New public-private task force to tackle downtown problems

Organizers on Tuesday announced the formal launch of a business and community task force that will try to address issues facing downtown Indianapolis stemming from the pandemic and social unrest.

The Downtown Indy Rebuilding and Recovery Committee will be co-chaired by Lacy Johnson, a partner at law firm Ice Miller LLC., and Thomas K. McGowan, president of commercial real estate company Kite Cos., organizers said.

The effort is being organized by Downtown Indy Inc., a public-private partnership that supports downtown.

“Our intent is to put forth a solution-focused approach to rebuilding downtown as we navigate the dramatic impact that COVID-19 is having on our downtown,” said Sherry Seiwert, president and CEO of Downtown Indy Inc., in written comments. “We are assembling business and civic leaders representing businesses large and small, private and public, to outline essential drivers toward the reemergence of a thriving and inclusive downtown and a vibrant core.”

The task force will start meeting July 13 to begin drafting a tactical blueprint for downtown recovery. Over the next six months, members will gather data and form strategies for business recovery and creating opportunities for and supporting Black-owned businesses.

Topics will cover safety/security, affordability, livability, and homelessness.

“The immediate focus will be on building consumer confidence and enticing continued and equitable investment in downtown,” organizers said.

Members of the committee include:

– Brad Chamber, president/CEO, Buckingham Companies
– Tamara Cypress, CSR consultant, Black Onyx Management Inc.
– Mamadou Diallo, owner, J Benzal Menswear
– Rick Fuson, president/COO, Pacers Sports & Entertainment
– Chris Gahl, senior vice president, Visit Indy
– Craig Huse, CEO, Huse Culinary
– Malina Jeffers, cultural entrepreneur and board member of Indianapolis Downtown Marketing Inc.
– Lacy Johnson, partner, Ice Miller LLC
– Angela Smith Jones, deputy mayor, city of Indianapolis
– John Lechleiter, downtown resident and former Eli Lilly and Co. CEO
– David Lies, vice president, OneAmerica
– Cebronia Luft, founder and owner, Pavilion at Pan Am
– Thomas McGowan, president/COO, Kite Realty Group Trust
– Derrick Richardson, owner, DR Salon
– Sherry Seiwert, president/CEO, Downtown Indy Inc.
– Rev. Mary Slenski, interim rector, Christ Church Cathedral
– Rick Trimpe, vice president, Hertz Investment Group
– Pete Ward, COO, Indianapolis Colts

“It’s time to get back to business,” McGowan said in written comments. “We are at a critical crossroads for downtown and we need to demonstrate that downtown is open and ready to welcome back employees and visitors and encourage them to join the thousands of residents in supporting Downtown businesses struggling through these challenging times.”

Downtown Indy said it plans to be part of marketing effort in collaboration with the city of Indianapolis, Visit Indy and key civic partners that will announced Wednesday.

“Part of this rebuilding effort is getting the word out that downtown is open and reminding folks that what they love about downtown is still here, including beautiful parks, great outdoor experiences, abundant restaurants and engaging attractions,” Johnson said.

Downtown’s importance to the health of the overall city can’t be underestimated, officials say. While downtown represents only 1.6 percent of the county’s total land area, it generates more than 11.3 percent of the property taxes for Marion County and 8 percent of the county’s sales tax revenue.

According to a recent report, downtown’s property tax revenues have grown at an average annual growth rate of 7.7 percent per year over the last seven years, while Marion County has growth at a 3.3 percent rate over the same period.

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24 thoughts on “New public-private task force to tackle downtown problems

  1. There aren’t enough small businesses represented. The list reads like most other Indy government committees; over representation by the typical power brokers and not enough representation of the small companies. I also would like to know the input on makeup and goals they received. I also agree that our mayor remains absent on helping the downtown businesses hurt by the damage caused by the “peaceful” protests. He won’t even give interviews on the subject to the local media. Finally, a report in six months won’t be of much help with the current losses and rebuilding needs.

    1. Richard W is correct on many points. I’d add that people are increasingly NOT afraid of a disease that has an infection fatality rate of 1/4 of 1 percent (aka 99.75% chance of survival) and dropping (much lower for 80% of the population already). They are afraid of being mugged on the canal (this week) and having to use deadly force to remain alive. They are afraid of violent panhandlers who have been a problem under MIA Hogsett WELL before Covid but are now emboldened. They are annoyed and disgusted at the site of boarded up stores (again, because of violent rioters, not protesters + a do-nothing mayor who ordered police to stand down) I have lived and worked downtown for years. I fear the good days are not coming back under this administration. Downtown’s are an economic boon but delicate management is required. The aggressive, sometimes violent panhandlers alone are enough to disrupt this balance, cause convention cancellations, etc. Some good folks on this committee but heavily tilted toward the usual suspects. And listing John Lechlieter as a “downtown resident” without mention he’s former CEO of Eli Lily is irresponsible journalism IBJ.

    1. Hogsett would like a focus group to direct his policy. He burned 30 years of downtown ombudsman practice by
      neglecting us for one weekend. Panhandlers, crime, trash, teens seeking thrlls, and teens with guns; who you gonna call?

  2. Hope the plan involves cleaning up the piles and piles of trash in the streets which now seem to be the norm. I feel terribly sorry for the tax-paying business owners downtown. Mayor Joe Hogsett seems to be MIA and wish he would address the situation. At 6:45am, every morning, you can count on the area surrounding Indianapolis City Market, to look as if a bomb has gone off. It’s unreal.

    1. Thank you Katie Kieffer! Talk about getting to the root of the problem. So much work to be done!

  3. “Part of this rebuilding effort is getting the word out that downtown is open and reminding folks that what they love about downtown is still here, including beautiful parks, great outdoor experiences, abundant restaurants and engaging attractions,” Johnson said.

    Lacy Johnson means we’ll, but I’m not sure she’s seeing the same things we’re seeing. The streets and parks are completely trashed, the outdoor experience is scary at best, and as the owners of many small businesses downtown will attest to, no one wants to come downtown now. It literally is filthy, disgusting, over-rum with homeless panhandlers, and a complete nightmare. And Joe Hogsett is no where to be found. Not even on the committee. I know, you got the Deputy Mayor.

  4. Disappointed that there aren’t more small businesses represented, those are the ones with real skin in the game. Too many power brokers who are only there to network. Here’s what will happen…everyone attends the first meeting. 2 or 3 don’t show for the second meeting. 4-5 don’t show for the third and so on and so forth until there are 5 members left and everyone has forgotten about this committee in 6 weeks. Meanwhile, the downtown area continues to look like crap, people won’t want to come downtown, and Mayor Hogsett is not up to the task of leading. Instead of where’s Waldo, where’s Joe?

    1. Only one resident (and he was chosen because he was CEO of Lilly) and not a single neighborhood group is included. This is a farce.

  5. Small business are too busy trying to clean up the mess. While the power brokers do what they do best. TALK , NETWORK, AND HAVE MEETINGS.
    I’ll be surprised if anything comes of this. People love to talk but actually applying anything that will help is a different story.

  6. Jonathan, we have verified that the John Lechlieter identified as a downtown resident by the task force is indeed the former CEO of Eli Lilly and Co. We have updated the story.

  7. It’s called a “public-private” task force, but only one public official is listed. Looks like an opportunity to devise and dispense a new batch of public subsidies and incentives.

  8. Convention and tourism business will not save downtown Indianapolis. It will take downtown Indianapolis to save the convention and tourism business.

  9. It should be noted that the County itself doesn’t collect sales tax revenue. While the revenue is generated in the county, it all goes to the State. None of it stays here.

    1. Are you from Indy, Michael? Many people have worked tirelessly to make Indianapolis what it was. We’re angry (not haters) that the mayor let outsiders come here and loot and destroy what has been built. Between that and COVID it will take YEARS of work to get back to where we were. We needed a mayor with a backbone and we got nothing. Shameful.

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