more examples. I'm just too lazy to come up with them.
  • I like the idea
    It is obvious the election is around the corner and who the majority of people on this post want to win. Give me a break people. The name is staying (that is what you wanted) and the honoring of Hoosiers is a great idea. Just because a few you leftist Kenndy supporters want her to win, you are throwing Ballard under the bus. I got news for you. On November 2, all of you are really going to be ticked, because there is no way she is going to win. Sorry bout-ch-ya.
  • Who will get rich?
    I am sure Ballard has some company contributor in Texas or overseas who lobbied for the idea and he wants to steer some public funds to their pockets.
    • Good Greif Ballard Again
      The problem with politicians and their appointees is that selection is based on political idology and nothing else. Perhaps if this is bound to happen, we should mandate that the person be DEAD for 100 years. Then if they are remembered for being notable, they might have a chance. The second condition would be to ban all politicians and military officers. There is enough of them already all over the city. And lastly, they should be put before the ballot of the people in an election and must pass two votes.
      The first vote would be this November when we get rid of the politician who thought up this idea in the first place
    • Such Pessimists
      OMG, I have never seen such pessimistic and complaining people--"why not let us have a vote", I don't know any great Hoosiers", "this is stupid". Good Lord, do you people ever have anything good to say. This is a GREAT city--and I have lived in many other cities including LA, Miami, and Boston. Things like this will only make it better. Quit complaining and be part of a solution instead. Jeez!
    • Have another waffle, Ballard
      Ballard stated a desire, a while ago, that Indianapolis should have a China Town. Yet now, he's concerned about putting Hoosier celbs on one of our oldest streets, because the street is named for another state. So, he'd like to create a Chinese cultural district, even though Indiana isn't really known for its Asian population; and he'd like to change a historic street name, while honoring history-makers from Indiana. The man becomes increasingly dense the closer it gets to election time.
    • Let's plan ahead
      I agree with Erin...why not ask the citizens of Indianapolis who these 30 famous Hoosiers should be?
    • Another no-brainer
      Benjamin Harrison, our only elected President to date, would be appropriate I would think.
    • The Public Was Very Involved In Cultural Trail Art
      Erin, the Cultural Trail organization held several meetings about the public art while selecting it and before any installations. In particular, it held several special meetings after a minority opposition became vocal about the proposed artwork of Fred Wilson (a prominent African-American artist) after its announcement. In the end, even though most residents, including most African-American residents in the city, were supportive of the artwork, the Cultural Trail decided to avoid the controversy and hurt feelings of those who were offended and agreed to relocate or cancel the Fred Wilson project (which I think is a shame), so I do not think it is at all accurate to claim there was no public input in the Cultural Trail art selection.

      However, I can say the Fred Wilson controversy was ultimately a good thing. Yes, it was good thing that some people were offended by proposal because it forced people to address difficult racial and social justice issues that are normally side-stepped. Hopefully, some of the people who were angered by Mr. Wilson's art proposal will now channel their energy into resolving the real, ongoing social justice issues in our society.

      As for the proposed monuments to historically important Hoosiers, while I think some public input is appropriate, I do not think there needs to be a "town hall" meeting on this or a popularity contest. Quite frankly, if someone thinks honoring Madame CJ Walker or Benjamin Harrison, etc., is controversial or offensive, then they can go get their head examined or just take a flying leap. Though, perhaps it would be a good thing, too, if some people did get upset about the selected slate of individuals to be honored. As with the Fred Wilson proposal, perhaps if some people are offended, then it can ultimately lead to something constructive. If you want something bland and controversial individual is selected to be honored, the choice may end being as thought-provoking and constructively challenging as the Fred Wilson art proposal.

      Nothing positive ever came from inoffensive or non-controversial ideas. And, inoffensive and non-controversial art-by-public-committee is almost universally bad art. If that is what people want, then just stick in a couple of spray fountains and pipe in some Muzak and call it a day, and don't waste the time and money bothering with anything else.

    • Really?
      Ballard is going to change his story now? Surprise!
    • Yawn
      “I never felt comfortable honoring great Hoosiers on a street named after another state."

      In Indianapolis, great Hoosiers are currently honored at the Indiana Historical Society (on Ohio Street), The Children's Museum (on Illinois Street), and the Indiana State Museum (on Washington Street). No one gets confused that they're looking at Hoosiers simply because of the name of street.

      Quit being a simp, Mayor Ballard.

      Frankly, I don't feel comfortable with Mayor Ballard or IDI honoring great Hoosiers on any street, regardless of street name. Their track record suggests they'll be the ones charged with deciding which Hoosiers are "great" and, therefore, worth honoring.
    • Names
      Hoosier Ave. with a Boiler Bridge and rename the church Notre Dame for the Little Giant with Knights standing guard. Plant Sycamores (think they already have)for the Cardinals. Have mounted Cops on Colts Pace by the Ice skating rink. Sign at West end to turn right and to see the Tigers. Park a Jaguar. Provide a place to walk Greyhounds and a Bulldogs. Maybe a teepee for the Indians. The Crusade would be Aces.
    • Basketball Coaches
      We are the basketball state, and I think statutes of the coaches that have won the State Tourney would be a nice touch.
    • Ballard's Folly
      Wow, he's still going to rename George St. after the Super Bowl? I thought he wanted to get relected? NOT!
    • What's the Process?
      I don't want to be pessimistic about this, but I certainly hope the city has learned from the recent uproar over the proposed Fred Wilson sculpture along the Cultural Trail that these things can get ugly fast. When you start depicting historical characters - especially on public grounds - you need to involve the public at the BEGINNING of the process. My fear is we'll see a list of 30 people and then be asked to comment as opposed to being allowed to submit ideas in the early stages.
    • Great Heros
      Since the connection is between the two sports palaces, and the city is fanatically sports minded, the obvious names would be 15 quarterbacks and 15 basketball players. Then we could have permanent warfare between fans as to who is and who ain't!
    • Who are the 30?
      Watch - these idiots will put someone like former Gov. Edward Jackson on the promenade, but leave off Kurt Vonnegut.
      • Who are they?
        Who are the 30 "great" hoosiers?
      • Monument Promenade on Georgia
        OK fine. We should call it the "Monument Promenade on Georgia" "Monument Promenade" is the destination, Georgia street is the address of the destination.

        That way we'll have Monument Circle and Monument Promenade. Problem solved.
      • THIS Is Your Big Idea?
        This is just getting even more stupid.

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