NATE FELTMAN: Who has a bold vision for the future of Indy?

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Indy’s mayoral campaign kicked into high gear this week with the first debate between Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett and his Republican challenger, Jim Merritt. IBJ was honored to moderate the first debate and will continue to report on the campaigns and advocate for policies that will ensure our city’s continued growth and development.

The next mayor has an opportunity to set a vision for Indy’s future. We should expect our mayor to succeed at the basics: public safety, clearing the roads of potholes and snow, picking up the trash, and working to improve education. Mayors who do the nuts-and-bolts jobs but who also set a vision for our future have an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy of growth and opportunity.

If we want to become an even more livable city that retains our college grads and attracts diverse people from around the world, we must think creatively and take some calculated risks.

Maybe one of our candidates will adopt some of these ideas that could help fuel Indy’s growth:

 Develop IUPUI into a world-class university. IUPUI has made incredible strides, but further advances would pay off big for our city. To reach its potential, should IUPUI become Indiana University-Indy or an independent university with a new, less confusing name (e.g., Lugar University)?

 Champion and further advance efforts to develop the White River. Often, we decry our lack of oceans and mountains, but we do have a river that runs through our city. Other cities have had great success developing their waterfronts and so should we.

 Create more green space. We’ve added thousands of condos and apartments downtown, but not more green space. We should think creatively about developing new public spaces and continuing to enhance existing assets, such as Riverside Park.

Build a world-class performing arts center. We have invested in world-class sports facilities, but the same cannot be said for our facilities for the symphony, ballet, musicals and more.

 Capitalize on iconic Monument Circle. Develop the potential of this natural gathering spot by closing it to car traffic and making way for three-season restaurants/cafes. The space should be used frequently for music and art festivals, farmers markets and other engaging public uses.

 Get creative on talent initiatives. Check out Tulsa’s recent initiative to attract people who work remotely at tulsaremote.com. This out-of-the-box initiative has the potential to attract people who could become the entrepreneurs and leaders of the future.

 Rethink Circle Centre mall. Amazon has changed the retail landscape. Time to use our imaginations and redevelop this important part of our downtown.

 Embrace motorsports and Indy Eleven. We are known globally for the Indy 500, but we could do more to fully embrace motorsports. What about a downtown race? Maybe a downtown museum, entertainment district and/or center of motorsports innovation? Soccer is going nowhere but up in popularity. Now is the time to get behind Indy Eleven’s efforts to bring Major League Soccer to Indy.

 Develop a center for bipartisanship. Indy’s growth has been fueled by leaders working together despite their political differences. Lord knows our country needs more work focused on how we can work together to overcome real problems. U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar founded the Lugar Center to focus on, among other things, bipartisanship. Move the Lugar Center from Washington to Indy and put this effort on steroids.

The next mayor should set a vision that includes novel ideas for ensuring Indy’s growth, relevancy and livability. The mayor is not solely responsible for Indy’s future, but our city leaders have in the past, and can in the future, be agents of positive change.•

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Feltman, an attorney and former secretary of commerce, is a shareholder in IBJ Corp.. To comment, send email to nfeltman@ibj.com.

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8 thoughts on “NATE FELTMAN: Who has a bold vision for the future of Indy?

  1. In 1977 I wrote a letter to the editor saying the Circle should be a pedestrian mall. I still believe that. Maybe have one small electric shuttle bus to take people around if that was really needed, which I doubt. What more of an obvious of that space could there be?

  2. Monument Circle was designed to carry traffic. Closing streets and turning them into pedestrian malls was fashionable in the ’70s, and the result usually was the death of retail on those streets, so most of these “innovations” were later unceremoniously undone and returned to proper traffic-carrying streets. Please, please quit encouraging the anti-car crowd to continue decorating in the streets.

  3. Mr. Feltman’s proposals have all been voiced before and many range from being redundant to underinformed ideals. The most perennial and idealistic proposal is the hip and trendy closing of the Monument Circle to vehicular traffic!! This has been discussed for decades now and should be put to death. Our most Monumental space in the entire state needs the vehicular traffic to survive. Closing It would not only kill the retail component of the urban design streetscape, it would literally kill the space! People from all over the state and from around the country and the world come here and drive to and around the circle! It is literally the most important urban design space in the entire city and state! This has all been proven and is not just my opinion. Sure other streets around the country and globe have been pedestrianized, but none of them have the location and dynamics of Monument Circle. This is the center of our city and the state, and the very ideal of closing it for scooters, ping pong games, ‘look at me’ events, and beer fests is very shortsighted and way too trendy. We must develop and maintain our urban spaces for the benefit of the community at large, for the long term, not for short term cool factors.
    Without the vehicle on the circle, the circle space will die. As Richard S. above stated, please stop bringing up this half baked, underinformed, and idealistic proposal. Let the circle continue to live!

  4. I do like the general sentiment toward bold vision. IUPUI is of course a stupid name for our major university. I always have wished the Cesar Pelli-designed Indiana Tower had been built, and really it still should be.

  5. Lots to mull over from Nate Feltman.

    ◗ Develop IUPUI into a world-class university. IUPUI has made incredible strides, but further advances would pay off big for our city. To reach its potential, should IUPUI become Indiana University-Indy or an independent university with a new, less confusing name (e.g., Lugar University)?

    It seems to me the collaboration of the names Indiana University and Purdue University is a great expression of how two high class/quality higher educational systems can work together, Rather than do what is best for the city, I believe encouraging the universities to do what is best for them is THE best.

    ◗ Embrace motorsports and Indy Eleven. We are known globally for the Indy 500, but we could do more to fully embrace motorsports. What about a downtown race? Maybe a downtown museum, entertainment district and/or center of motorsports innovation? Soccer is going nowhere but up in popularity. Now is the time to get behind Indy Eleven’s efforts to bring Major League Soccer to Indy.

    So what does “Embrace motorsports” mean? Races of several types at IMS, races at Fairgrounds, races of (several types) at Lucas Raceway. Please be more specific.

    As for “embrace Indy Eleven.” I think Indy Eleven and its private supporters should embrace Indy Eleven to whatever extent it wants to. Make all the money one can; or whatever is lost also belongs to them. Public funding at any significant degree is not something I can support.

    Parks and arts, on the other hand are something I can get my arms and mind around.

    As for the world class performing arts center, is this an attempt to compete with Carmel, a mere 12 miles from downtown Indianapolis?

    I am for massaging a few of the ideas; determine necessity, determine viability. Thanx for throwing some of the stuff against the wall.

    1. Good topics but I was also hoping for some more specifics and understanding of ongoing initiatives:
      1. The links to IU and Purdue are what make IUPUI desirable today and that seems unlikely to change at least in the near future. While the name is clunky, it represents a location and isn’t unmanageable.
      2. It’s hard to disagree with further efforts to enhance and develop the White River, but those efforts are ongoing and will likely required funding. The Governor has just agreed to spend some of the State’s surplus.
      3. Indy’s downtown has more greenspace that peers and, outside of downtown, the City is closing golf courses, which will create green space. The issue will be funding as Indy parks are woefully underfunded versus other peer cities. The next mayor needs to either develop new revenue streams or increase taxes.
      4. Indy already has two world class performing arts venues in the IRT and Hilbert Circle Theatre.
      5. Closing Monument Circle to vehicle traffic is not guaranteed to provide additional activation of the space, which would require funding. Besides, the City and Legislature just gave away millions of tax dollars to the Pacers to create a new space for events just north of the Fieldhouse.
      6. Hard to disagree.
      7. The future of Circle Centre is likely limited retail, restaurants, more residential and office space.
      8. Embracing motorsports and the Indy 11 has already been done by the Indiana legislature and the City, which have recently provided generous funding mechanisms for both.
      9. Bipartisanship – in today’s climate, this might be the hardest ask on this list.

  6. Taxpayer funding to developers and sports needs to be looked at. Indy 11 can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We don’t need another sports millionaire sucking taxpayer funds with a stadium and a secret contract that will fill the owners pockets while leaving the City with crumbs. Developers should finally be cut off from any City funding or tax breaks. If we have a strong vibrant place to live, then people will come and stay and investors will invest. Mayor Higsett “borrowed” the $400 million he claims he is using for infrastructure with no tax increase. The $400 million needs to be paid back by the bond holders, with interest. Where will the funding for infrastructure come from after this election tactics runs the course.

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