Vision takes shape for Canal 'bridge'

August 22, 2007
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Canal HotelKansas-based LodgeWorks LP continues to refine its proposal for a hotel project that would include a bridge over the Central Canal. The proposal, designed by Chicago-based ASC Architects, calls for:
  • A four-story bridge over the Canal that would include a two-story lobby, along with hotel rooms on the third and fourth floors.
  • A gazebo, garden and cascading waterfall on the west side of the Canal, just south of the bridge. The waterfall would empty into the canal under the sidewalk.
  • A main hotel entrance on the eastern edge of the Indiana History Center parking lot. The proposal would require reconfiguration of the lot but most spots would remain.
  • A patio for a restaurant and cafe on the west side of the Canal and patio for meeting facilities on the east side.

  • In its proposal, LodgeWorks writes: "We came to an understanding that the Canal District had no focal point. It has a soul but no heart. LodgeWorks proposes to build a hotel over the Central Canal, thereby creating another striking symbol for the city of Indianapolis." The company owns or operates 17 hotels, mainly on the coasts. This would be its first in Indiana.


    The plan is one of two proposals for a one-acre state-owned property along the Canal between Ohio and New York streets. Browning Investments and Dora Brothers Hospitality are pitching a hotel and retail space. Your turn: An environmental group is lobbying to preserve the land as open space instead. Should it be developed? If so, which proposal do you like?

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    • it should NOT be this. this just sucks. looks like the other buildings to the north. BAD BAD BAD.
    • An environmental group is opposed? I saw part of the environmental pitch last night on channel 16. It basically an I was here first argument with the historical society. The group is calling it canal park....isn't the canal a park and a large park connected to the canal? The group said since the historical society building is there and the lawn is used for viewing concerts, the lawn shouldn't be developed. Come on, it is using someone else property and thinking they have rights to it.

      To answer your question I would like to see it developed and to have as much interaction with the canal as possible.

      Cory maybe this the proper question:
      Would this environmental group be opposed if the Historical Society building wasn't there?
    • I think it is an interesting proposal. The design is 10 times better than the Browning/Dora proposal's blah design. I think crossing the canal and building on the west side could create a very nice structure. The design isn't cutting edge excellence, but it is a pleasant design.
    • Of the proposed designs/uses, this is the best. I would still like something a little more striking, especially if their pitch is to create an iconic sight for Indy. The buildings do look a lot like the rest of the area and the bridge is a bridge, but not particularly exciting beyond that.

      I don't really understand this environmental argument at all. Exactly what negative impact is this development supposed to have? If they are worried about green space, does the inclusion of a garden help?
      Also, is it just me or does the canal look really wide in that artist's portrayal? Or maybe its just the person in the obligatory gondola looks really small...
    • I really like it. I think this will really add so much to the feel of the canal. Cheers to Lodgeworks for going above and beyond with this proposal. Now hopefully the city will have some sense and work with them.
    • I feel that the canal is not a destination today. This would help make it such. I'm in favor of any design that would get the canal recognized as a unique value to Indianapolis.

      In my job, I entertain a lot of people from out of state. Rarely do they even know that the canal exists.

      I would love to see more restaurants, entertainment, and such along the canal. Anything to get people out of their homes and enjoying what the city has to offer.
    • Love it. You don't want a Chrome/Glass Modern Structure around the canal. Everyone's arguments on here is it looks liek the othe rbuildings on the canal! GOOD! You want it all to flow and look like ti was created at the same time with the same vision. You wouldn't want a row of historical buildings street front downtown indy with brick and then plop a crazy radical designed building in the middle of them. If it was on it's own, I would deman better design. I want this built. I would spend more time down there if I new I could go eat or just sit in the plaza and it was more of a destination. Great Work LodgeWorks.
    • sorry for the typos.
    • Oh and the waterfall feature, will be great to help combat the algae in the canal in that area. The more movent of the water will create less stagnation, thus keeping that area of the canal more clean and fresh looking.
    • I like the Lodgeworks proposal. I'm not completely familiar with the appearance of other buildings in this area, but to me, this structure has a bit of European flavor to it.

      One thing, though. The bridge here would strictly serve hotel guests, right? So there'd be no pedestrian advantage. That's not a problem if there won't be any independent shops on the other side.
    • I like the Lodgeworks LP proposal. The Browning design doesn't deserve a second thought, it's horrible. I'd like to see the design pushed a bit further. It should be mandatory for them to include apartments and more space for restaurants and shops.

      The Historical Society parking lot has got to go. Aesthetically, I don't know which downtown parking lot is more offensive, theirs, or the lot right up against the Capitol Building.
    • I find the whole environmental aspect to be negligible at best. I certainly understand the need for greenspace, but frankly, this is a very narrow strip of land that only has grass on it because it would look lousy as a dirt pile. It would be one thing if the downtown didn't have Military Park, White River Park, the American Legion Mall, etc, but to put up a fight for this land is just, well, stupid. Plus, it is DOWNTOWN. If you want to commune with nature go to Eagle Creek.

      As for the design, I like it. My only problem is the disruption the building of it is going to make. Since it will be next to impossible to get too much heavy machinery down there easily, then you can bet that one lane of New York and Ohio will be blocked off, and of course, at least one side of the canal at a time will be, too. This is more a gripe really...not a reason to prevent development. It will just be bad for those of us who walk/bike the canal a lot.
    • Yes, this is the best design so far for the canal that I've seen. I was walking it the other day and thinking..I'm not real sure what kind of 'striking' design people are looking for. Anyone care to offer any suggestions? I think the water feature is a MUST, returning to the algae problem mentioned above. It's really gross. Also, tell the environmental group to use their energy in Avon or Plainfield. Pave paradise and put up a... big old strip mall!! OR, maybe they could lobby for a green roof on the new convention center!!
    • I agree that the canal area needs more restaurants and entertainment options. If Indy is working toward becoming a convention city, it would be great to have something that competed more with San Antonio's River Walk.
    • While graphically the Lodgeworks design is compelling, a perspective rendering is simply flare. I think there are serious issues with both designs but cannot speak to either complete design as seeing a single image does nothing to explain function, pedestrian flow and scale. I do know of one issue that the Lodgeworks design has. There is a sky plane along the canal and ALL buildings have either complied or come very close with variances to complying with what amounts to a step back. Curiously enough the Lodgeworks design blatantly violates this skyplane with its bridge. I am sure that the Browning design violates something with its height but seeing as how all we have to go on are artistic renderings and uninformed banter, I don't think judgement should be passed on design simply from a few pictures.

      ablerock.. parking is one of the biggest issues along the canal. All designs should address it and while the lot at the Historical Society is somehow offensive to you. how else are you going to get people to the canal unless car addicted Hoosiers can drive there.
    • ianeck, you want to chip in on your already overtaxation to help pay for that green roof. don't get me wrong i can hold my own with any environmentalist or conservationist, but we can't just throw around ideas like that as if they cost the same and people understand what it means to create a green roof. intensive or extensive? will the developer get any breaks for doing so and reducing runoff? Are there other sustainable techniques that are more feasible, solar? geothermal? gray water? I am sure that LEED was looked at. The market for green in Indiana is small at best right now. While Venue may change all of that, until a developer goes full bore and becomes green only, it won't happen, but then again its market driven and if the consumer starts demanding it more than through blogs and does it with their checkbooks, it won't happen.

      living green is more than saving a small or large piece of open space or using technology to make our buildings more efficient, its a mass change in our society and way of living. to live green is to change the way you live and the person standing next to you, and changing their way of living to include an attitude that they will change someone else. Most of the arguements against the Canal Hotel are simply NIMBY arguements. You use the canal for this or you like the canal for that. ITS A WATER TREATMENT CANAL FOLKS, THERE IS NOTHING NATURAL ABOUT IT. Our city continues to grow and the more roadblocks we put up in front of that development the more our cities stigma as a small underdeveloped midwester TOWN will perpetuate. We are the little sister to the SECOND CITY. Either we grow up or fade away.
    • boring
    • I've never seen such a diachotic community! Density wise, this is probably the sparsest community of 500,000+ people in the US. We have acre after acre of 'greenspace'---most of it abandoned & boarded up with a smattering of weeds and untended to land. Plymouth, Illinois, a community approximately 30 miles south of Chicago(16,100 population) has more new retail going up than all of Marion County, Indiana. These 'oversight' committees need to get a grip on reality.
    • This design is AWEFUL! It doesn't relate whatsoever to the surrounding structures. The wannabe Pont de Vecchio-esque design is terribly derivative and unimaginative. The overall design looks suburban. This bridge doesn't deserve to be a focal point of the canal. In summation, just plain terrible.
    • brad, not oversight committees, its IHPC and Regional Center. They try to preserve something that they feel is the heart of Indianapolis, a small town feel. Its only small in comparison to every other large metro area in the US. Its actually a pretty large city. Development is still recovering downtown. Just b/c we have new stadiums and a sprawling mall doesn't mean that indy is done growing. I know that and so do countless others but it seems that some of these committees have different opinions, trying to thwart growth with restrictions and rules. Try getting something cutting edge on the canal? not going to happen, the good people at IHPC will object that it doesn't respect the history of Indianapolis. Maybe if we propose to build a barn there it will succeed.
    • I have to defend IHPC here. My first hand experience is that they are open to cutting edge design and feel that it contributes to the fabric of the historic districts. Unfortunately, I also have to agree with some others (JAK) that have voiced concern about this design. I am not sure that it merits the position of focus that it will be given. The canal is wonderful and underused. It needs more retail pedestrian oriented development. This design demotes it to lobby status in an upscale hotel.
    • Cory, could you repost the Browning/Dora design?
    • Competing casinos on both sides of the canal would be the only chance of this baby drawing a crowd.
    • How can an environmental group complain about infill development downtown? What would they prefer, sprawl and another bland chain out on the next interchange out the fringes?

      There is no parking problem on the Canal. Rarely does Senate Ave. have any cars parked on it. The problem is that the lots are all private and ban anyone who isn't in the building from parking there. Hence on Saturday you have gigantic lots that are padlocked shut.
    • I agree w/ JAK. Tragic design. More retro mish-mash probably executed in Sto.
      Its not much of a stretch to see very nice, modern infill - check out what's
      happening in Chicago. Clean urban and urbane design. Sensitive but current.
      More blather just like south of Lockerbe's Kosene developments.
      Where's the green statement? Doesn't exist.
    • Actually, I like it.

      Also, I think I've finally figured out why development is such a long and tedious process in Indianapolis....... every member of the community is an Architecture expert/critic and nobody can agree on anything. Someone on these boards, I forget his name, is CONTINUOUSLY maoning about non-traditional footprints and it makes me laugh every time... hee hee... just thought about it. Downtown Indianapolis is FREQUENTLY held up as an example to the rest of the country as to what quality redevelopment and development should look like, but to hear this citys own residents tell it, you'd think we were all living in the most backward city in the country.

      I am proud to take my out of town visitors downtown to show them around. Almost without exception, they are left with a very favorable impression, not only of what this city already has in place but for the potential it holds. That is a key thing.... this downtown still holds a LOT of potential, whereas a lot of the cities we are frequently compared to are just about maxed out. Indy is full of jewels, whether we all recognize them or not, that many cities would be proud to have as a part of their fabric.
    • The leader of the environmental group that is opposed to development of this site opposes EVERYTHING and is the leader of the local CAVE organization (Citizens Against Virtually Everything). Pay them no mind! That mound of grass is in no way shape or form an inviting public space. And if you want to watch a concert, I suggest rounding the corner and sitting at the actual concert pavillion. As for parking, I have NEVER had a problem parking at the Canal. The north basin is a breeze to park and access. Those of you that complain about parking, do you really expect to park in the front when you are downtown? This isn't Kroger or Marsh.

      Of the two proposals, I think that this one is far and away the best and would make the Canal and even better attraction. Face it people, the Canal is a major underacheiver and needs a bold development to actually take it to the next level. Oklahoma City's Bricktown Canal is far better than ours and they used ours as a model!!

      Downtown Indy needs more density, not grass. We need more buildings and people, not grass.
    • Overall, I like the design. A couple of things come to mind:

      1) Adding balconies would go a long way in terms of improving how the structure engages the canal.

      2) We don't need more hotel rooms downtown. Apartments would be ideal.
    • Well Cool, some of us are actually trained in architecture and design and
      therefore have higher expectations than others. We see what is being
      built around the around the world and only want the best for our city.
      Sure our city's downtown, in comparison to many our size, is in good shape.
      I want it to be great.
    • The canal not only begs for, needs, and was originally planned and designed for fairly dense development and activities that attract and cater to the human being! That would mean retail, restaurants, shops, cafes, pubs, etc. The hotel concept is good, the current designs remain old school with no new and exciting proposals. Opportunities have been limited for the cutting edge design and development down there. What have we spent, $100M developing the canal in the name of transportation and economic development over the last 20 years? This area should and must become an activity zone that caters to being there, spending money there, and having a good time there. Unfortunately we are not there yet! Maybe a design charrett or competition could push this out there where it shoudl be?
    • CJ -

      The Browning design complies with the sky plane. The sky plane requires the building to step back at different heights. Once the building steps back far enough from the center line of the canal, the building height is unrestricted.
    • In defense of the Indiana Historical Society and their greenspace, check out their summer agenda (currently underway) for Thursday night concerts on the canal, lunchtime concerts on the canal, and movie nights. I support the development of the greenspace, but you must keep in mind that this is not just a patch of grass to some people; I have been walking on the canal during these concerts and they get a turnout; people love coming to the canal, sitting on the grass, and listening to music.
    • http://www.indianahistory.org/summer2007.html check it out
    • I'm not a fan of faux-historicism, except in very rare cases. I'd much rather see a design here that looks modern, including a modern vernacular that seems appropriate to Indiana, not Venice.

      That said, I do like the engagement with the canal here. It's another case, it seems, of me liking the mass and footprint of a building, but not the wrapper (which in this case looks seriously wrapper-like).

      Any chance of seeing a plan? That might change my attitude.
    • I agree that the LodgeWorks design is by far the best. I like this bridge concept better than the original, which seemed a bit more restrictive and close to the canal space. I'm still not sure if I am keen on the idea of placing another bridge over the canal. The nice thing about walking, running,, biking , etc... on the canal is the amount of sun and sky you have along the water. Like others have said, not everyone is going to agree on the desing and not everyone is going to agree on building or keeping greenspace. The one thing that we all should agree upon is that it is great someone outside our city is willing to invest in our great city and bring shops and restaurants to our beautiful canal space.
    • Katie -- the summer concert series is wonderful at the Indiana History Center, but the grassy hill is not theirs. It's only dumb luck that they happen to be across the canal from that area.

      There are huge amounts of greenspace along the canal. I don't think it's necessary to maintain this strip of grass just to have a free viewing area for 14 concerts and 3 movies per year. Instead, we can have 365 days of cafes and restaurants in that space (or 180 if you only want to count the times you'd want to be outside). Whether we like the designs or not, the proposed developments are all better uses of the land.
    • CoryW--I agree with you, Bricktown in OKC is much better. They have built the canal as an entertainment/dining/shopping destination, not as a place to live or to stay in a hotel while visiting. Their rendering of an urban canal is much closer to the original model (San Antonio) than ours.

      How did we get away from that vision and into the downtown hotel hub idea? Maybe we wanted the dining on downtown streets instead?
    • It is funny to hear the architects and architect wannabees. Since architects rarely agree on a building, it does not surprise me we hear some saying too much and some too little. The canal was designed to be Venice inspired. Hence the Venice style bridges, the Venice style buildings, and the Venice style gondolas. I think the Lodgworks design with the Pont De Vechio inspired bridge is perfect. It also helps to hide the NY Street bridge and the SOB I (IGC for newer citizens) which is boring.

      I also have to agree that this site has always been planned for development. If the Historical Society wanted it for movie night, they should have bought it.
    • Maybe the TGI Fridays that is in the Courtyard by Marriott could relocate here as well as more restaurants. My choice would be to put more restaurants on canal level/one level up with patio/balcony dining and then apartments or hotel rooms for the upper levels. There needs to be more activity on the canal, it is underused.
    • For the record, I'm not an architect or a wannabe. I am interested in public spaces and how they contribute to, or detract from, the urban fabric. I'm generally much more concerned about how the space is used and how durable the buildings are than the style.

      Style is such a personal taste. Just because this isn't Italy, does that mean we should tear down all the Italianate and Italian-influenced structures in town and never build any modern interpretations of those styles? I don't think so.

      Personally, I'd be in favor of outlawing that stucco-on-styrofoam stuff inside the Regional Center, but I don't get to make the rules.
    • This design is ok. I need more renderings before making a final decision. However, it is far superior to the Browning proposal. Plus, Browning is teamed up with Dora. The city should RUN, not just walk away from anything that has to do with interstate-exit Dora.
    • Three quick notes:

      1) The IHPC has no jurisdiction here. cj simply has no idea what IHPC does or stands for, and should stop with the desperate attempt to bad mouth a city agency he obviously don't understand.

      2) The Historical Society (no relation to the IHPC), which sits in a fake historic building, should have bought the land.

      3) A public design competition would win broad support and would be a tremendous gesture of good will by the owner.
    • Public Design Competition...now that is the singularly best comment on this entire wall. Thanks Requitus, and thanks for clarifying what IHPC is/does. It is refreshing that some people actually know.
    • rush4ever, this is the problem: The canal was designed to be Venice inspired. Hence the Venice style bridges, the Venice style buildings, and the Venice style gondolas.

      But this isn't Venice. This is a land-locked state in the 21st Century United States. What is appropriate about planting a 500 year old Italian seafront city style in contemporary Indiana?

      Achieving an urban scale, rhythm, massing, and richness SIMILAR to historic Venice but with a modern appearance is entirely possible, and in my opinion, far more desirable.
    • I want to state that I am not wholly against a bridge, just this one. Something important that is often neglected in large-scale development and its design is the context of the area around it. Any development should relate to and be considerate of the surrounding buildings and environment while also being important and significant in its own right. In densely developed urban areas, this is vital to the design of a good building. Modern and historic can easily coexists and combine to create a complete and dynamic cityscape. The Lodgeworks proposal is entirely out of context.
    • JAK -- how can you say the Lodgeworks proposal is out of context? Its height and massing are in line with all buildings around it. The ground floor stone work mimics that of the Indiana History Center. The color reflects that of Canal Square and the Residence Inn. Its faux-Venetian styling matches the gondolas, the pedestrian bridge to the north and that segment of the canal in general. Hell, even the pitch of the roofline matches Canal Square.

      Am I missing something? Feel free to dislike the design -- I'm personally on the fence -- but I fail to see how ANY element of the design is OUT of context with its surroundings.
    • Its faux-Venetian styling matches the gondolas...

      Is this like designing buildings to match our cars, whose styles change every year? ;-)

      But I agree, CorrND - it matches its surroundings, and in terms of styling I wish it didn't; I wish it looked of its time.
    • CorrND, I would suggest that when those buildings where built, they too were largely out of context. If i had been around when Canal Square and the Residence in were built I would have said the same thing. Two wrongs don't make a right, and more bad buildings won't make the canal a better place. What really is needed (or should have been done) was a development plan for the canal with guidelines to direct appropriate development.
    • Except we couldn't have our cake and eat it too. We wanted downtown retail and restaurants, so that was the first priority for retail and restaurants.

      There WAS a plan for the Canal district. It was positioned as a cool urban living space, so a bunch of apartments and condos (no doubt pro-forma driven) were built with the canal as an amenity but utterly without canal-level life to attract people. Remember (those old enough) that the push for the past 15 years has been more people living in the Mile Square. (In my files somewhere are the City RFPs for all the apartment and condo sites along the Canal.)

      Where have you gone, Jane Jacobs? We keep repeating the mistakes she highlighted forty years ago, albeit in new ways.
    • Where were these damn people protesting when Simon built their HQ? o_O
    • I like it! Doesn't a canal evoke thoughts of Venice, anyway? To me it does. I think the design fits. And by the way, it's Ponte Vecchio, not some other derivation as seen in some of these postings.
    • Though, darker tones would be better.
      This can give a center peice for the canal, and boost density up up up!
      This will probably contribute to the european feel of the canal.
      The design though not amazing, has an amazing shape, and the way it goes over the canal is just.. very old world.
      I hope this is chosen over that cold brown brick building with no street level.
    • Build the hotel, the greenspace is useless there.
    • I also see no merit in the environmentalists' argument. This is basically an infill project, which is what you want to see when you are concerned about the wise use of space in an urban development.

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