New downtown historic district in works-WEB ONLY

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Buildings on Monument Circle and its immediate surroundings would be protected from demolition and inappropriate alteration under plans being drawn to create a new downtown historic district.

The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, a unit of city government, is working on creation of the Monument Circle-Downtown Historic District using $15,000 in funding from the Central Indiana Community Foundation’s Efroymson Family Fund.

Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, a statewide not-for-profit that works to preserve historic buildings, pushed for creation of the district to protect what landmarks’ President Marsh Davis calls “the most dense and historic commercial center in our state.”

Among the buildings in the district is the Illinois Building, at the southeast corner of Illinois and Market streets, which recently was considered at risk for demolition by Historic Landmarks. The long-vacant Consolidated Building, in the 100 block of North Pennsylvania Street, also would be protected by the historic district.

Plans for the district, including an inventory of buildings in the district and guidelines for new development and building alterations, should be finished by late summer. At that time, IHPC will seek input from property owners and tenants in the affected area. If there are few objections, the city could approve the plan as soon as December, said David Baker, IHPC administrator. Baker said creation of the district has been a goal of preservationists for at least a dozen years.

The area affected is bordered roughly by Delaware Street on the east and Capitol Avenue on the west. The southern boundary is the north side of Washington Street, but the district extends to the south side of Washington Street between Illinois and Pennsylvania streets.
The district’s northern boundary is a jagged line drawn to include all buildings on Monument Circle and certain buildings on the south side of Ohio Street east of Pennsylvania.

Most of the buildings within the boundaries were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, but that federal designation provides little protection to buildings threatened with demolition.

The new district essentially would extend the historic Wholesale District, a downtown area south of Washington Street that has been under IHPC purview since 1990.
Besides the Wholesale District, IHPC presides over 10 districts, including Chatham Arch, Fountain Square, the Old Northside and six blocks of Massachusetts Avenue. Property owners and tenants in local historic districts must get approval from IHPC before altering building exteriors. Requests to demolish buildings in the districts are rarely granted.

Areas with historic designations often attract more investment than similar areas that aren’t so designated. Davis said the extra oversight gives those who want to invest in an area assurance that surrounding developments will be held to a high standard.

Mike Campbell, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn, which is adjacent to Monument Circle on East Market Street, said hotel guests regularly comment on the beauty of the historic buildings that surround the hotel. The hotel also promotes the history of the building it occupies, the historic Fletcher Trust building.

“It would lose some flavor if older buildings were lost and glass boxes put up in their place,” Campbell said.

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