IBJ Podcast: How do you solve a problem like Monument Circle?

Monument Circle is the heart of Indianapolis—and has been since the town of Indianapolis was platted in 1821. Unfortunately, the Circle is subject to the same wear and tear as any street.

In the 1970s, its surface—both the street and the adjacent sidewalks—were replaced by red bricks. As a nod to the Circle’s historic status, bricks are terrific. But those bricks must continually be replaced, which is a constant challenge for the city. More recently, it has become evident that the very foundation of the Circle below those bricks needs to be replaced. What’s more—the conventional wisdom for more than a decade has been that we could do more to make the Circle more attractive, more pedestrian-friendly and more conducive to public gatherings.

In 2014, the Ballard administration plotted a complete rebuild of the streets and sidewalks of Monument Circle and its four main spokes on Meridian and Market streets. The cost—$54 million—was prohibitive.

The city has since embarked on similar projects along East and West Market Streets, which officials hope can serve as a kind of proof of concept for a Monument Circle redo. The Hogsett administration has dusted off the Ballard plan and is strategizing how to turn it into reality. It very likely will require a mix of city, state and federal funds, plus perhaps some philanthropic assistance, to the tune of $60 million.

A circle seems like a simple shape, but this is a very complex puzzle for city officials. For this week’s edition of the IBJ Podcast, Dan Parker, director of the Indianapolis Department of Public Works, talks with host Mason King about the direction the city is taking and what roadblocks could be in the way.

Click here to find the IBJ Podcast each Monday. You can also subscribe at iTunesGoogle PlayTune In, Spotify and anyplace you find podcasts.

You can also listen to these recent episodes:

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Looking for another podcast to try? Check out IBJ’s The Freedom Forum with Angela B. Freeman, a monthly discussion about diversity and inclusion in central Indiana’s business community.

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11 thoughts on “IBJ Podcast: How do you solve a problem like Monument Circle?

  1. I know I’m probably in the minority here but I say any money spent on the Circle is a good investment even if it runs into the 10’s of million. Indianapolis has/is working very hard to brand ourselves as a convention city. Having a vibrant and pedestrian friendly Monument Circle just a block or two away from the convention center and major hotels can only serve as a selling point for conventions especially as Circle Center Mall falls further and further from grace. The Monument has always served as a gathering place for the citizens of Indianapolis and I think we should invest the time, effort, foresight, and yes finances to make it a safe and welcoming place for the citizens if Indianapolis, Indiana, and even maybe the world. Yes I know it’s a little Pollyannish but….we can’t keep saying we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.

  2. Why spend millions in architectural and not launch an initistive to clean up the human litter on the circle.
    I live 9 blocks off the circle. If i dont keep house i get fined.
    Although you may not think so, I mean this as a kind gesture for the better of all.

  3. I agree lets spend $$$$ and $$$$ and not address what causes this to be a constant mess, and what about the that junkie bus and Food truck that occupies the SW quadrant.

  4. Just convert the circle and the 4 spokes to pedestrian only greenways….make it a central park. There is no need to keep the circle oriented towards vehicles. Sidewalks and greenspace…..much cheaper and MUCH better for the future of downtown. Make it a place people want to actually come and spend time. Put in a playground to attract families….Within a few years the entire circle would be surrounded by boutiques and restaurants on the first floors of the surrounding buildings.

    Is this even being considered?

    1. For this to work I think you would need significantly more street-level inward-facing retail and restaurant occupants, with strict rules against loitering and a beefed-up security presence to enforce it. Otherwise, greenspace around the circle will look like a homeless encampment / daily druggie parade within a week. Moving cars are currently the only thing limiting the drugged-out homeless-harassment gang from taking over the circle as it stands.

    2. The biggest issue with Monument Circle, it has zero direction. You have to create a space that at least says this is where cars can go, this is where pedestrians can be/go.. period. Do NOT cut off cars to the circle. It makes no sense creating a giant park in the center of the city, but these families and citizens would be driving in from the suburbs to enjoy it? I lived around IUPUI for 5 years in college and still drove into downtown. You are creating an attraction not a fabric of the city. Your Central Park is the Legion Mall area. You are already starting to see a rise in residential along it… development will follow the empty parking lots… I believe the future Circle Center Mall redevelopment will be the next catalyst for Indianapolis in deciding whether it can attract more residents or still just cater to tourists. You need residents living within a few blocks of monument circle for this to really work.

  5. I’ve left a message with the Mayors action line and with the DPW and no one answers my inquiry on how I can retrieve my brick on the east leg(spoke) of monument circle if it going to be taken up with a renovation project. How can I get it back? I donated years and years ago and I’d like to have it if you are going to refurbish and change things. Thank you

  6. I can honestly say that im impressed with the city is at least trying to make Indy a more attractive urban living space. Regardless anyones position on the subject, at least the city is putting forth efforts to make Indy more attractive to residents and visitors. If the right investors invest enough money, there’s no limit to the change that could come to Indy. If Vegas and Dubai can build in the middle of a desert in short amount of time, what’s stopping Indy from being developed into an amazing modern city?

    1. Oh jeeze. The UAE has probably a trillion dollars in oil reserves. Vegas, has an “industry” or a certain level of spending which is 12 times that of visitors to Indianapolis. The optimism is there but the money isn’t in terms of that kind of development.

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