Wanna keep Georgia Street? Time may be running out

Keep Georgia StreetIf you disagree with the push by Indianapolis Downtown Inc. and city officials to rename Georgia Street, time is running out to respond to a survey and make your voice heard. The idea is to change the name of a three-block portion of the street as part of a $12 million streetscape overhaul, creating a fresh identity for the stretch. But Georgia Street is right there on the 1821 Alexander Ralston “Plat of the Town of Indianapolis," and the street is home to the city’s oldest hotel, the Omni Severin (98 years), and its oldest Catholic church, St. John the Evangelist (140 years).

Joan Hostetler expressed her opposition to the change in a letter to city officials and also created a Facebook page. Here's part of her case against the change:

The name Georgia Street is authentic to our city and dates back 190 years. Almost all of the other streets in the mile square are named after states and I feel this should be respected (please don't try to change Illinois, Washington, Delaware, and Maryland Streets, etc. either).

It is relevant because Ralston and others had a wonderful vision in the wilderness and swamp and created a design that has (mostly) held up through time. Why not respect their plan? No one is confusing this street with the state of Georgia. This argument seems to dumb-down the general public.

When Fountain Square residents step onto Virginia Avenue they know they are not in Virginia. When people are on Indiana Avenue in Chicago I can't imagine that there is confusion about being in Indiana. In my opinion, if your team truly makes this an attractive and compelling destination (which I believe you will), people will go there regardless of the name.

Elsewhere, influential urban design blogger Aaron Renn also wants to keep Georgia Street.

Oddly, the backers of this don’t actually have a name in mind. They just want to chuck the existing one and are doing a design by committee on a new name. The one suggestion I’ve seen floated publicly, Hospitality Way, it utterly cringe-worthy and shows that while improving on a solid, historic name like Georgia St. would be difficult, picking something far worse will be depressingly easy.

It would be a shame to have such a fantastic multi-million dollar public space project marred by having the city become a laughingstock to the nation by picking a goofy name.

IBJ also has weighed in, publishing an editorial (subscription required) in support of keeping Georgia Street. Here's a taste:

Georgia Street is 190 years old this year—almost as old as Indianapolis itself. The city’s branding experts should think long and hard before throwing away so much history, which is what they’re considering doing.

We understand the temptation to come up with a catchy name for this new city asset, but we’re not convinced it’s a good idea. In their book “Authenticity—What Consumers Really Want,” authors James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II advise businesses to steer clear of that which is contrived. “People increasingly see the world in terms of real and fake, and want to buy something real from someone genuine.”

The name Georgia Street is authentic. Indianapolis should celebrate its history, not run from it. Chicago’s Michigan Avenue is uniquely Chicago. Georgia Street, with its new assets, can—if given time—become positively and uniquely connected with Indianapolis.

The last day for the online survey is Tuesday (Sept. 13), and the Metropolitan Development Commission is scheduled to consider the change Oct. 19. An earlier blog post is here.

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