On Downtown Greenspace

Recently, there has been quite a bit of talk regarding the amount of Downtown Greenspace in the comments section of Property Lines blog. My feeling is that this should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

First, there’s the Simon Building, which replaced part of a public space known as Capitol Commons Park. I liked this park and felt it was a bit underutilized. My major problem with Simon locating in this park is that they did not aggressively look for purchasing a surface lot first. Simon gave the lamest excuse in the history of lame excuses, and lamented that if they were to build on a lot their employees might have less opportunities to walk to lunch spots. The city, operating out of fear of losing Simon to the suburbs, caved easily. I don’t hate the actual design of the building, and it’s good that we kept them headquartered downtown, but developing on a park as opposed to a surface lot has to be seen as a loss to the city.

Second, there is the hotel planned for the grassy lot on the canal across from the Indiana Historical Society. There are environmental groups protesting this development and hoping to turn it into a park. I’m more torn on this issue. Yes, it is now just a grassy lot. That does not mean that it can not serve a greater purpose and be converted to a more attractive green space featuring local grasses, plants, and trees. However, I also wish the canal could be more of a 24-hour destination and this hotel could provide the jolt that it needs. Either way, it can be seen as an opportunity; and no matter what, something should be done with the lot.

Comments 4

  • With Simon, the paved lot is actually owned by the state government, so I bet a lot more would have went into that process than with building on Capitol Commons, which to me is more of a green roof than a park, but that’s just my opinion. Besides, as you admitted, it was a very underutilized park, which to me means it wasn’t needed.

    The grassy lot across from the Historical Society was always intended to have a building. State government originally wanted to extend the parking garage all the way to the canal, but the city pleaded and got the state to agree to a 100′ set back with the hope of developing it. I’d guess that if it wasn’t for the Historical Society across the way, there would be no argument by anybody for saving this chunk of land. The only reason it is every used is for seating during concerts on the patio.

    Fact is, Indy has a lot of downtown green spaces. From the extensive American Legion Mall and Indiana War Memorial Historic District, to White River State Park, to areas along the canal, to pocket parks in various locations around downtown.

  • Thanks for the correction about the ownership of the lot. I tried to look up for more info about it, but failed. I have updated the post and hope that it is more accurate now. I definitely remember reading something about Simon balking on that parking lot for the stated reason, though. I couldn’t make something up that silly.

    I take my queue from the Project For Public Spaces with regards to parks and their utilization. Most of them are not functioning at their full capacity to serve a large number of people. Maybe the park was not needed, or maybe there just wasn’t enough of a draw for people.

    I’m glad the city saved the hill, because fronting the canal with a single-use concrete parking garage would have been terrible. I guess what I’m saying is that I wouldn’t be terribly upset if this hill was preserved, but only if they improve it over what it is. If they really just want to maintain a stretch of mown grass for concerts, then they’re way off as to what’s really environmental. I’m also a bit concerned that we are at the tipping point as far as hotels are concerned.

  • I remember that silly “not enough lunch spots” reason too, you’re not crazy.

    As for the canal, I’m definitely pro-development, though I’d prefer a stable residential population over transient hotel users. We still haven’t heard/seen Flaherty & Collins proposal for that site and I think they were looking at apartments.

  • Thanks Corr. I realize I’m probably alone in this compared to other urbanists, but I think some real greenspace on the canal would be great. It’s a bit cold right now, but maybe that’s just the concrete architecture around the State Government Center that gives me that feeling. However, I also want more people downtown, so I have to like the infill with the potential for making the canal more of a destination.

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