Members of the Indianapolis City-County Council shouldn’t see their decision to reject a proposed taxing district to raise money for extra security and beautification downtown as the end of a controversial discussion.
It should be just the beginning.
That’s because the problems that supporters of the economic improvement district wanted to fix haven’t gone away. They’re not going away. Not without intervention.
And failing to address those problems—particularly concerns about safety and security—could have serious consequences for the future of downtown and the city as a whole.
Consider the words of Dennis Dye, a principal at TWG Development, when he spoke to the council in support of the taxing district. Dye told councilors that perceptions of safety and cleanliness downtown have declined over recent years and that it’s important to spend money on improvement.
“This is a real issue,” said Dye, whose company has led a number of recent development efforts and whose offices are downtown. “It’s not something that’s going to go away without some effort.”
And Hugh McGowan, who runs McGowan Insurance at 355 Indiana Ave., told the council he feels a responsibility “to our tenants, our customers, our employees to keep them safe” and it’s “something I worry about.”
We can’t afford to let Dye, McGowan and others like them lose faith and confidence in downtown.
We don’t entirely blame the council for its decision to reject the taxing district. We supported the effort, led by not-for-profit promotion group Downtown Indy, which appeared to garner enough signatures from property owners to meet a threshold necessary for the plan to be considered by the council. (Opponents—including Indiana Apartment Association—quibble with some of those signatures but we are willing to give Downtown Indy the benefit of the doubt.)
But in reality, there were just barely enough signatures—and it seems Downtown Indy struggled to get them. We’re not sure the group was clear enough from the beginning about the way it intended to spend the money.
We’re disappointed, too, that the apartment industry never made any credible counterproposal. After all, if confidence in downtown erodes, it’s the owners of the thousands of downtown apartments that might first feel the effects.
Overall, we are concerned about a changing perception of downtown. An increase in the number of panhandlers, a proliferation of potholes and the deterioration of Circle Centre mall (even given Simon Property Group’s plan for improvements) all contribute to the belief among many that downtown is not as appealing as it used to be.
Whether the concerns are real or just perceptions is almost irrelevant. What matters is whether residents and visitors want to be downtown—and their decisions will affect the future of the city.
City officials can’t ignore the questions and concerns about downtown. Maybe the Mile Square taxing district wasn’t the right answer to address the problems. But we’re eager to find out what is. City officials: Let us know soon what you have in mind.•
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