State drops canal development

May 24, 2008
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Canal HotelA 1-acre site along the Central Canal will not be developed, at least for now, a state official said in an e-mail. The state's public finance director, Jennifer Alvey, said the Indiana Finance Authority no longer is pursuing a development project on the state-owned property, which sits between Ohio and New York streets across from the Indiana Historical Society. The decision appears to hand a big victory to a small environmental group bent on saving the unremarkable, grass-covered hillside from development. The land abuts a state parking garage and was set aside for a future development that would draw retail life to the Canal and more people downtown. The e-mail from Alvey seemed to pass the decision to the city. "The IFA has determined that a partnership with the City is important to the future of this site. The City continues to evaluate the current options for the site. The IFA appreciates your concerns related to this property." Kansas-based LodgeWorks LP pitched a hotel, restaurant and retail project that would include a bridge over the canal (shown here). Browning Investments and Dora Brothers Hospitality also pitched a hotel and retail space.
  • Those McAna parasites are killing the city.
  • I wish they'd stay in the townships and worry about all the bad suburban development out there, instead of trying to bring bad suburban ideas to downtown. Downtowns are SUPPOSED to be dense, built-up urban settings. And we (Center Twp. taxpayers) need property like this back ON the tax rolls.

    The greenspace argument is so faulty it's not even's sad. From this site it's necessary to walk only a few blocks up the canal or a few blocks down the canal, or west onto the IUPUI campus or east to the Mall to arrive at inviting, green, underutilized open space.
  • Thanks for saving this park ballard!!!

  • OK. . . .how about some neutral journalism unremarkable, grass-covered
    hillside. Sounds like this writer already has an opinion on this decision.

    Let's pave every inch of space downtown and build a 16 story,
    mixed use, retail/residential structure. That's what downtowns should be.
    We don't need green!

    Density, absolutely. Can we have a little balance with that.

    And please, don't give me the old story about how we have the green
    space at the War Memorial.
  • But Matthew, that is EXACTLY what it is... an unremarkable grass covered hillside. It isn't practical for anything other than, perhaps, sitting. The redevelopment of the canal was intended to incorporate projects precisly like the one pictured above.... not for sporadic patches of grass!
  • One need only do some research to see that this particular piece of land has always been pegged for development. In its current state it is nothing more than an embankment and an ugly one at that as it draws attention to the blank concrete wall of the State parking garage.

    Twenty years ago when the current city leaders began redeveloping the canal, they envisioned something akin to the RiverWalk in San Antonio. That included hotels flanking the canal and commercial/retail space, not empty useless embankments. As a longtime downtown resident I would like to have a part in this decision rather than it being driven by a group of outspoken suburbanites who long for somewhere free to sit and listen to a concert occurring across the canal. I won't preach to Matthew about the War Memorial, but I will point him one block west on the canal to Military Park, the Indiana State Museum, and Celebration Plaza; all areas providing park like atmoshpheres with plenty of green space.

    As thundermutt has accurately pointed out, this property belongs on the Center Township tax rolls. We have spent decades watching our residential tax base flock to the donut counties, we can't afford to push opportunities for quality commercial development out as well.

    Clarke Kahlo and his Canal Park Advocates attempt to label this a 'park' by slapping the name of a past president on this embankment is disingenuous. Mayor Ballard needs to obtain feedback from those residing downtown on what they want to see on this property; not the infrequent visitors to Center Township.
  • ha ha careful Matthew, Cory has never pretended to be neutral with this forum.

    I have mixed feelings about this. I live in Bloomington, and I always get excited reading this forum and keeping track of what's going on up in Indy, but when I go, I'm always disappointed. The last time I went to the canal was a beautiful Sunday last summer. Lots of stuff going on downtown, but the canal and the park there were abandoned. My question: is this typical? Is there anything the city can do with this last plot of land that can help change that?

    and Matthew, I'm with you. Indy could use a lot more green downtown. There are many cities that have pulled off high-density development and maintained greenspace (e.g. Seattle, Chicago), but not cities that are REALLY comparable to Indy. I would love to see Indy set a trend amongst ~2 million metro/rust-belt/sprawling midwestern cities to improve greenspace downtown, but I'm not sure if this acre plot of grass is the place to start.
  • I would just like to know how many of those protesters actually use that hill (oh, I'm sorry, is it a park?). I'm sure out of towners who stroll the canal will be very impressed and write home to their families about the lovely grassy incline!
  • I agree. If the city wants to save it, can they at least clean it up a bit?

    It's half destroyed now. Maybe people like watching the historical center for some

    I'd like to see a big screen get put up and watch movies. If they would like to keep
    it that is.
  • Funny how socialists are so anxious to pave over one of the few remaining green spaces downtown.

    Or *not* funny.
  • There is plently of park space within minutes of this spot. This makes me angry,
    its not like this grass hill is a landmark. Give me a break
  • Let’s pave every inch of space downtown and build a 16 story,
    mixed use, retail/residential structure. That’s what downtowns should be.

    As a matter of fact, that pretty much IS what a real downtown is supposed to be, Mathew.

    If more of downtown was developed, and more people lived there, and there were more opportunities for shopping/dining/diversity/density, then suddenly the War Memorial greenspace would actually, by necessity, be used for something besides being a big dull traffic median.

    Why are Hoosiers so scared?!?
  • I agree with you Donna, American Legion Mall, Veterans Memorial Plaza, and University Park are usually dead with very few people unless there's a special event. Ideally, these 3 places need to be packed with people on a daily basis; not just during a few special events.
  • This plot of land is useless. It is a sloped, treeless expanse. No benches, no place to toss a frisbee. Within the Mile Square, the American Legion Mall takes up three full blocks, with a couple more north of North Street. White River State Park, Military Park, and IUPUI (not on par with the Bloomington campus, but still has plenty of green space) form a nice green belt literally one block from this waste of space, with the White River greenway just beyond. If were were talking about one of the AUL lots, or someplace in the southeast quadrant of downtown, I might be a bit more receptive to the idea of green space. But this is a useless patch in a part of the city that is extradordinarily well-served in terms of green space. What these folks don't seem to get is that deinsity downtown allows us to preserve actual winderness in other parts of the city and suburbs. Sometimes, a vacant lot is just a vacant lot.
  • Matthew, have you ever walked three or four blocks in each direction from that unremarkable grassy hillside? Tell us if you found:

    1. To the north, the original terminus of the redeveloped downtown canal, with large gently-sloping grassy spaces and the USS Indianapolis Memorial, and then more canal greenspace up to 11th St.

    2. To the west, the greenspace between Michigan and New York streets on the IUPUI campus.

    3. To the east, the blocks-long University Park/American Legion Mall area.

    4. To the south, the most interesting and active portion of the Canal Walk, including the State Government complex, the Eiteljorg, Medal of Honor Memorial, State Museum, Military Park and White River State Park.

    Compared to all those places, it really IS an unremarkable grassy hillside.
  • The economic slowdown is what is holding up development, not some would-be do gooders. No one could make a serious case for saving this spot as a real greenspace. Developing this spot should pale in comparison with getting the MSA site done. We have a beautifull culture trail that leads to a two block gravel parking lot. That is the most disappointing (lack of) development going on now!
  • This space is indeed an unremarkable grassy hillside. It certainly is not a park, as Clark Kahlo and his kind want us to believe and which apparently he's gotten both the city and state to believe. This area needs development that will bring activity right down to the canal. The canal lacks activity because it lacks anything to do other than walk, jog or ride bikes. It needs restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream stands, etc. If we wanted it be like San Antonio it aint', but possibly could be. I will be anxious to see what happens once the Cosmopolitan gets built further north at Michigan St. That should help, but that grassy hillside needs to be developed now!
  • Compliments of the following local activists: Ernest T. Bass, Emmet, Otis, The Darlings, Floyd, Howard, Barney and Aunt Bea. Indy RFD 46201.
  • Well, with all the changes coming to the History Center. IE. The back becoming the front and front becoming the Back. The hill side would make a grate place to watch this desecration Happen. I'm sure the HC doesn’t like FREE loaders getting music they didn't pay for. But, it could be that the States’ just buying time before it has to ENLARGED the Senate garage. YES the state is OUT of parking space and NEEDS more badly. (So much for smaller government) it's all the contract workers MD has hired. Look for an Enlarged Washington street garage in the near future. Say good-bye to the lawn! The Canal site is a waste of land. Really to small for a park and to small for any Real development. Hence the Hotel bridge over. A hotel/residential ‘thing’ could not use the State garage so WHERE are the going to park. So the BEST thing to do here is expand the States Senate Ave. garage and forget about it.
  • Please, let's not reap any of this on Mr. Kahlo or his do-gooders. As Jim B. noted, it is the economy that is dictating this, not anything that a so-called environmental group has achieved. Any person with an ounce of intelligence knows that this is not parkland and has never intended to be. It will be developed. Let Kahlo and his group have this so called victory because the minute that economy turns around, this lot will be roped off and development will occur. I will go as fgar as saying that this will be developed prior to the City hosting the big game.

    HOWEVER, I would like to go on record for how totally uninspiring the Canal has become. Yes, its great to go walk the dog and get pretty views of the City, but as a cultural amenity touted by the City, it is embarassing! There needs to be a reason to go down there or the City's vision will never be realized. Bugg's Temple is a very nice start, but it is just a start. The City needs to wake up and heavily promote the location of restaurants and bars along the Canal or the thing will be nothing but a pretty water attached to a suburban office park.
  • I would just like to suggest a different possibility for what happened with this project. The original project, although mostly involving state owned land, was largely the impetus of Bart Peterson and the City. This looks like it could have been an intentional or unintentional dropped ball under the new Mayor. Note, this is purely speculation based on the previous posts and stories about the project.
  • . . .and what would be wrong with a great place to walk the dog and get
    pretty views of the city?

    1 a: the quality of being pleasant or agreeable b (1): the attractiveness and
    value of real estate or of a residential structure (2): a feature conducive to
    such attractiveness and value

    If you want great eats, great jazz, respectable retail, high density housing
    walk over to Mass Ave. Not every square inch of downtown has to be retail
    and something to consume to be of value.
  • Matthew:

    Your amenity--1): the attractiveness and
    value of real estate or of a residential structure --has to have value to even be considered as realistic real estate. Any Highest and Best Use Study of this property would prove that this parcel is woefully underutilized at its current status. A park space that increased the value by luring other people to the area would be one thing, but in this case, it requires films and outdoor concerts at the Indiana Historical Society to lure people to the park space. People can consume a park, but at this point it is not a park (and the emptiness of Military park would suggest that very few people are consuming it as well.) It has no intrinsic appeal. This is a major blow to the city that nothing is getting developed on this site--this proposal listed above was particularly promising because it also developed the parking lot on the other side of the site, by the Indiana Historical Society. (Kitschy design, yes, but still a better use of the land.) I hope the optimists such as CoryW are right, because most studies indicate that downtown development is slowing far less during these tough economic times than anywhere else in a metro region.
  • For those who might care to learn more about the rationale for a public park, our rationale statement is on file with the Indiana Finance Authority. It probably won't please or persuade everyone, but it's more comprehensive than some of this blog's anoymous critics would assert. We'd be happy to discuss this proposed park with anyone-- constructively via civil discourse. Please send constructive comments to, and we'll do our best to respond.

    Clarke Kahlo
    Canal Park Advocates
  • Clarke Kahlo, could you post a summary of the rationale statement here? Thanks!
  • If the area is going to be undeveloped - with a structure that is, i would hope to see quite an extravegant park built in its place, completely oriented to the canal pedestrian with something out of the ordinary that will draw people to that canal quad. Something unique ... i was hoping for a building though ... if there was a LEED certification does anyone think a consensus could be met? i mean i would venture to say a LEED building would have green space and green oriented design intergrated into it than a plot of grass.
  • more green space and green oriented design ***
    sorry for the typo
  • There's an old post over at about predictions that the city of Venice will, in 20 years or so, be a museum of itself and will exists only for tourists: no one will live there any more, when the tourists leave at 10pm after dinner the island will gate up and shut down til the next morning. A commenter noted that Venice is a city that has been killed by its own beauty.

    Last time we discussed this now-dead proposal someone commented that the psuedo-Venetian aesthetic of the building was somehow appropriate to this site because the canal development was based on Venice. So I started musing on how Indy and Venice could actually be alike: how could Indy go about killing itself by its own beauty? If Venice became OVERLY successful due to being so completely and insanely what it is - a fantasy built on dreams - how can Indy mimic that passion and find its ultimate Indy-ness? An Indy quality so desirable that it would destroy itself?

    Unfortunately, I fear that how Indy will kill itself is by its own niceness. Things are nice here, nice as opposed to dramatic, fearless, challenging, risky, etc. Indy is doesn't want to be too densely built-up, or too bold, or too forward-thinking about how a city could consider developing in an uncertain century. We want things to stay the same. And that is how we'll stagnate and become completely irrelevant.

    Just some musings too late at night, and inappropriate to a real estate blog, but I wonder where these discussions are happening in this city? Because they need to.
  • I am not opposed to the development of parkland or greenspace. HOWEVER, as mentioned by Dandelion, the patch of grass needs to provide the user with something and unfortunately, this hill doesn't do that. It would be one thing if Indianapolis was a concrete jungle, but the City is packed full or green, especially downtown!
  • I think its funny how worked up people get about a lawn.

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............