INDIANAPOLIS — In an attempt to make downtown more friendly to walkers, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Wednesday that vehicular traffic will be prohibited on a couple of busy streets.
“From July 8 to November 2, the southwest corner of Monument Circle will transform into a pedestrian-only parkway,” said Hogsett during an appearance on the Circle to reveal results of the recent South Downtown Connectivity Plan.
“Its leisure, its activity, its equity, its walkable streets, people want to enjoy downtown at scale,” said Alan Bacon of GangGang Culture, which helped facilitate the community conversations. “We’re expanding what downtown looks and feels like.”
The first change will happen in the heart of the city where tourists and locals are drawn to walk, celebrate and shoot photographs on the Circle.
“You’ll have turf, you’ll have lots of activities for kids of all ages, seating for lunch, dinner, for using all people patronizing the restaurants and then coming out here for seating for lunch and recreation,” said Director of Metropolitan Development Rusty Carr. “You’ll have music, you’ll have artists and public restrooms.”
Others said filling out empty storefront space would help as well.
“If we could get more retail and restaurant options in some of these empty buildings it would help a lot,” said Doug Stephenson, owner of Downtown Comics located just a few doors off the Circle. “There’s going to be semi-permanent public restrooms over here on the spoke and that’s going to be part of the expansion of the Circle and that’s been long needed down here.”
Other traffic changes are coming to Georgia Street between Gainbridge Fieldhouse and the Indiana Convention Center on South Capitol Avenue.
The last block between Illinois and Capitol will be permanently closed, open only to pedestrians.
“The later phases of the Georgia Street project will maintain two-lane traffic,” said Hogsett, “but those lanes will run through the center of the road and therefore expand sidewalk and patio space for adjacent businesses. That means more customers. That means more revenue.”
Constructed for the 2012 Super Bowl, Georgia Street has struggled to find its niche as a downtown entertainment and event space.
“If you give them enough redesigns they’ll eventually get Georgia Street to work right, right?” observed Stephenson.
The renovations will also include an upgrade to the Union Station Underpass above Meridian Street as a few blocks away the Indiana Pacers Bicentennial Plaza is slated to open later this year.
“If you look at the Bicentennial Plaza, if you look at Georgia Street being redone, if you look at the fact that we’re gonna close this Circle for entertainment and fun and whatever else,” said Pacers Sports & Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Rick Fuson. “I don’t think that you can take but a minute to say, ‘We are proud of our city, we are proud of where we live’.”
Monday night, the City-County Council approved the issuance of $625 million in bonds to build a 40-story, 800-room Signia by Hilton headquarters hotel on Pan Am Plaza to be connected to the Indiana Convention Center.
“We are excited about it,” said Indy resident Tara Hunter. “We like to take our kids out a lot around the city, and I tell you what, crossing the street is always a huge concern of mine.”
But some do have concerns about safety.
“I would want a huge police presence to be there, just for the safety of everybody that is there,” said Teanna Ring.
IMPD says they have been working with city leaders to make sure everyone stays as safe as possible.
“Our downtown district will be holding roll calls on the circle, and people will see an added number of police presence,” said IMPD Lt. Shane Foley. “That shouldn’t be a discomfort to anybody that should make people feel more comfortable being in that area.”