Lesley Weidenbener: Here’s one small idea for Circle Centre Mall

Keywords Commentary / Opinion

A casino. A Target. Condos. A school. Green space. These are just a few of the ideas IBJ readers have suggested for rethinking Circle Centre Mall downtown.

Of course, the ideas are more nuanced than a single word. Or most of them are. And we’re still collecting suggestions. So, go to ibj.com/circle-centre-ideas and tell us how you think Circle Centre Development Co., the company that owns the mall, should update the space.

There’s nothing official about our collection of ideas. Circle Centre Development has not asked for our input (nor do I think they should), but in the coming weeks, we’ll share in more detail what you’ve come up with.

But as I’ve read other people’s suggestions, I’ve come up with my own idea that I hope will help get your creative juices flowing. My idea is for just a small part of the space. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive plan or even a strategy. And, in fact, it doesn’t have to be at the mall at all, but it should be near enough to the Indiana Convention Center that visitors will stumble on it.

I’m stalling in explaining it because it doesn’t have a name. Museum of museums? Mini museums? A museum visitor center? Regardless, here’s what I’m thinking.

Let’s create a place where downtown visitors can get a sampling of what the city’s museums have to offer—and then, if those visitors are interested in seeing more at any one museum, we help them get there.

I’m thinking about a space that brings together a bit of this museum and that one.

Imagine a spot where the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum could rotate some of its collection—a car that won the Indianapolis 500 in the 1930s, trophies from early races, maybe a pace car or two.

Next to it could be paintings and sculptures from the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. And next to that could be a collection of dinosaur bones from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. And next to that, pieces from a special exhibit at Newfields. You get the idea.

These would be rotating, professionally designed and maintained displays of mini-collections from the region’s museums and historic locations, including the Indiana State Museum, Conner Prairie, the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, and more.

The goal would be to offer a sampling that’s intriguing enough that a visitor would want to see more. And the key would be making it easy for those visitors to then buy tickets and get to the museum they find most interesting. Maybe there’s a shuttle that runs regularly among the sites, or transportation that can be hailed when someone needs it.

This could even become a spot for an exhibit that rotates Jim Irsay’s collection of cultural memorabilia or even a permanent small Irsay museum. He’s looking for a place to create a museum; this could be a way to do that economically, while incorporating collections from other sites across the city.

Are there problems with this idea? For sure. Who would run it? How would it be funded? Would it siphon away guests that would have checked out the full museums on their own? These are important questions to answer.

More important, I’m confident there are much better ideas out there. So, tell us what you think and we’ll begin sharing some of your ideas in IBJ as well.•

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Weidenbener is editor of IBJ. Email her at lweidenbener@ibj.com.

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