State solicits ideas for bicentennial plaza near Statehouse

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Significant portions of Indiana's 2016 bicentennial celebration could take place on a new public plaza west of the Statehouse.

The Indiana Department of Administration this week issued a request for information for a “bicentennial plaza” that would be located at the intersection of Robert D. Orr Plaza and Senate Avenue. The RFI is the state’s way of determining the feasibility of such a project, and if responses aren’t adequate, the state won’t move forward.

The administration department is working with the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, which began considering bicentennial-related capital projects at the urging of Gov. Mike Pence, who was a history major at Hanover College and has taken a strong interest in the bicentennial events, said Chris Jensen, executive director of the commission.

“The plaza idea is one that came up as a longstanding legacy capital project the commission can get behind,” Jensen said.

The RFI tells potential bidders to assume a $2 million construction budget, which Jensen said probably will be funded through public and private sources.

The commission recently added a staff member with expertise in fundraising, Jensen said.

The commission was appointed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels and has been at work for the past two and a half years. Friday is Jensen's last day as executive director. He is headed to a job in the private sector and will be replaced by Perry Hammock, who joined the commission staff in March after serving as executive director of resource development at Ivy Tech Community College, where he worked for 33 years.

The RFI for the plaza also asks respondents to incorporate native Indiana materials, recognition of the 92 counties, a water feature, a time capsule and a torch light.

One of the signature activities of the bicentennial is a 92-county torch relay, which will culminate in Indianapolis in October 2016. Jensen said the torch relay will go forward whether or not a plaza is built, but the event’s planners hope to find a way to incorporate an everlasting flame into the plaza’s design.

Indiana's statehood day is Dec. 11, but the major outdoor celebration might be held in October to take advantage of better weather, Jensen said.

Potential bidders may also incorporate Robert D. Orr Plaza, the east side of West Street and the western edge of the Statehouse grounds in their designs, according to the RFI.

The administration department, which handles state public works projects, also wants to create a welcome center at the State Library, which has an entrance on Senate Avenue across from the west entrance of the Statehouse, Jensen said. The welcome center would be aimed at educating the legions of fourth-graders who tour the Statehouse every year while learning about Indiana history, he said.

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