Councilor launches opposition to Georgia Street renaming

A City-County councilor has joined the growing opposition to the city’s controversial push to rename Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis.

Democrat Angela Mansfield submitted a resolution that could be heard at the Oct. 3 City-County Council meeting. It urges Mayor Greg Ballard and the Metropolitan Development Commission to “cease and desist from all efforts to rename Georgia Street.”

City and community leaders began considering the name change for the 190-year-old street earlier this year after construction crews began a massive $12 million streetscape overhaul of the three-block stretch. The idea, they said, was to create a fresh identity for the street in time for the city’s hosting of the 2012 Super Bowl on Feb. 5. The project is designed to create a major public gathering place between the Indiana Convention Center and Conseco Fieldhouse.

But opposition to a name change is mounting, evidenced by Mansfield’s resolution and a Facebook page created by Joan Hostetler to make a case against the rebranding.

“I’m not big on changing street names,” Mansfield said Wednesday morning, “and even more so on this one because it’s a historic name.”

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

Influential urban design blogger Aaron Renn also has voiced his concerns about a change.

“Oddly, the backers of this don’t actually have a name in mind,” he wrote. “They just want to chuck the existing one and are doing a design by committee on a new name. The one suggestion I’ve seen floated publicly, Hospitality Way, is utterly cringe-worthy.”

Ballard’s spokesman Marc Lotter said Wednesday morning that the mayor is encouraged by the debate that’s occurring and he stressed that no final decision has been made.

“Any time you talk about change, in any respect, you’re always going to stir passions on both sides,” Lotter said.

Some city officials and Indianapolis Downtown Inc. are leading the effort to rebrand the street. Residents could submit their suggestions in an online survey that ended Sept. 13.

The Metropolitan Development Commission is set to consider the change Oct. 19. Its recommendation would be forwarded to Mayor Greg Ballard, who has final say on a change.

Mansfield, though, is hoping Council approval of her resolution might be enough to sway city officials to keep the Georgia Street name.

“Given the huge impact these businesses have suffered (during construction), and then to change the address on them, it’s just pouring salt into the wound,” Mansfield said.

The project, funded primarily with federal stimulus dollars, has closed Georgia Street to traffic, causing several bars and restaurants along the stretch to lose business.

It’s scheduled for completion in October, three months before Indianapolis is scheduled to host the Super Bowl.

The stretch from Capitol Avenue to Pennsylvania Street will feature a covered pedestrian mall in the median, sandwiched on both sides by a lane of traffic and a wide sidewalk.

Lotter said city officials are considering a permanent name change rather than a temporary one for just the Super Bowl because the project is expected to have a lasting impact on the city long after the game. The city frequently renames downtown streets for a few days at a time during big events.

“This location is going to be a signature place, not just for the Super Bowl and the Big Ten football championships, but for conventions and for events at Conseco Fieldhouse,” he said. “It’s not just a one-time feature.”


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