Ralston Square's new look

July 8, 2008
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A $60 million project slated for South Street between Meridian and Pennsylvania streets has a whole new look, along with a couple of anchor tenants. Plans for Ralston Square call for a Cambria Suites hotel, a BlackFinn Restaurant & Saloon and an upscale bowling alley. The designer is Ratio. The full story was reported in Saturday's print IBJ and now appears here. Miss it? You should subscribe. Tell them Property Lines sent you. Here are a few of the new renderings:

Ralston Square Indianapolis

Ralston Square Indianapolis
  • I think the new design looks great and will only get better towards construction. I'm totally excited for bowling alley (besides jillians) downtown. Hopefully it won't be too expensive! It would be great if we could get a fresh market or organic grocery in there as well.
  • This design looks great? I know its early, and it's gonna change, but what on the Earth looks great about this 2nd year architectural design? The scale is off, the form arbitrary and from what I can see, the parking garage levels are the most highlighted component of this ugly Jenga model. Ugh.
  • It looks better than the original rendering in my opinion.......nothing ground breaking though.....
  • I question why anyone would want to build a hotel or condos next to a busy rail line. (Noise, risk of spill or derailment, etc)

    Wouldn't a multimodal passenger transportation hub make more sense?
  • Jason, it's called an opinion!
  • I'm glad to hear that it's going forward, and it's exciting to see a downtown high-end project abutting a rr line, something that happens routinely in better cities. I sure hope they do a better job obscuring the parking garage, though...
  • ugly ugly ugly
  • I'm fine with it. I'll take this any day over a surface parking lot, and there is no strong context in this area that calls for some sort of sensitivity in its design. It's fairly ambitious. It's urban. It's mixed-use. It's got ground floor uses. I certainly wouldn't say it's fantastic, but it could be the catalyst for much better in the area.

    Re building next to the rail line: I don't think it really matters, as trains travel VERY slowly through that portion of the line. Therefore, I wouldn't have any real concerns about the rail line if I were developing this...
  • It seems like a no-brainer to call this a winning development. It would be years, if not decades, before anyone could put together financing to top this density at that location.

    As for the condos, I'm guessing that the north views will be some of the best in the city. At nine, ten or eleven stories, you're going to be able to see over most of south meridian and have a great view of the circle and skyline behind. And on the sound question, how much noise do the tracks produce there? The trains are traveling well below normal speed that close to Union Station.
  • Kudos for this project going forward. While not the best design in the world, it is much better than the previous design. The mixed uses are great. These are the kinds of projects that the downtown area needs more of. Hopefully this will help revitalize the area and maybe help with the realization of SODO as well.
  • I don't know who is giving passing grades to architects of this design 'generation' but I am more than ready for the passing of the torch. Build something like this and tenants will soon be disguising their address out of sheer embarrassment. Take a bunch of innovative design ideas, throw them in box, shake it up, and dump it out on a plane - Voila! Nehru suits come to my mind, how about you?
  • BobUp, I am curious, what buildings in Indianapolis or surrounding communities have you designed? I would like to go check them out.
  • I like this infill and as mentioned, not too much context around to guide the design in any way, shape or form.
  • Hmm, I am not sure if I prefer this over the original design.
    It seems like it tries too hard to be something 'cutting edge' or 'totally unique' and that's when we end up with dated architecture.
    I think if the facade had a bit more organization and perhaps more elegant lines it wouldn't be so dated.
    Also, if I were designing this structure I would have had a slight setback after the 3rd floor facing Meridian street so it doesn't totally dwarf not only the stretch of 2-4 story older buildings lining Meridian but also doesn't dwarf the Slippery Noodle, an important historic landmark.
    Either way, its nice to see some creativity in architecture I personally think its the wrong kind of thinking. BUT this is just my opinion.
  • Big Daddy that is quiet rude.
    Just because one has not designed a structure does not mean their opinion on urbanism and design doesn't matter.
    I've seen many ideas by ordinary people that were much better (and better in taste) than many architect's and developer's ideas.
  • That's the best tailgating lot and now we'll be forced to move. When will this project started?
  • Big Daddy:
    Thanks for the compliment!
  • Bobup, that's exactly what I thought.
  • I don't understand most of you who criticize this design. While it isn't the best design in the world...it is leaps and bounds above a lot of other buildings going up around the city. For example...this design blows the tower proposed south of Lucas Oil out of the water...no comparison. I am usually very critical about the architecture found in Indianapolis, and I think this will be a really nice addition to downtown...something out of the ordinary for downtown...except for the love of brick.
  • Big Daddy -

    So you are unable to articulate why this is a good design and can only claim that BobUp's opinion must be wrong because he isn't an architect? Maybe you should get back to us when you actually have something to contribute to the discussion, since this blog is, in case you missed it, mostly here for the discussion of design.
  • Peter, this is a great mixed use development for this area of downtown Indianapolis. It has everything that so many people on this forum say we need in a downtown development. A hotel, retail development on the first floor and condos. A trully mixed use development. We should be applauding these developers for taking on this challange with NO public financing instead of trying to tear down the design of their building. Compared to what is on that side of downtown, this building is going to be a major up grade.
  • I like this. It compliments the new stadium with the what looks to me to be the same color of brick. I also think it will compliment SODO more so than the original design. The next four years is going to be a very exciting time to sit back and watch Indy grow.
  • I am excited to see this project moving forward. The design is vary well thought out for the parcel. The parking garage in the middle of the building is a smart way to mitigate the noise impacts of the railroad while also allowing the ground floors to have activity. The skin of the building can change if and when tastes do (look at One Indiana Square) but the basic idea is a good one.
  • It's well intentioned. I like the mixed use & principle of it. However the design is mediocre at best. I think It would be better if they added those vertical brick columns all the way west. I dunno why they cut off half way...

    Anyway, the project is one of several in the works that would add hotel space downtown, including a new JW Marriott convention hotel, (two hotels at Pennsylvania and Maryland streets) and a handful of others surrounding Lucas Oil Stadium is that supposed to imply that the Penn Centre is still a go yo?
  • To turn the conversation from design to utility, one of the big details that seems to be overlooked (perhaps because it's buried in the press release) is the huge increase in retail space in this new proposal compared to the original:

    Originally: 1 floor, 41k sq.ft.
    Now: 2 floors -- 37k sq.ft. 1st floor, 40k sq.ft. 2nd floor

    While other components of this project are good for the downtown economy, convention business, etc., for downtown residents, more retail space is by far the most important component.
  • So, I see that the public hearing signs are going up around the existing lot presently. Pending approval at said hearing, does anyone know when they expect to actually start constructing this thing? (i.e. When am I going to loose my cheap parking?)

    Inquiring minds (cheapskates like me) want to know. Thx.
  • Hopefully the development will continue south to Lilly to link that campus with downtown. The area between seems like a war zone with the abandoned elevated track and bridges. When will this area get so attention. Its so close to the stadium, hopefully before the Super Bowl
  • I still think the nattering nabobs of negativity in this comments sections should form a design firm and create the perfect building for Indianapolis. I wonder how you'd handle the response when all of us hate it? While I enjoy Cory's coverage to no end, I *dread* reading the comments whenever he puts up new designs.

    I realize everyone has opinions, and it is your right to expound upon them.... However, I resent this sort of high minded snobbery that derides everything to come down the pike. NO design will ever be perfect, but would it kill any of you to actually look on the bright side? Flame away...

    I think this is a good addition to downtown, and I am sure it will be refined again before ground is broken. I am with CorrND, the more retail downtown the better, and I love the idea of another bowling alley.
  • The public hearing signs are general zoning / variance oriented and dont' necessarily mean that they'll build anything like what's presented. The process is a whole lot slower than that -- unless it's Lucas Oil Stadium. Then it can be done in one week ; )

    I would promote most any kind of mixed-use development for downtown. Being critical about the design or even the use of this parcel is just part of the dialog that needs to be exchanged. I think property owners and developers actually do key in to what people are thinking, even tho developers are completely $$ driven and architects are generally ego driven. It's always a battle between how much it costs to build some crazy design.

    I wish people would simply articulate more when they like or dislike. You can have your opinion, just size it up a little better. What DO or DON'T you like about a given product? I think it creates a better dialog and conversation. Good job since comment 14 or so.
  • Nick, you have hit the nail right on the head and I couldn't agree more with you. I am sure you will be accused of being rude or worse yet, a big bad developer who only wants to make a buck and doesn't care about the design of their buildings.
  • Are those giant posters on the 2nd floor? Or like someone said of the new Allen Plaza - was this designed by the IMS staff?
  • Any more details about the condos (e.g. price per unit)?
  • Ron, Inside Indiana Business (.com) has stated that the condos will start in range from $275K. I think that is still too steep for this city along with all the others are supposed to go online. If I time it right, I want to be right downtown before the Supoer Bowl and a year or two before that about 4 Condo projects are to come online - big ones. I think the market will be so flooded with 200K condos and higher that they might drop below the 200K range because of saturation.

    Here's to wishful thinking so that I can afford one on my single income salary at age of 26 (28 by then!)
  • It would also be nicer if they raised the western portion of the roof a good 20 ft. or so to break up the monotonaus of one single height the entire way thru.
  • Well said, Nick.

    And nice William Safire reference...
  • As random representatives of the extremes here, Big Daddy and Bobup's viewpoints are both true and can coexist.

    From a downtown development standpoint, this project is great. Big Daddy is right: it's exactly what a lot of us clamor for on this and other blogs. It's mixed-used, medium density, a decent height, great location, contemporary stylings, etc.

    But what is also true, as Bobup points out, is that the building has some problems, architecturally speaking. For instance, I love expressive, quirky buildings, but this one looks a bit confused. It's trying to be reserved and strange at the same time, which doesn't really work. Are they trying to fool us into thinking there are multiple buildings on one site via multiple window treatments? Also, as has already been noted, because the garage is white, it stands out more than anything else on the building, which isn't what one wants. Someone please tell me that's not the first thing you look at when you glance at the renderings.

    It could still be improved with some tweaks, which may well happen.

    Overall, I like it, and am glad to have it downtown. I'll take just one of these over 10 Villagios at Paige Point any day.
  • OK, here goes. First...I like this design better than the old one. I think a successful project of this type is absolutely essential downtown.

    However, I think this is an Internet age building that's a little ahead of its time for Indianapolis. A little touch-up would considerably reduce the visual jumble, which is the dominant image.

    Continue the brick pillar treatment to the west edge of the full-height brick, so the top section doesn't appear to be perched, and so that the main entrance is highlighted... and so that all the facades share a significant major common design element.

    The Urban Design guidelines require outdoor living space for each condo unit, and I assume that the green roof is intended to meet that requirement without balconies. Nonetheless, some recessed balcony spaces on the glass box southwest corner might mitigate the deep-dark-recess look of the parking garage below it and create a little more harmony in the appearance of the Meridian street face.
  • The brick columns seem to acknowledge Lucas Oil Stadium. This is a shared design element of two significant developments on the South side of downtown. Perhaps the use of brick columns will be continued in future projects that want to emphasize their proximity to the stadium.
  • The concept is absolutely solid from an infill development perspective. This is exactly the scale of structure we should be looking for in Indianapolis. It is mid-rise, not high rise, make good use of its lot with an excellent FAR, is mixed use, more or less avoids dead zones at street level, is LEED certified, and so on. I'd also give the developers a lot of credit for putting this project on a challenging lot being both next to the tracks and south of the major downtown activity centers.

    Nevertheless, architecturally I'd have to say this is a step backwards from the original plan. Not that I thought that one was perfect by any means, but this building has a lot of problems. The mishmash of facade treatments being the principal problem. I'm really struggling to figure out what the architects were trying to do here. Ablerock is totally right on this one.

    Alas, given its location this will be a very prominent structure on the skyline.
  • I like the design. Kick and cry all you want but you'll be fighting to keep a surface parking lot. Can't wait to see it break ground. It's called an opinion.
  • MikeW,
    The starting price is definitely off my budget. If the smallest unit is 750 sq and priced at $275K, that would make approx $270/sq.ft. That's a lot!
    Also, the proximity to the train tracks really bothers me. I don't want to be shaken during my sleep every night!
  • Google,

    I don't think anyone here is fighting to keep a surface parking lot.

    I'm certainly not.

    Ratio is a perfectly competent architecture firm that is capable of producing much better work. That's all we're fighting for. :-)
  • Ron, I don't think Ralston Square is counting on you specifically to buy a condo. There are definitely people who can afford it and will buy there.
  • Amen to Ablerock's comment 42, especially the last sentence.

    I think a few of the 'commenteurs' here could be found carousing of an evening in their favorite t-shirt - emblazoned with their personal philosophy of Go Ugly Early.
  • Oops, ....substitute paragraph for sentence in my comment #44.
  • After looking at the design again I'm back and I have to say I really don't like it.
    Curious about the architecture I've found that this is more like a recreation of the brutalist design just trying to be more 'stylish'.
    I constantly hear people saying Indianapolis shouldn't try to be like other cities so why doesn't Indianapolis do something unique?
    Something that reflects the past but a bright progressive future?
    To me.. this looks just like everything else being built. Just a remake of brutalist designs and the new name of 'contemporary'.
    I am glad that Indy has development, and by all means bring on the development and in no way should it be halted simply because of its looks.
    But since this post really doesn't matter I have to say I don't like it.
    Things like this only look good today, but really not tomorrow. Look how brutalism ended up. Everyone loved it in the 60's and 70's but after that it became dated and bland. So what makes this new contemporary style emune to that fate? Not everyone dislikes brutalism, there are many fans of it but I'm talking about the general population who has always been more compfertable with calmer more organized facades.
    Why do you think people love things like the World War monument?
    Is that really what we want? A ton of buildings we have to re-face later? Like the Indiana Square tower?
    Be creative but for the love of Indy don't be a part of a passing trend.
    I would love to see something truely beautiful that reflects the past of Indianapolis and the future it has.
    Not saying we should be slapping victorian facades on these things but we shouldn't be afraid of beautification or organization. *makes odd hissing sound.*
    I have an idea.
    Why don't they borrow some influence from the Slippery Noodle? I mean, it is a landmark is it not?
    Eh and its charming! Take some influence from the oldies' like we take advice from the elders.
    I would love to see some organization, beautification, and more brick work on the facade. A nice lush garden on top and nice vertical lines.
    Less random materials here and there, it doesn't age well. I mean, in one part it is made of glass and then in another its made of some sort of tan/orange brick.
    Try setbacks, it worked not only for buildings in the 20's but also buildings like the Chase Tower or that sort of gothic looking highrise near the circle.
    Use the setbacks to create sort of different gardens on different levels.
    Then at street level you don't want to scare people off or only relate to the brutalist fans. Try warm tones of glass(this is why stained glass was very popular a hundred years ago.) and colors. Make it feel compfertable and more human-scale. But over all, just try to make it more Indianapolis and less Beijing.
    BE CREATIVE!!!!!!!!! ;)
  • In my last post there were a few typos/mispellings.
    I'm not really completely 'in it' right now and I need to sleep, I apologize! :)
  • misspellings*
  • I'm not saying the design is great, but this thing is at least quite a bit more ambitious than most of the crap we see around here. And, as I said before, there is not a strong context around this thing to dictate what it should look like. I would probably change a few things just from a basic urban design stance, but I don't think it's bad overall.
  • I don't understand what makes it ambitious.
    Is it the odd use of material? The zigg-zag lines?
    How is that ambitious for a world of architecture?
    Something like the Chrysler building was ambitious.
    This looks like all that stuff being built in every other city which isn't meant to offend everyone because we do need buildings that are not screaming UNIQUE! But when the only buildings that scream unique were built almost a century or more ago that says something about our city's need for better architects and new look on architecture.
    I just don't understand what makes this brutalist revival so ambitious and amazing. If someone could explain that would be great!
  • They're all using LSD...

    Lame Sh*tty Design
  • Man, the crime in this city just keeps getting worse every day. Sad.
  • To #52 - no doubt! And when this thing gets built, people will be so mad they'll take it out on each other, further increasing the crime rate!

    (That statement was more to poke fun at all of the above comments, not the current homicide issues - there are more important things in life than the looks of a building, but reading some of the posts here makes you think this is life & death.)

    I'll give my 2 cents and leave -

    1) You can never be sure about anything until its built. The Eiffel Tower is one famous example where something was hated when first built but eventually became loved by the city. Not saying this is Eiffel Tower-esque, but give it a chance to be built rather than judging purely from a rendering. Maybe it'll suck, maybe it'll be a hit, but who can really know at this point?

    2) I've always thought architecture was like art, where if you get people talking about it you've done your job. It may not be your ideal look, but its definitely got people talking, rather than being a bland brick rectangle designed to not be noticed.
  • I think the designers have done a great job of creating a look and layout that works on a very tough site (railroad tracks and the shallow depth of the lot). The fact they are building without city money should also be applauded. It looks likej the condos will have a great view of the new Luc stadium. I think I might have to buy one just for tailgating:)
  • eh it could be a hit.
    worst case scenerio they can just re-face it.
    But isn't artwork a little different? Paintings and statues can be moved very easily and you don't have to see them.
    Maybe trying to do that sort of stuff with architecture just doesn't work.
  • CORY, could you tell us anything about the new headquarters for Sandor Development? I saw a story about it on Inside Indiana Business. While it's great to have infill on that stretch, I think it would be even nicer if they turned that building 90 degrees so it would front Meridian Street better. :)
  • Funny.....I represent the Master Developer for Cambria Suites and there is NOT a deal in the near future!! Yes things have been discussed, but we are about 340 degrees from having a deal done. Way too premature to be announced as DONE.

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  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.