Editorial: Broader vision needed for Circle

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With Emmis Corp. moving to sell its Monument Circle headquarters and the owner of Circle Tower facing foreclosure, it’s time for conversations about the future of the city’s landmark roundabout to turn into serious action.

The experiment this summer with Spark on the Circle, a pop-up park that has temporarily closed the southwest quadrant, has been a fun opportunity to explore some possibilities.

Kids have been able to romp around and build towers with large foam blocks. Visitors have been able to sit in Adirondack chairs and enjoy a glass of wine from a snack bar. Teens have been taking each other on in spirited games of pingpong.

But these are just temporary diversions from the conversations that have been going on for years about envisioning a new future for the Circle—a vision that is needed even more now that the post-pandemic work-from-home phenomenon has prevented office buildings from filling back up.

Now that Emmis has decided to sell its building, and the nearby former Anthem Inc. headquarters building has been mostly vacant for the past six years, it’s time for a closer look at what should happen with the entire western half of the Circle. The city must zoom in on solutions that would bring more regular visitors to the area to replace all the office workers who no longer make the daily commute.

Emmis announced this week that it has listed its headquarters for $35 million, with hopes of securing a buyer that could continue using the building as office space.

Maybe closing the entire western half of the Circle to traffic wouldn’t help in that endeavor. But maybe it could open up the area to other kinds of development, with residential development on the upper floors of some buildings and restaurants and entertainment venues at the ground level, spilling out into a pedestrian park.

We’re not saying that’s necessarily the best approach, but we hope Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and his Republican challenger, Jefferson Shreve, will lay out a clear vision on what they think would best maintain and improve the Circle’s vibrancy. Then, whoever wins the mayor’s race should take action. And soon.

The eastern half of the Circle can’t be ignored, either. Closing it to vehicular traffic seems less appealing because some patrons of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Columbia Club like to be dropped off at the door and use valet parking.

But a larger vision would still benefit those entities and help provide a solid future for Circle Tower. The owner of that building is facing foreclosure proceedings after Centier Bank filed a lawsuit this week accusing it of falling behind on payments for a $13.5 million loan secured for the property in July 2020.

We’ve already urged the city—and its partners—to expand this year’s temporary Spark park effort into something permanent.

But now it’s time for broader and more serious action.

The city, Downtown Indy Inc., Big Car Collaborative, the Capital Improvement Board and the Indiana War Memorials Commission did a great job collaborating to put together the temporary park.

Now we need developers, business leaders, city-county councilors, downtown residents and others to join the fray and come up with the best plan to make sure the Circle remains vibrant now and for future generations.•

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