Indianapolis as a Can-Do City.

Photo Credit: Curtis Ailes

Indianapolis has pulled off a nearly-impossible task: hosting a Super Bowl in a cold weather city without a week-long barrage of complaints from sports journalists.  A notoriously fickle bunch had glowing reviews, and left them wondering how we did it.  That was a surprise to me, as my initial reaction when Indy won the rights to host the 2012 Super Bowl was one of dread of the potential for negative press.  But the city shined, thanks in large part by excellent planning from the Host Committee.  When combined with new amenities such as the Airport, the Cultural Trail, and, of course Georgia Street, we saw a potent mixture that left all but the largest curmudgeons impressed with the city’s efforts.

The natural inclination for the city is to now start to raising the game in other areas where we are severely lacking.  We struggle with inadequate transit, crumbling neighborhoods that are losing residents, and a strained public education system.  In order to truly be a great city, Indianapolis is going to have to improve in each of these areas.   In keeping with the main focus of the blog, this post will focus on the first two of these.

Become Unstuck

After arriving downtown, most visitors were stuck there.  The good news is that it was an exceedingly fun place to be.  The bad news is, Indy’s neighborhoods were suffering due to the lack of business.  Meanwhile, many people who wanted to visit downtown by bus were passed by, reading a message that read “Sorry, Bus Full”.  This simply should not happen again.  Best case scenario for our blog would be two streetcar lines: Broad Ripple to Downtown to Fountain Square, and Washington to Airport/Irvington.  Because that seems far-fetched at this point, I hope that the city will be able to implement Bus Rapid transit along these corridors.  Make them easy to use for first-time riders, and run them for longer intervals.

Neighborhood Rebound

This city, like many others, has issues with abandoned buildings and resident retention, and it is a tricky problem to tackle.  Fortunately, there can be inspirational creative reuses.  One of my favorite projects in the city is Developer Town, which reinvested in a forlorn section of industrial buildings and built a tech-minded hub.  Another intriguing reuse is the Indy Action BMX track, which is located in a former factory in the Near-East side.  These are just a few examples of residents refusing to give up on a place just because the previous use is no longer needed.


The city should now have no excuses for not continuing improving upon our public assets.   Indianapolis has proven that it is a can-do place.   We’re going to need some help along the way (hello State Legislature).  But ultimately, it’s time to make Indy an even better place for the future.

Comments 17

  • I am a co-founder of/partner in a Police Athletic League-affiliated martial arts gym located in the same building as Indy Action BMX – the site has so much potential.

  • I came to Indy to work in that former RCA complex at Sherman & Michigan, live less than two miles away, and drive by almost daily. I am not sure the whole complex (with its acres of decaying pavement) can or should be “repurposed” as is. The historic multi-story vacuum-tube factory at Michigan and LaSalle, yes. The mid-century Union hall at Michigan & Belt Line RR, yes. The rest of it, maybe no. It’s a huge white elephant and a blighting influence on the neighborhood.
    Maybe a series of smaller warehouse/industrial/commercial buildings more suited to start up manufacturing, distribution, food growing and processing, or creative businesses would contribute more jobs, income, value, and opportunity for the neighborhood.

  • First who cares what sports journalists say. Sport journalists are not important and neither are sports. They both can be fun, but neither are important.

    Can-do? Indianapolis has long ago proven that it can throw a party. I am not interested in the ability of government / not-for-profit event planners to throw a party, with other people’s money – again, not important. There is no evidence that any “real” benefit has accrued to any city that hosted a Super Bowl.

    Full buses? Some buses were full, because they were running late. I witnessed three Route 31 buses pass by me on Ohio Street within five minutes of each other last week. Of course, the first one was full and the next two were almost empty. Many other buses ended up back to back, with no more than two minutes separating them, with one full bus and one nearly empty bus. And even if there were full buses on one or two routes for short periods of time, they should have been able to quickly adjust to the need.

    There are so many operational issues that need to be addressed with the present transit system that has nothing to do with money and has everything to do with poor management and oversight.

  • Don’t forget that the crumbling neighborhoods are a symptom. You have to find the cause of the blight rather than just try to repurpose a few buildings. It could be the lack of transit, infrastructure investment, local amenities (which transit could also help) or many other things(education, jobs, crime, culture). The biggest mistake you can make is to invest money into what is not actually the problem.

    • Of course you are correct, which is why I listed those two examples. They aren’t simply fixing up facilities, they are providing new centers for employment and recreation. More than this can be done, of course.

  • The city’s focus should be on attracting middle-class, tax-paying residents to downtown and the immediate surrounding neighborhoods. Then you are able to support the infrastructure and repair the crumbling neighborhoods. The downtown mall, chain restaurants, and stadiums do a good job of attracting suburbanities and events like the super bowl, but there isn’t a feel that downtown is a genuine, diverse urban city. The downtown farmer’s market isn’t great and the wonderful art institutions are located elsewhere. Mass Ave. is leading the way and Fountain Sq., is a ways behind, but it’s going to take more than Cultural Trail spurs to revive Indianapolis.

  • I would say that Mass Ave is a ways behind in comparison with Fountain Square. Fountain Square has to many young people working out of the Murphy s building alone. I would personally like to see Mass Ave development where the fire station is now located. How about Indiana Ave brought back? Make that a desired destination.

    • I’m pretty sure the fire station is slated to be demoed and opened up for new development. And Indiana Ave is about to start seeing new life with the upcoming development of the lux apartments and new Marsh grocery store.

  • All this and ample parking as well. What more could you ask for?

  • “The stadium cost over $700 million. Rather than just build a stadium, that money should have been spent more broadly on other projects in the downtown. The Super Bowl proves the idea that “if you build it, they will come.” But there are other things, beyond stadiums, that could be built to attract people and investment to the downtown. Imagine if the state had invested $1 million in 720 different projects in the downtown. That would have been pretty, well, super.”

  • Oh yes thanks Jon! I was aware of the Fire station developments, I was just not sure if it was a go. Yes the Marsh market will replace some eyesore pavement parking.

  • We will continue to be challenged by a lack of density in the urban core. I’ve lived downtown for 19 years and seen the transformation from where the TGIF over by the Courtyard and Bazbeaux were just about your only restaurant options on a Sunday night to the much more vibrant scene we have currently. You can spend an entire weekend just enjoying the restaurants, theatres, and galleries on Mass Ave and in the immediate vicinity.

    And I’m not sure how anyone can say the farmer’s market on Saturdays isn’t a rousing success. The place is packed and filled with a community vibe. City Market as a whole still has room to groe, but with the addition of the Bike Hub and the Y it seems like we may finally have turned the corner on that one.

    • The farmer’s market is cool if you want to get a beer and crepe or pickup a few artisinal items, but it is short on providing produce, meats, breads, cheeses, like Findlay Market in Cincinnati or various farmer’s markets in Chicago, where people can get most of their grocery shopping done. Hopefully, more people continue shopping there attracting more vendors.

      • There are a few new vendors within the past few weeks: Fermenti Artisan and Brad Gates Catering. They each sell cheese. I’m not sure what else BG has, as I haven’t been over there since they opened.

      • Eric: I think you need to make a distinction between the City Market building and its daily vendors (which is what you are describing) and the Winter Farmer’s Market which occurs there on Saturday. That Saturday event is a one-stop shopping experience for exactly what you outline as desirable purchases. Now, if it only could be like that every day.

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