Irvington Streetscape, Part IV

Last Saturday, I finally had the opportunity to head over to Irvington to view their downtown area now that the major construction on the streetscape project has been completed.  The long-planned project has widened the sidewalks, added medians, and bricked up the main intersections for better pedestrian visibility.

Sadly, the project isn’t a 100 percent aesthetic slam-dunk.  The utility poles still line the street (fortunately they are not embedded in the sidewalk), and they use Indy’s standard bland street lights.  Still, the street is much better than it was before, with its narrow sidewalk and fast-moving vehicles:

One interesting detail the project considered was the preservation of the historic streetcar tracks, seen here laid in bricks in the sidewalk:

Historic streetcar tracks, image credit Curt Ailes

This apartment complex on the southwest corner of Audubon and Washington has recently been renovated, and it is looking great:

Finally, I have to mention a major reason for the trip.  Irvington has a place to have a beer now!  I recommend the Beard Tax Russian Stout if it is on draught at Black Acre Brewing Company:

Comments 20

  • Doesn’t look like much at all if you wask me.

  • Geez. When did the Urbanophile become a troll?

  • I partially blame my poor photography for that. More pics can be seen on Curt’s Flickr page.

    A before pic of the main commercial building can be seen on this article. Also, google streetview still has the old streetscape.

  • Because that’s what it looks like in this pic: typical concrete sidewalks with antique gas lamp replicas and some decorative intersection treatments. Given the hype I would have expected more as this is pretty much the standard streetscape treatment in Chicago.

  • As an Irvingtonian, I’ll say that it has created some nice excitement here among both residents and businesses. And while it may be “the standard streetscape treatment in Chicago”, we aren’t in Chicago, and it has a significantly different look than Washington Street does leading into it from either direction. Is most noticeable at night as the lighting sets the area off as something different than the rest of the street. And come spring when all of the landscaping in the median and along the sidewalks are green and flowering, will create an inviting look.

    No project is perfect, and probably won’t ever meet up to standards that are derived from other communities. But this project seems to fit the Irvington area well, and pays honor to the historical nature of the area.

  • Two problems I see here:

    1. utilities not buried…something Indianapolis continues to ignore.

    2. lack of street trees along the sidewalk…something else Indianapolis often misses the mark on.

    • The plantings weren’t done, as I understand it, partly because of drought and partly because the project was completed a few minutes before the Halloween Festival started. It will look much better when stuff gets planted.

      Aaron, next time you’re in town we can hit

    • The plantings weren’t done, as I understand it, partly because of drought and partly because the project was completed a few minutes before the Halloween Festival started. It will look much better when stuff gets planted.

      Aaron, the plans were considerably downscaled from the original project, and you’re right…this qualifies as a nice upgrade (for Indy) rather than a “wow”. I agree with you that this is what a standard node/neighborhood shopping district should look like, but most places in Indy do not.

      One important note: this wasn’t an aspirational “build it and they will come” deal. This is reinforcement of a district that is doing fairly well, with close to 100 functioning businesses.

    • Trees were planted in the median. IPL blocks most line burials, hence street/sidewalk trees can not be buried under powerlines. See other comment as well.

  • I live in Irvington, too, and think the Streetscape looks especially nice at night–the streetlights make a noticeable difference.

    We were given the option to bury the utility lines, but the price was beyond our means–this project was largely funded by neighborhood donations. Maybe in the future.

  • I don’t live in Irvington, but know where it is. I have lived in several less desireable areas. and 2 things happen. Residents are tired of car break ins, violent crime, and groups hanging around at night, AND the usual neighborhood do gooders try to drastically downgrade the security lighting by putting in some silly ersatz 1890 ye olde gass lightt. IMHO what the normal residents prefer from my actual conversations is a plain 150w sodium on a high pole with close spacing, long life, and about 15,000 lumens.If it shines into the window it shows the guy trying to open it, if it lights the sidewalk brightly it tells the EMT where the knife entered. This sure isn’t what I see here.

  • I live in Carmel, but I love Irvington and have several friends down there. I think it takes a LOT to make a big impact on a street scape, and this is a great start. One thing that Irvington does really well (much better than Carmel) is community involvement in civic projects. Someone else mentioned all the hype about this project and another comment from a resident of the neighborhood indicated the community interest in the project. There are some benefits you can’t see in pictures. Thanks for the update.

  • Why does it seem each neighborhood in Indianapolis could easily strive to be a bit more unique than one another when it comes to streetscape design: does every street need to contain the standard Old gas lamp replica? This project proves to be downscaled because it looks half ass. If you can’t get the money to bury the lines…what’s the point in spending the money at all? Just my opinion: not game changing enough to waste any money. Streetscapes should help attract businesses and residents while defining communities…not homogenize them!

    • I think it was worth it to slow down moving vehicles with visual cues and plant trees in the median.

      The cost of burying utility lines is so prohibitive because they wires are hot, and have to be cooled underground. I heard from an IPL employee that it was a million dollars just to bury them around the CityWay Project, which is only on one block, as opposed to many as in this project. So you can see why a grassroots neighborhood group would have a difficult time raising that money. The money would need to come from the government, which means we would have to either cut something else or raise funds to pay for them.

  • Maybe Aaron is just tired of mediocre design in Indy?

  • Maybe Herb Simon could be approached about a $10 million donation toward streetscape improvements.

  • This is the first and only (so far) streetscape project in Indianapolis organized by a neighborhood and funded with 100% donations. Every other streetscape had an institutional investor that contributed over a million dollars. Speedway-IMS, Cumberland-Town of Cumberland, Hanna-UofI, 38th St-State Fair, not the case in Irvington. With that extra million dollars, the utility lines would have been buried, and more streetscape would have been installed. Everyone wanted the powerlines to be buried, but no money for it, if IPL even agrees to it. Irvington is also responsible for paying for the operation of the new street lights. The State does not pay for their new street lights that were installed on 38th street by the State Fair. Not sure about the other streetscapes. There was no choice in which decorative street light was available. DPW /IPL only allows the one design, again unless you have an additional million to change their mind.

    • It’s a bit inaccurate to assert that this project was “funded 100% with donations”. It received a Transportation Enhancement (TE) grant, which typically covers up to 80% of the project.

      It is true that the local match portion was raised by Irvington Development Organization from individuals and businesses. (I was one of the many small donors.)

      It is also inaccurate to say that the State Fair paid for any significant part of the 38th Street project (Crown Hill to Fall Creek). That project was City-funded.

      • You are correct. It was funded with a TE grant as was almost all the other local streetscapes, with the exception of 38th St, and possibly Crawfordville Rd.
        My point being, everything above and beyond the TE grant was primarily donations in Irvington. there was no local institutional investor leading the charge for the implementation and subsequent million dollar donation as did the City of Cumberland, The University of Indianapolis, and possibly the IMS did.
        The 38th street project also took 3-4 years if I remember, and the Irvington project took 5-6 months.

  • As someone who visits Irvington frequently, I can tell you that the changes have made a big difference both in the way the space feels and looks. It was broken and neglected and now it is cared for and feels safe for walkers. The people in Irvington did all of the fund-raising and most of the planning themselves. The Irvington Garden Club selected daylillies, sedums, grasses and hardy trees. Practical. This is what the local community wanted, not something imposed on them by a bunch of design-nerds or historians. Until IPL is willing to bury power lines (and I think that they will eventually go that way in our densest areas), we will have to deal with the ugliness that is overhead power lines. It is what it is. There are a ton of plants that were put into the medians and planting squares this fall that I am sure will look great next year.

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