City presents concepts for Henry Street bridge connecting Elanco, downtown

A conceptual design of the proposed Henry Street bridge spanning the White River, called "Circle City Gateway." (Image courtesy of Indianapolis Department of Public Works)

Indianapolis city officials this week presented a pair of potential designs for the new Henry Street bridge spanning the White River to nearby residents.

The bridge would connect The Valley neighborhood—which includes the former General Motors stamping plant property, where Elanco Animal Health Inc. plans to build its new headquarters—to the south side of downtown, including the proposed Eleven Park campus that would occupy the Diamond Chain Manufacturing Co. property.

The Henry Street bridge would accommodate both cars and pedestrians and is a key component in the city’s infrastructure-heavy incentive package to bring Greenfield-based Elanco downtown.

The structure—a joint project between the city’s Department of Public Works and the Department of Metropolitan Development—is expected to cost about $15 million to $20 million, with targeted completion by March 2025. About $51 million in infrastructure for the site was approved last July as part of a larger funding package for Elanco’s project. 

The presentation to residents in The Valley laid out two “rough” design concepts, a Department of Public Works spokesperson told IBJ in an email. The meeting allowed the city to receive feedback on the proposals, but did not include a vote on which residents preferred.

The agency plans to continue engaging with The Valley and other nearby neighborhoods in the coming months, with plans to incorporate historic elements and “neighborhood points of pride” into the design, Ben Easley, DPW’s director of communications, told IBJ in an email.

“Certainly, strong elements of either concept represented here—in addition to other ideas that came about from the meeting—could be included in the final” design, Easley said. “The design process is still very much ongoing.”

Each of the proposals feature a 26-foot-wide, two-lane road, as well as a separate pedestrian path, 6-foot sidewalk and bicycle trail that would likely connect to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Both designs also include sitting areas, planters, green space and public art or community-focused design elements.

But the concepts differ in their design execution. One includes archways atop the bridge supports, creating a quasi-gateway between the two sides of the river. The other takes a more contemporary, simple approach and features standard support beams. Both have a slight curve about halfway across.

The bridge is expected to traverse the new portion of White River State Park, as well as a small piece of land near the eastern bank of the river that was historically called Governor’s Island.

“The Henry Street Bridge is a major milestone for accessibility in our city. This iconic, generational investment in Indianapolis’ first multi-modal bridge is a testament to Mayor Hogsett’s goal of enhancing connectivity in downtown and across our city,” Scarlett Andrews, director of DMD, said in written remarks.

“The bridge plays a pivotal role in our downtown resiliency strategy by activating the $100 million Elanco Global HQ and expanding downtown’s footprint into the Valley Neighborhood. As the design process continues, we look forward to collaborating with neighborhood stakeholders in the development of this historic infrastructure.”

DMD and DPW staff are expected to continue working on the bridge design over the next year, in addition to working on coordinating utility work and meeting with residents and consulting parties.

Bids for bridge construction are expected to go out in August 2023, after the design portion is completed. Construction on Henry Street on each side of the bridge is expected to begin about one month later, with completion set for November 2024.

Indianapolis firms Meticulous Design and Architecture and Context Design are the architectural firms on the project. The Indianapolis office of New York City-based WSP USA is the engineering firm.

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24 thoughts on “City presents concepts for Henry Street bridge connecting Elanco, downtown

  1. Of the 2 I like the archways the best. IMHO I would like to seem something bolder and more dramatic/iconic that would be a showcase of Indianapolis.

    1. I agree with Joel. Both concepts are, pardon the pun, quite pedestrian. I know it all comes down to money, but the city needs to up its game.

  2. The Valley is already connected to downtown via the underused Oliver bridge. This is not needed and will just be another expensive thing the city cannot afford to maintain decades from now.

    1. Why is it “absolutely needed”? I’ll grant that these bridges look cool but why does the city NEED another White River crossing? No one within the city has even tried to justify this bridge, most likely because there is no justification other than vanity and corporate subsidy.

    2. What you fail to realize is that Indy is competing against its peer cities let alone the rest of the country, to attract talent from all over. Indy needs a cool factor and believe it or not, younger generations of the new talent and workforce Indy seeks, desire cool architecture like this. Don’t underestimate the value of investing in cool designs like this that gives the city character and appeal. If this was built in another city, everyone from Indiana visiting that city would say, what a cool bridge. For some reason indiana doesn’t like to provide that same wow factor to its own cities.

    3. Kevin P — I don’t fail to recognize that we’re in competition. I just fail to see how spending infrastructure dollars on pure vanity projects is a wise use of the limited infrastructure dollars that DPW has today. If they’re building this bridge, they’re not doing something else essential in the city and those collected little things have a compound negative effect on quality of life that will also turn off talent coming to Indianapolis.

      Do I wish we had money to do all the little things right AND build a cool bridge? Yes (and yes, these are definitely cool bridge designs). But if we choose to kick the can down the road on the little things so we can make a splash with this bridge, we’re not doing what we need to do to address our massive infrastructure backlog, while simultaneously creating another something that will be on the backlog in the future.

      I would prefer to see “special infrastructure money” going towards things like the Red Line that provide needed functionality, cool factor and fixing broken infrastructure at the same. The Henry St. bridge is not needed and merely siphons limited infrastructure money from the needs of today and tomorrow.

    4. Chris C – Infrastructure is Vital. Developers won’t develop without it. The amount of infrastructure invested which leads the future economic development of this area, is Equivalent to spending pennies to earn dollars, for the city at large. It’s sound.

  3. Glad to see two good designs. Even better to note that some are focused on improving the City of Indianapolis to become an place attractive for business and for people. Sound growth is necessary. And, investment in sound and attractive infrastructure is key if Indianapolis intends to catch up to Columbus, Kansas City, Nashville, Louisville and many other cities that have invested and continued to invest in the city.

    The view taken by some that what exists is sufficient is just the type of thinking one does not need. The cheapest way is often not the best way. Indianapolis and Indiana remain disadvantaged and less competitive by this type of thinking.

    1. Scathing stuff, Don. I’d rather be that than a hypnotized proponent of race to the bottom endeavors. Especially when the prize is being squared to Columbus or Louisville. Really that entire list is third or fourth rate American cities – I’d revaluate my expectations if I were either of you two.

    2. This “need to keep up with peer cities so we can retain talent” seems like a very 2000s way of thinking. And somehow, building a bridge is the solution? This isn’t really my field of expertise, I’ll admit, but if all the cities listed here are “third-tier” (and they certainly all are peer cities; none are “second tier” by this metric and some are fourth tier) then what’s to say about the alpha tier cities? Many of them are so infested with crime that they are in peril of losing their signature sports teams, as well as the HQs for their Fortune 500 companies.

      If open-air drug markets, homeless encampments, and unapologetic shoplifting (coupled with flagrant traffic violations) are the status quo in our alpha cities, the model isn’t sustainable, and the “creative talent” will continue fleeing to the most sensible suburbs…or to other second/third/fourth tier cities like Indy and the others mentioned, who face some of the same quality-of-life issues but without the insanely high price tag.

  4. Could be a very cool bridge, if Elanco agrees and pays to maintain it in perpetuity. We all know the city can’t and won’t! Also interesting the name is taken from the award winning Gateway Circle International Rotary design completion in 2006-2007. Published on front page of IBJ on January 1, 2007.

    1. Kevin P. – Again, well said. It is the architectural artistic Wow Factor that people will
      remember. We must think big & bold architecturally and artistically as well as
      functionally.
      Indianapolis can not afford to just think in terms of what is cheapest or convenient. We can not afford to be bland.

      Indy is in the fight of its life for relevance and prominence in attracting
      economic development. Especially from out of town corporations considering
      cities for future expansions.

      Indianapolis must be bold and unapologetic.

    2. Keith – 100%. Architectural WOW factor is valuable to the downtown and the city as a whole. Spending a few extra million for an iconic design that will be in many future skyline photos: Priceless.

  5. I think the concept is excellent, I’m not sure the budget is realistic, but it would make a great addition to downtown.
    If this is a precursor to river walk development, that could save downtown.

    The pedestrian walk would need good law n enforcement presence.

  6. Lauren, Top tier cities like Chicago, LA, and San Francisco, to name a few. All of them are all open-air drug markets, homeless encampments, and unapologetic shoplifting (coupled with flagrant traffic violations).

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