IBJOpinion

SHEPARD: Conrad's intensity still felt downtown

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Randall ShepardSurely Larry Conrad is smiling over the recent report about the phenomenal strength of the housing market in downtown Indianapolis.

Conrad was a force of nature who served multiple terms as Indiana secretary of state, ran for governor in 1976, and later became part of Simon Property Group Inc. He died much too young during emergency heart surgery, while attending a meeting in France about building more livable cities.

The new report about downtown housing, prepared for Indianapolis Downtown Inc. by Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute, brought to mind one of Conrad’s smoothest maneuvers.

The year must have been about 1987. The Colts had managed to muscle their way into a coveted slot on “Monday Night Football” for the very first time. This was a big deal—three hours of live television, the Goodyear blimp and all the rest. How could we maximize the moment?

Conrad’s idea was that Indy needed to look like a winner. He persuaded the owners and managers of downtown buildings (especially the tallest ones) to keep their lights on that particular Monday night. As the blimp sent images around the nation during the game, Indianapolis looked like the genuine big-time operation it was on the way to becoming.

Fast-forwarding some 25 years, the new report for IDI has revealed something powerful about the present and future of the city. Put in stark economic terms, downtown housing has become a product so much in demand that the price keeps rising modestly even as the supply expands dramatically.

This explosion in supply is hard to miss. Projects in every quadrant spring up as new construction or rehabilitation or both. John Watson had barely finished his rehab of Stadium Lofts, and filled it, when his crews started on new buildings next door. Altogether: 2,000 new downtown units in the last decade, with 3,500 more under construction or in the pipeline for the next three years.

The powerful demand that makes all this possible arises from two factors, according to the new report.

First, downtown Indianapolis has become a growing magnet offering new jobs all along the salary scale. As Drew Klacik of PPI points out, the 2.6 square miles inside the downtown interstates contain 4 percent of Indiana’s total employment (think life sciences, education, finance).

Second, both millennials and baby boomers are more often gravitating toward downtown living.

Do people living elsewhere in Marion County and the metropolitan area have a stake in the success of downtown? The question nearly answers itself. Most downtown jobs are held by people who commute five or 25 miles. And the sporting and cultural attractions enhance life in the suburbs even for people who do not commute.

The initiatives that created our present success were hardly accidental. Prolonged investment by public and private and charitable institutions, plus good civic leadership, made it happen.

When new potential projects present themselves, we’ll be better off if we view the whole range of people who stand to benefit. As the City-County Council makes thoughtful progress on a panhandling ordinance, for example, it would be good to keep in mind that the largest number of people who stand to gain are the thousands of low-wage workers in the tourism and convention business.

The competition to build great cities will be won by commitment to careful research by organizations like IDI and PPI, and through the inventiveness of people who dream up new ideas as successors to Larry Conrad.•

__________

Shepard, Indiana chief justice from 1987 to 2012, is executive in residence at Indiana University’s Public Policy Institute, a research arm within IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Send comments on this column to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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. With Pence running the ship good luck with a new government building on the site. He does everything on the cheap except unnecessary roads line a new beltway( like we need that). Things like state of the art office buildings and light rail will never be seen as an asset to these types. They don't get that these are the things that help a city prosper.

  2. Does the $100,000,000,000 include salaries for members of Congress?

  3. "But that doesn't change how the piece plays to most of the people who will see it." If it stands out so little during the day as you seem to suggest maybe most of the people who actually see it will be those present when it is dark enough to experience its full effects.

  4. That's the mentality of most retail marketers. In this case Leo was asked to build the brand. HHG then had a bad sales quarter and rather than stay the course, now want to go back to the schlock that Zimmerman provides (at a considerable cut in price.) And while HHG salesmen are, by far, the pushiest salesmen I have ever experienced, I believe they are NOT paid on commission. But that doesn't mean they aren't trained to be aggressive.

  5. The reason HHG's sales team hits you from the moment you walk through the door is the same reason car salesmen do the same thing: Commission. HHG's folks are paid by commission they and need to hit sales targets or get cut, while BB does not. The sales figures are aggressive, so turnover rate is high. Electronics are the largest commission earners along with non-needed warranties, service plans etc, known in the industry as 'cheese'. The wholesale base price is listed on the cryptic price tag in the string of numbers near the bar code. Know how to decipher it and you get things at cost, with little to no commission to the sales persons. Whether or not this is fair, is more of a moral question than a financial one.

ADVERTISEMENT