Editorial: It’s time to find the next great vision for downtown Indy

Keywords Downtown / Editorials

The late Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut famously positioned the city for explosive development over several decades by declaring “you can’t be a suburb of nothing.”

Similarly, we think Indy can’t continue to be the state’s economic engine without a thriving, vibrant, energizing, clean and safe downtown.

Over the years, the city has built a central core with great sports venues, tremendous convention space, fabulous restaurants, unique museums and growing housing options. And more is on the way, with some $9 billion in downtown development in the pipeline.

But there is no doubt the pandemic dealt downtown a serious blow, as it did in large cities across the nation. And the aftershocks are still being felt as office towers fail to fill up again amid a work-from-home movement that isn’t going away.

Recovery is happening, but more slowly than many had hoped. And there’s still an uneasiness about downtown’s future.

As Doug Noonan, a professor in IUPUI’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs says in our lead story this week, downtown is at a crossroads. “I think Indy’s got potential to continue to strengthen the downtown and revitalize,” he added, “but it’s not a foregone conclusion.”

Decades ago, Hudnut erased doubts about the city’s future by challenging it to become a sports capital. His dream brought the NFL’s Colts to town and made the city the host of the 1987 Pan American Games, the Super Bowl and an ongoing stream of NCAA Final Four tournaments.

Now it is time for the next great vision.

We don’t pretend to know exactly what that vision should be, but we know it involves replacing the downtown foot traffic lost to office staffers who are now working from home.

We’re confident the city has enough great minds to find the solutions and chart the path. And the time to do it is now.

The upcoming municipal elections offer a perfect opportunity to create that vision and build the coalition of government leaders, business executives, not-for-profit stewards and creative talents to make it happen.

Mayor Joe Hogsett has laid out laudable goals with his downtown resiliency strategy aimed at strengthening the urban core with investments in housing, recreational public spaces and infrastructure upgrades. His administration also deserves credit for the partnership and financial incentives it took to secure big developments now in the works.

But we would like to see a more sweeping, aspirational vision as he seeks a third term, and we hope that he will participate in a vigorous debate about downtown’s future as he faces a challenge for the Democratic nomination from state Rep. Robin Shackleford and others in the May 2 primary election.

We call on the Republican field to do the same. Business leader and former City-County Councilor Jefferson Shreve, political commentator and lawyer Abdul Hakim-Shabazz and the Rev. James Jackson need to bring their best ideas to the table.

Then let’s gel around the best vision and make it happen, Hudnut-style.•


To comment, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.