Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett on Wednesday announced plans for a four-month closure to vehicles in the southwest quadrant of Monument Circle and a pedestrian-focused redevelopment of Georgia Street.
Hogsett said the projects mark the first steps in the South Downtown Connectivity Vision Plan, which is designed to improve public spaces , boost economic development and increase public safety in the southern portion of Mile Square.
The Monument Circle quadrant outside of the Emmis Corp. headquarters and South Bend Chocolate Co. is scheduled to become pedestrian-only from July 8 to Nov. 2 and will be used to host Downtown Indy Inc.’s Spark on the Circle programming.
The area will be converted to a miniature park featuring turf, tabletop games, food and drinks, public restrooms, and a rotating lineup of local artists and performers.
Downtown Indy Inc. CEO Taylor Schaffer said the closure will allow for consistent, larger-scale events that can take place up to seven days a week. The events will be put on through a partnership with Big Car Collaborative, an arts-focused not-for-profit. The Capital Improvement Board plans to spend $750,000 on the initiative.
The announcement comes after recent closures of ground-floor retailers on the Circle, such as Starbucks and Green District. Rusty Carr, director of the Department of Metropolitan Department, said Monument Circle stakeholders were supportive of the decision as it could increase business to their shops. The plan will also include 24-hour policing and bring what Carr called “positive activity” to the area.
Some have long called for closing the roundabout to traffic as a means to create more activated, pedestrian-friendly spaces. Carr said the quadrant closure could serve as a “pilot.”
“It is an experiment and we’re learning,” Carr said. “We’ll see where that takes us in the future.”
The South Downtown Connectivity Vision Plan also calls for a reconfiguration of Georgia Street and what Hogsett called a “long-overdue” upgrade to the Union Station overpass.
The plan was created by the city in conjunction with groups including artist collective GangGang and includes recommendations for other city projects, such as the City Market area, the Convention Center expansion and Bicentennial Unity Plaza.
The DMD began collecting input in 2021, and prioritized district identity, streetscape improvements, gateways, and public space activation.
In partnership with the CIB, the city plans to transform the west block of Georgia Street into a “new front door” for the Convention Center and the planned Hilton Signia Hotel, according to a news release. The Hogsett administration will build and own the hotel, for which the City-County Council just approved up to $625 million in municipal bonds to finance.
The plan calls for Georgia Street to become car-free between Illinois Street and Capitol Avenue. In the remaining segment from Pennsylvania Street to Illinois Street, the city will leave two center lanes available for vehicle traffic while expanding sidewalks on both sides of the corridor. The shift is expected to create a more appealing streetscape for pedestrians, while also allowing adjacent businesses to make use of more patio space, Hogsett said Wednesday.
The DMD went before the Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday afternoon to request $1.2 million in bonds from the downtown tax-increment financing district to pay for the design work on the Georgia Street redevelopment. The request was approved.