Do Wide, Busy Streets cause Temporary Architecture?

The empty Starbucks at Fall Creek and College is a fine example of temporary architecture. The building dates from 2005, and is already becoming a burden to a neighborhood that does not need another one. There was cautious optimism when the Starbucks first opened, however, as they employed people from the neighborhood. For this, Starbucks is to be commended. However, my main problem is with the building itself.

The building failed to engage the street, and could have been right at home on any random suburban thoroughfare. The business was dependent on commuters speeding down Fall Creek or College Avenue, and they built a drive-thru for their convenience. The fact that a car-dependent drive-thru can be built in a neighborhood in Center Township did not seem to raise many eyebrows at the time, but I see it as a big problem. What will go in this building now?

However, an even larger issue is this one: could anything worth saving be built along Fall Creek Boulevard as it exists today? The street handles so many cars, going at such a high speed, that it is oppressive to all other means of travel. Who would want to walk along such a street? This leads me to believe that the street will continue to be a barrier to foot, bicycle, and transit, and that any new structures will be temporary in nature. So, perhaps we should turn our attention towards this problem. If all we do is take down the former Starbucks and leave Fall Creek Boulevard as it is, we are treating a symptom, and not the cause.

I do not know of a good solution for Fall Creek. Its condition is so ingrained in our city’s culture that a transition would be difficult and costly. Traffic calming along it may cause a cataclysm of congestion. What are your thoughts on this situation?

Comments 10

  • Of course, running “parallel” to Fall Creek Blvd. is the Fall Creek Trail. As is, the trail is terrible for transportation purposes due to its pointless meanders and almost total disconnect from anything outside of the park. (Even worse, the trail is too narrow to accommodate much recreational traffic.) This isolation applies not just to the north side of the boulevard in Center Township. Short of pedestrian bridges, which still leaves out cyclists, I’m not sure how the trail could function as an alternative to scaling down the boulevard to include, “foot, bicycle, and transit.”

  • The drive through isn’t really a bad thing. The commuters will continue to use that road and a driver friendly structure will be probably be needed again.

    About being walker / biker friendly, I think a Fall Creak trail extension from the Monon to the Canal Trail would help. There is enough parkland along the side for a trail.

  • One area that could be improved is that silly collection of roads between Fall Creek and 28th around Delaware. The volume of traffic through that area simply doesn’t warrant all the traffic movements provided by that web of streets and it turns all that land into unusable space.

    Imagine if the road system were redone and a pair of mid-rise (like other buildings near there) multi-income housing developments were built there. They’d have great views, the existing residents would be sheltered from the high-speed traffic on Fall Creek and that land would be back on the tax rolls. Win, win, win.

  • Corr, of course I love your idea about that spaghetti-style intersection. That is an absolute mess.

    ZW, the Fall Creek Trail runs north from the Monon, but unfortunately, not in this area, as Thomas alludes to.

    Good ideas so far folks.

  • Slightly OT, regarding Fall Creek Trail:

    The trees and greenspace do a wonderful job of screening 28th St. from the noise and traffic of FCP-ND. (I’ve walked ’em both, which is no small task on the Parkway, and I have sat out on the deck at 300 East.) It is hard to believe the difference a small green buffer makes, but it does make a big difference in noise and perception of safety. 28th is already a de-facto neighborhood pedestrian trail in nice weather.

    I agree that the spaghetti junction there needs improvement, but I think that transitional (2-3 story multifamily) buildings should be built south-facing on the north side of 28th St. with alley and parking behind.

    It should also be noted that the original 1999 city plan for the Fall Creek Trail had it crossing FCP-ND (off the greenway) at Central and proceeding across 28th to Illinois, then returning south to the actual greenway along the creek. That’s not a bad plan, as it included a spur connecting to The Children’s Museum along Illinois.

  • Regarding the “temporary” architecture of the Starbux: that has to do with the impermanence of most “corridor commercial” businesses (read: national chains).

    The key feature of modern commercial-retail architecture is that it is depreciated for tax purposes over a 27-year life, so that means as a practical matter that it is built for about 15-20 years of use before it gets a major rehab.

    That time frame also fits in with the phenomenon noted by Urbanophile: that’s about the time that it takes for the “newness” of the hot suburb to wear off as it matures.

    I don’t disagree with your apparent premise that it is WRONG to do things this way…I’m just trying to promote greater understanding of WHY they’re this way now.

    Maybe with a clear understanding of what’s broken, we can figure out ways to fix it. But it’s not just FCP-ND and College, or just Indy. This will truly take a paradigm shift.

    And as Mr. Schneider notes above, drive-through isn’t a bad thing in the interim. Even if (miraculously) half of us started riding the bus, walking, or biking to work, the other half would still need to drive through stuff. The presence of the drive-through there probably promotes re-use of the site sooner.

  • Fall Creek is a true paradox as most ‘parkways’ are; merging care culture with nature, scenery, and a beautiful city.

    But I think you and others have made the case for an expanded and improved trail from the MONON downstream. (I would suggest all the way to MLK Jr. Blvd with a spur to the Children’s museaum as suggested by others.)

    The neighborhood north of FCP bounded also by Meridian and 38th Street suffers from out of date traffic patterns that don’t reflect peak demand, which is not extremely heavy. I would like to see low demand streets narrowed, and some of the one-ways converted back to two-way streets. This neighborhood is very socio-economically diverse, with some charming blocks and others that struggle. But development that focus on improving blocks and makes the “front door” the neighborhood as opposed to FCP (without ignoring its presence), probably has the best chance at viability.

    The Starbucks was a nice try.

  • Is the boulevard for suburban commuters like it was intended in the 70’s? or should it be made more for the local residents who are gentrifying the neighborhoods? In regards to pedestrian friendly, take out the rush hour lane controls, and take out one middle lane and replace it with a grassy, tree-lined median. The lane will slow traffic, and offer a safe-island to pedestrians trying to cross traffic. Also allow pedestrians some control with crosswalk activated buttons.

  • While it may have been drive-through for many, that location was a hangout for some people who lived in the immediate vicinity.

  • The boulevard (from mid-town to 38th, and later to 56th) was part of the first Kessler Plan of a century ago.

    It was supposed to be a more-calm parkway with a trail along the creek. As vehicular demand grew, it was widened to the point where a trail isn’t possible in the middle of town. There’s not even room for a sidewalk from Meridian to Central.

    As a practical matter, the function of FCP-ND today is to enable commuting. It helps to replace the once-planned I-69 leg from Castleton into the Spaghetti Bowl. (O’Bannon Soccer Park is land that was acquired for the interstate interchange that was never built.)

    As I often say…calming, good. But choking, no. Removing capacity would choke. There are ways to calm without reducing lane capacity. Slowing traffic might add a minute or two to a commute; choking it might add 5-15 minutes, and it wouldn’t be fair to do that to the people who live inside 465 and have no other choice.

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