Editorial: Projects promise new vibrancy for downtown and its core

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There’s been a sense—especially since the pandemic—that downtown Indianapolis is struggling. And there are reasons for that concern.

Workers still haven’t returned to downtown office buildings in anything near pre-pandemic numbers. That means some retailers and restaurants are still struggling to figure out how to stay in business or just haven’t reopened at all.

The heart of downtown—Monument Circle—suffers most from the lack of office workers. It doesn’t help that several hotel projects in the immediate vicinity of the Circle have slowed to a crawl or stalled completely.

But focusing on one spot downtown—albeit an important one—misses the excitement building in other areas.

Just this week, the city announced it has selected a $120 million proposal by locally based 1820 Ventures LLC to redevelop the former Jail II and Arrestee Processing Center on East Washington Street near Interstate 65/70. The project—by the same company developing Elevator Hill on the other side of the interstate—will include apartments, an event center, retail space and a co-working office area.

The development’s unveiling comes just weeks after the city announced it had chosen Gershman Partners and Citimark, both local companies, for a $175 million development of the downtown block that includes the Indianapolis City Market and the Gold Building, with a heavy focus on bringing more apartments to the central business district. It includes redeveloping the iconic 20-story Gold Building into 350 apartments, constructing an 11-story, 60-unit apartment tower to replace City Market’s east wing, and an expansion of the market itself.

Across downtown, the majority owner of the Indy Eleven has purchased the 18-acre Diamond Chain manufacturing site for a $1 billion redevelopment that is to include a soccer stadium. Ersal Ozdemir announced his Keystone Corp. would also build apartments, a hotel, office buildings and retail space at the site.

The city is planning to build a bridge over the White River at Henry Street—which runs along the south side of the Diamond Chain factory—that will connect Keystone Corp.’s development with the former GM stamping plant site, slated to become home to an expansion of the White River State Park and a new Elanco Animal Health headquarters campus.

And these are just some of the larger plans. Bottleworks District along Massachusetts Avenue continues to expand. The owners of Circle Centre Mall have committed to a “transformative” revamp, although details are still pending. And the city is eyeing even more property for redevelopment—acreage opened up by moving the courts and police to the Community Justice Campus.

These projects are important because they signal that downtown’s future is bright—and that its vibrancy will be built on residential development and entertainment, rather than just office workers. That’s a strategy Indianapolis should foster—and one that should pay dividends even in downtown’s core.•


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