Tamara Zahn, who led Indianapolis Downtown Inc. for nearly two decades—during a period of major growth for the city’s urban core—died Thursday at age 67.
Details of her death weren’t available Thursday night. A statement from IDI, now known as Downtown Indy Inc., said it was “shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of our dear friend Tamara Zahn.”
Sherry Seiwert, president and CEO of the organization, said the city “has lost its greatest cheerleader.”
Zahn was named president of IDI when it was founded in 1993. She led the influential organization—a not-for-profit charged with marketing, managing and developing the downtown area—until stepping down in 2012.
Her tenure included several milestone events for downtown Indianapolis, including the opening of Circle Centre in 1995 and the hosting of the Super Bowl in 2012.
“Indianapolis has lost a civic icon who was a giant among corporate, nonprofit and elected leaders and peers,” Seiwert said in a statement. “Her passion for downtown Indy was unparalleled and unapologetic, which led to national recognition for outstanding urban revitalization, monumental development, and unrivaled beautification—all due to her inspired leadership and meticulous attention to detail.”
Zahn, who grew up in Fort Wayne and graduated from Indiana University with a degree in real estate, ran her own real estate and urban planning and consulting business for 15 years before joining IDI.
She was named to IBJ’s first Forty Under 40 class in 1993 and its first group of Influential Women in 1996.
After leaving IDI, she continued to work as a consultant and adviser to various arts and cultural groups, and served on various civic boards, including as chair of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.
Bart Peterson, mayor of Indianapolis from 2000 to 2008, and his wife, Amy, expressed sadness at Zahn’s passing.
“We both worked with her regularly during my time as mayor,” he said in a written statement. “I loved Tamara’s intense focus on downtown and her remarkable ability to motivate people to go above and beyond to make downtown better. … In those days she was everywhere—seemingly at every single event or gathering. And her positive outlook and engaging personality always raised my spirits and those of everyone around her.”