OneAmerica Parking Garage: The Story

Readers of the Indianapolis Business Journal may recall that two years ago, members of this blog remonstrated against the design of the OneAmerica Parking Garage.  That story has never been told on Urban Indy, until now.  The reason for sharing this now will be explained towards the end of this article.  But first, some background on the process.

A member of our team (who was at the time independent of this blog) first brought up the various issues with the urban design of the garage, which was proposed to replace a surface lot at the corner of New York and Illinois.  This garage was to be built with public funding, in order to free up other surface lots owned by OneAmerica to the north and west for the Axis Project.  Most importantly among the issues, the garage violated the city’s own Regional Design Guidelines.  Here are the guidelines that we focused on:

  • SC 1.2.1:New development and changes in use in areas proposed as High-Density Mixed-Use in the Indianapolis Regional Center Plan 2020 are to have multiple uses in each building or multiple uses controlled by a single development entity. In buildings that are designed primarily for single use, such as garages or office buildings, highly active grade level uses such as retail, restaurants, cafeterias, lobbies, security, and other similar uses will be considered as mixed-use.
  • SC 1.3.1:In areas proposed as High-Density Mixed-Use, all grade level uses shall be designed to activate the adjacent pedestrian ways. Retail, restaurant, and commercial uses are encouraged. Exhibit windows and public art may also be acceptable for areas where retail and commercial uses are not currently feasible.
  • SC 2.5.3:All new development, including parking structures shall be designed and constructed with provisions for active grade level uses to pedestrian ways.
  • SC 3.3.1:All structured parking fronting on public pedestrian ways shall have the grade level designed to accommodate active uses that generate pedestrian activity, such as retail shops, restaurants, business services, and offices.

It was upon these grounds that we built our case for the remonstrance.  Fortunately, we were able to set up several meetings with city officials and the developers to pitch our 3 alternatives, which are presented as follows:





The meetings proved that it is possible for committed citizens to meet with high-level people in this city. Unfortunately, we heard that it was too late for them to change the project, and that the Axis and Marsh was too important of a deal to jeopardize. Besides, they assured us that the project did include a 1500 square foot retail space at the corner of New York and Michigan. But, did it?

Photo Credit: Chris Corr

The finished product does not feature a street level door. An Urban Indy author went to look at the garage, and this was his report:

Someone brought up the additional stuff about the OA garage not having a separate entrance to the commercial space a while ago, so I decided to try and explore how one is to get inside the commercial space over the weekend. I went to the door off of New York thinking you had to enter the common entrance, and then enter the commercial space, but this door is locked and may be accessed only by employees with a swipe card. I walked along Illinois, but the only access is through closed gates for the vehicle entrance and exit. The door on the north side along Vermont is the same as the door along New York. Finally, I walked around a gate arm on the west side of the building in the surface parking lot area. I entered the garage through the vehicle access point and walked towards the commercial space. There is no commercial space. It is additional parking with no rough-in features, no plumbing, no nothing.

In essence, the city paid to build this garage for a corporation’s benefit, without even complying with its own guidelines.  In return, the city will have a completely dead streetscape for the next 50 years, at the least, just a few blocks away from Monument Circle.  Urban Indy’s authors and other committed citizens will have to do our best to make sure that nothing this egregious happens here in Indianapolis again.

Comments 20

  • How do the planners in this city live with themselves? This garage is a monstrosity.

    • If that is the case, hopefully the next mayor has a vision for this city that is beyond throwing up any crap that his contributors want to build.

  • Good corporate citizens indeed…..

    What a heap of junk

  • I hate this garage so much. I actually went home from dropping my kids at school via a different route so I didn’t have to see this awful thing and read the unfunny tripe they love posting on the front of it.

  • I am so appalled at the city of Indianapolis — I lived and worked in the city from 1978 through 2010 and watched as a lot of good decisions (and a lot of bad) were made as the city evolved into major league status….but the Ballard crew (and the law firms that have propped this dense man up) are making incredibly bad decisions — as one commenter points out — a prime parcel two blcoks away from Monument Circle has been hijacked and will remain hijacked for decades……i have left the area, but still follow civic affairs closely (old habits are hard to break) And to think that the city and its staff violated its own guidelines to allow this, just makes it worse. Just appalling. I can’t wait for Ballard and his B-team to be banished into the oblivion they deserve.

  • I am generally stingy with my inflammatory adjectives–it gives that much more oomph when I deploy them sparingly.

    This garage is an abomination. For shame that the City reneged on even the promise of the measly corner retail space. That little space would probably have gotten leased by a law firm, rather than the sort of street-activating retail that stays open on weekends. But still, at least it’s something to look at.

    This is a testament to how seriously the City takes its own planning and development documents, as well as the public dollars used to fund those initiatives. Needless to say, now any developer in town knows that they can maneuver around those Regional Design Guidelines.

    Can anyone who has visited the area tell if One America was at least still obligated to include the decorative trees and window treatments that were seen as enhancing the pedestrian experience?

  • For the love of God, can they atleast put some sort of decorative wrap around this to make it somewhat decent looking? Like others, I don’t like speaking in hyperbole, but I honestly cannot think of an uglier structure built in a downtown in this country this century.

  • What a travesty this is. Well now we know OneAmerica doesn’t care about the sidewalks. They are still public space. Let’s put tents up on them for our homeless community to live in.

  • Atlanta-style urbanism. Keep this in mind when a big fuss is made about Rezone Indy, requirements and guidelines often don’t matter when projects are political. Smart companies and developers know this. One America and that area are a blight on downtown but no one is really going to say so.

  • 1974 called. You all know why it called.

  • What the hell does Mayor Ballard know anyway: I would propose to develop his Disnified China Town on these 2 blocks.
    This could work because it acts as the perfect backdrop for some ‘HAPPY HOUR CRICKET TOURNAMENTS’…since these sidewalks act as a DEAD ZONE 20 hours of the day. Another question concerning leadership. Why do I see Bart Peterson all over the city engaging people in important places yet never see Ballard beyond the local news trying to speak about developing our ‘WORLD CLASS TOWN?’ Oh Gregory, where are you hiding these days??? Maybe you should help your buddies build the burbs you love so much!

    • Time to tone down the comments and snark a bit in this thread.

      • well said and agreed Kevin. Some of these Mayor Ballard hater comments are uncalled for. He cant just snap a finger and DMD do its job. However instead of being a negative crybaby nancy all the time why dont you walk by Axis and appreciate it some instead of the surface parking lots there. In addition Indianapolis might build a skyscraper ontop the garage in the future.

  • One America Tower, one of the ugliest hi rises in the country, was built long before Ballard was mayor. This is just a continuation of bad design.

  • As a an employee of OneAmerica and life long resident of Indianapolis, I find this entire discussion frustrating. Indianapolis would be a much better place if all of the businesses and landowners cared as much about their property and the city as OneAmerica. Abandoned and poorly maintained buildings, vacant lots, and absentee landlords make a city a lot more “unlivable” than clean, treelined sidewalks and well constructed, “boring” buildings.

    Squeezing two full city blocks of surface parking into a half block garage, imperfect as it may be, seems like on balance a good thing for “urban living”. AXIS is a good thing. Marsh is a good thing. The Gibson Building (renovated and owned by OneAmerica) is a good thing. Just sayin’!

    • I’m not sure that “it’s not an abandoned lot” is a very good defense.

      I have no doubt that OneAmerica and its employees do some good things for the city, but that doesn’t excuse this blatant disregard for downtown and its citizens.

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