Sherry Seiwert: Downtown is not just a place. It is a relationship.

Can downtown recover from the one-two punch of the pandemic and the riots?

I really like cities. Especially downtowns. Which probably comes as no surprise given my leadership role with Downtown Indy Inc. As the urban place-management organization for downtown Indianapolis, our hyper-local focus is on working every day to make downtown the best place for business, residential growth and visitor attraction.

And now, in the throes of an economic and public health crisis, downtown is struggling. But it is also demonstrating the first vibrant signs of a rebound, which is critically important—not just for those of us who work or live downtown, but for the entire community.

Downtown delivers significant economic and community impact across both our city and region. Our downtown represents only 1.6% of the county’s total land mass, but it generates more than 11.3% of the property taxes for Marion County. When downtown is preforming well, we all benefit. Unfortunately, when downtown is hurting, we all will likely feel the pain.

It goes beyond economics. Most of us have some level of a relationship with downtown. It might be where we earn our living and where deals are made and networks are formed; where we go to celebrate victories and see champions crowned; where we seek out recreation through visiting parks, restaurants and attractions; where we entertain when hosting family and friends. No matter what, most residents of central Indiana have a relationship with downtown.

It is worthy of our investment, and the urgency to rebuild, recover, reimagine and reengage has never been greater as we focus on downtown’s economy, inclusion, vibrancy, identity and resilience. Now. Together. With vigor.

So, as we move from stabilization following these painful last few months to now recovery, our need and goal is to put forth a solution-focused approach to rebuilding downtown. We are assembling businesses, civic leaders and residents to outline essential drivers toward the reemergence of a thriving and inclusive downtown and a vibrant core.

The Downtown Indy Rebuilding and Recovery Committee, which we announced last month, will be co-chaired by civic leaders Lacy Johnson, a partner at Ice Miller LLC, and Thomas K. McGowan, president of Kite Realty Group Trust. Our first task: Clearly communicate that it is time to get back to business.

Longtime city and civic leader and champion Jim Morris, who currently serves as vice chairman of Pacers Sports & Entertainment, has often been quoted saying, “Indianapolis consistently punches above its weight class.” I could not agree more. And now, more than ever, we all need to be in the same corner. Government. Private sector. Not-for-profits. Residents. Old and young. Black, brown and white.

We certainly have some heavy lifting ahead of us, and we recognize the effects of current crises remain and may linger. But we must stand firm in further recognizing the resilience of our workforce, civic partners, elected officials and residents in addressing that which makes our downtown a thriving, diverse and vibrant city core.

So as we engage the community and get back to work, I encourage all to come downtown, dine in our restaurants, shop and reconnect with the place that connects us all—downtown.•


Seiwert is president of Downtown Indy Inc. Send comments to

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3 thoughts on “Sherry Seiwert: Downtown is not just a place. It is a relationship.

  1. Historically, after a period of urban unrest, the aftermath involves a reduction in economic activity in that urban area. In this case, the situation is even more problematic, as the overall Covid-19 situation has created a widespread reduction in economic activity [e.g., it is tough to have as much revenue when only half your tables are available for diners]. Covid-19 is also causing people to think about the relative attractiveness of urban versus suburban living.

    Setting aside good intentions, and objectively thinking about the situation and human behavior, do you think (mostly more well off, less diverse) suburbanites will be more, or less likely to want to come downtown for non-work related reasons? I think probably less. This is further enabled by some of the development (shopping, restaurants) that is occurring in many of the suburbs. And if the suburbanites can continue to work from home, then there is even less reason to come downtown – I don’t think very many will be driving down for lunch…

    If you want to see what the impact is of reducing the attractiveness of an urban destination versus a suburban location or locations, look at the diverging fortunes of the Circle Center Mall versus the Fashion Mall.

    I’m not sure that good intentions trump good returns for the private sector, which will be needed to make necessary investments.