The Indianapolis downtown success story has been well-documented. However, one area where we have struggled is in revitalizing historic buildings with little or no off-street parking. The Illinois Building and Consolidated Building are over 10 stories tall, and have been empty for years. The stretch of East Washington Street one block east of Meridian is still largely underutilized, even with new first level tenants. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to believe that our town’s developers and investors look at these structures with a sense of dread and hopelessness due to the parking situation. It is likely that the parking situation for these places will not change. That means it’s time to get creative.
Bicycles, obviously, take up much less space than cars. They can easily be parked inside of buildings. Another important point to make is that bicycling infrastructure will be easier for our city to change and improve upon than our transit infrastructure. I’d love for all these great old places filled with workers who show up by buses and trains, but that’s still long in the future. However, our bicycling culture is ramping up as we speak.
I’m sure that any business or organization that would move in to these places would have plenty of workers who still wish to commute by car, and that’s fine. I firmly believe that parking is plentiful and cheap in downtown Indianapolis. The necessity of walking a block or two to work is not a new one, and is something that is already happening for many of us. If these buildings were to be turned in to places to live, then all the more reason to appeal to the bicycle. There are actually people who want live downtown without owning a car. Perhaps there would finally be proper demand for a car sharing program.
It’s time to see some real change downtown. We can no longer afford to let our automobiles render our historic buildings obsolete. Let’s refashion them to encourage bicyclists.