Free Idea: Reclaim Morris and Prospect Streets on South Side

Just south of downtown, there’s a gymnasium that dates from the year 1900 called the Turnverin:

Image Credit: Google Street View

It stands out in an odd section of Prospect Street. Notice the signs to the left of the building: that’s Interstate 70.

Here’s another view of the Turnverin:

Image Credit: Google Street View

It’s the same angle of the old building, but the streetview is from another road that acts just like an Interstate. Morris Street was converted into a mini-freeway sometime between 1956 and 1962. Here’s the aerial view of the street from 1956:

Image Credit: Map Indy

And here’s 1962:

Image Credit: Map Indy

Notice that this image was taken before Interstate 70 was brought into the neighborhood. Yet the southern configuration still exists. It’s confusing to drive, and basically a giant void in the neighborhood. It generates no property taxes, and pushes people further away from downtown.

Here’s my plan to recreate these streets. I didn’t change too much from the original configuration, except I included a roundabout where the streets meet up with Madison Avenue:

Image Credit: Map Indy

The red lines on the map indicate where the streets can go, and the orange lines represent alleys. I labeled where the houses could go.

Please let me know in the comments if you have other ideas for these streets.


Comments 36

  • This seems like a good idea and the devil would be in the details. That merge from the loop ramp (WB Morris to SB Madison) is a cluster…people SB on Penn hit the gas after the last light and aren’t watching for oncoming ramp traffic.

    From East St. east across the interstate and into the Fountain Square neighborhood, Prospect and Morris are designed to operate as a high-capacity one-way pair.

    I imagine that the roundabout would need to be tied to a realignment of the one-way pair, as well as some consideration to Delaware and Penn as they pass by the Lilly campus and join under the interstate.

    Traffic entering and leaving Lilly at rush hours really ought to govern what happens here. That’s several thousand highly-paid knowledge workers who patronize the Fountain Square and near-south restaurants and other nearby businesses.

    • I live just off the McCarty traffic sewer that runs through Fletcher Place and if be happy for this and anything else that slows down the Lilly jackwads who do 45-50 through my neighborhood (and Bates-Hendricks as well). Lilly traffic should be given little to no consideration.

      Unless I’m misunderstanding your meaning.

      • I was mostly saying that we have to recognize that the traffic exists at the site Kevin was talking about and not pretend it away. There is a significant employment center just north of this site, and this is on a significant commuting route for thousands and thousands of people who live elsewhere.

        MPO counts about 22,000 cars per day through the Madison/Penn/Delaware confluence, and about 8,000 on Morris. That may be toward the upper end of capacity for an urban roundabout.

        McCarty isn’t part of this discussion and your gratuitous shot at Lilly people is inappropriate for a discussion on the merits of the idea.

        • Lilly traffic was a part of the discussion, so it is a part of the discussion. This city has bent over backwards to give high-speed one-ways in and out of the city at the expense of downtown and near-downtown neighborhoods. It needs to stop and be undone.

          As of two years ago, Lilly’s “welcoming committee” of relation people were still steering new hires to realtors that specialize in the northside (Carmel, Fishers). As long as we continue to make as little friction for them to speed in and out of Lilly’s campus, they keep pushing it.

          I was complaining about McCarty because that affects me, but it looks like this section (the Madison, Penn, Delaware confluence) is even higher-speed and handles more traffic. So do something about it. I think Kevin’s idea is an excellent start though I would still prefer a roundabout-less, overpass-less option. I don’t think that is possible though.

  • I think your proposal is a great idea and certainly would add value to the neighborhood and downtown. I would like to see an affordable housing project in the configuration. The project might provide a base for future and further development. I was disappointed to learn that SEND was selling the Wheeler Building with the expectation that a developer will convert the 34 or so units into market rate housing that is “affordable”, which basically by the RFP implication means less than full market rate but not tied into average median income standards used for traditional definitions of affordable housing. In other words, market rate apartments less a few dollars. I would like to see SEND take the proceeds and invest full amount into a replacement affordable housing project on the South side, such as this area instead of creating some type of endowment plan from the Wheeler sales proceeds that disburses 5% of the money annually to pet projects determined by a few benefiting a few instead of providing 34 units of much needed affordable housing units. Every time an affordable housing project converts to market rate an angel loses it’s wings. Alternatively, maybe the public and City will put their support behind a new affordable housing project on the redline located on the southside and SEND can contribute funds to that project from the sale proceeds of the Wheeler. Losing 34 or so affordable units by an organization that is charged with providing affordable housing opportunities is tragic and just sad, especially considering the fact that the Wheeler is on the Redline where Transit Oriented Development that is equitable is sorely needed. I understand that SEND passed on an opportunity to join a group of 4% projects that would have provided the financing to keep the units affordable. Why was that opportunity turned down in favor of a market rate RFP? Now an RFP is issued that will result in slightly less than market rate apartments, but not defined as affordable by any standards. Basically, maybe your idea has a site that is ideal for a replacement affordable housing project that can be supported by SEND and the City?

    • Whew. Take a deep breath.

      SEND probably needs the money from a sale to keep operating. Grants of operating funds to CDCs have been going down for years, while the complexity of doing tax-credit supported affordable housing has gone up to the point where they can suck up a lot of staff time and resources for something that is not a sure thing.

      Further, if you look at the “affordable” rent tables, they are not all that different from “market” rents in many parts of Indianapolis.

      • Of the 100 largest counties in the nation, Marion ranks 64th based on affordable units available—19.6 per 100 “extremely low-income” renter households. The amount pits Marion well below other large Midwestern counties such as Hamilton (Cincinnati), 15th; Jefferson (Louisville), 19th; Wayne (Detroit), 45th; Cook (Chicago), 47th; and St. Louis, 59th. So, it is pretty much an old wives tale that Indianapolis has enough affordable housing. Also, Wheeler is on the Redline and affordable housing needs to be preserved on the transportation lines. It does not make sense to say that we have enough affordable housing and do not focus and advocate for affordable housing on the transit lines. Plus, it is easy to make up assumptions about whether we have enough affordable housing. The real facts, based on study, research and need show we are more than 10,000 units short. Do not allow your personal feelings and general observations to get in the way of advocacy for the need for affordable housing. Maybe do some actual homework and research. Further, SEND should not be selling an affordable housing project to market rate developers. The RFP suggests that so long as it is not luxury housing, that something less than market rate would be acceptable and could be considered affordable because it is less than market rate. Ridiculous. There are no income guidelines or requirements that lower income tenants or a mix of lower income tenants are required. If SEND cannot operate under their vision and receive funding because they are getting results, then it is ridiculous for them to sell affordable units to create an endowment for a failing organization that cannot meet its goals and objectives to employ a few versus to created housing for many. Eventually, there are going to be fewer CDC’s and that is appropriate versus selling assets to create an endowment for an ineffective organization that cannot obtain funding because they are not meeting objectives that are funded to other CDC’s. SEND knows what the real affordable housing gaps are and the importance of Equitable Transit Oriented development. Yet, they are selling an important asset versus having the capability to find a solution to keep the affordable units.

    • you know there are TONS of cheap houses in indianapolis right? this is the cheapest “major” city to rent in the entire country, followed by louisville and cincinnati. There are also tons of abandoned houses that can be purchased at surplus or tax sales…. indy doesn’t really need anymore ‘affordable’ housing… it has plenty.

      • But where are the affordable houses? As the saying goes, “Location location location.”

        • Garfield Park is very affordable, close to the interstate, a five minute drive/7 minute bike ride to Fletcher Place, and it has the park, of course. We’ll see if it stays affordable.

        • Also Christian Park, just east of Twin Aire SC. As far as you can be from an interstate inside 465 but still very convenient to downtown and Fletcher Place/Fountain Square, and right next door to Irvington.

        • literally everywhere… you should be asking where the expensive houses are because those are more pocketed than anything else, the entire western half of indy is affordable, near south east excluding most of fountain square. garfield park is cheap and cheaper the farther south you go. east is cheap excluding little pockets of irvington and cottage home, really the only solidly expensive area is inside the mile.

      • “Affordable” is a relative term, mostly relating to the cost of housing as a percentage of net income (whether you rent or buy). Rather that co ti ue topush for housing inventory that has low cost, we should push for jobs that have higher wages. We also need to reform the whole process of dealing with abandoned properties, delinquent property taxes, and tax sales. A good start would be to change the way the city/county deals with properties where taxes are chronically delinquent (i.e., no taxes paid for years). Rather than give owners the right to buy back their property by paying back taxes, the properties should be sold outright if taxes have not been paid for more than three years.

        • the city of indianapolis is far too inept or unwilling to properly and efficiently address the abandonment issue, there is a house down the street from me that has been delinquent for a decade… it should’ve been confiscated years ago, and the surplus sales do not work. most of those properties end up abandoned again and if they survive another decade they’ll MAYBE get sold at a tax sale. They need to eliminate the surplus auction and hand over all the properties for RENEW INDIANAPOLIS to manage.

          And they need to actually confiscate properties that have been delinquent for 2 years. it’s ridiculous.

  • I think we should just bury/tunnel Prospect and Morris and build on top.

  • The city needs a committee or a person that is tasked with looking out for small gains like this. They understand they need more tax dollars. If they can tie stuff like this into an infrastructure project and sell off the land to get it back on the tax rolls then it is free money. The oppurtunity is out there like you have demonstrated, there just needs to be a desire and a vigilance on the city side to keep an eye out for reconnecting the grid/ making our infrastructure more liveable.

  • I never understood how they got this built in the 1950’s. Many homes and a few businesses were demolished for the widened Madison Avenue Expressway (US 31 at the time). The interchange was never fully functional as the Pittman Moore building occupied the corner where SB Madison would have looped to EB Morris (and still does). I like the roundabout idea. It would slow down both streets and make them safer for walkers and bikers. Plus new homes could be built along the Morris and Prospect green spaces for new tax revenue in the popular Ft Square/ Bates Hendricks neighborhoods.

    • The 50s and 60s were all about “progress” (and bulldozer redevelopment schemes). It was a different time.

      The Warehouse District was still warehouses in those days…there was a high percentage of the city’s jobs downtown. Before the interstates, and after everyone owned a car, there was a “need” to speed cars into and out of downtown.

  • TIF it, then finance the road reconstruction with bonds secured from future property taxes generated on the reclaimed land. Done.

    I’ll also throw out a compromise to keep traffic engineers happy: invert the roads so that Madison goes under and then do Keystone Pkwy-style roundabout off ramps for Prospect/Morris.

    • Yes, throw on one of those kidneybean flyover roundabouts, I think that’s the way to sell this! So very hip with the traffic construction people these days. Or make it even cheaper by keeping the extant overpass and putting the roundabout underneath like US 31 at 116th.

      Seriously this intersection is incredibly confusing and utterly purposeless; selling off the land underneath the “ramps” for housing/businesses just makes sense.

  • I learned from the state museum this past weekend that a Turnverin is a German community center for philosophy, physical health (i.e. exercise/sports), etc. The athenaeum is also a Turnverin. It’s really sad to see almost all German cultural heritage wiped out in this city. They German/Americans did many great things for Indy about 100 years ago.

  • this intersection is a complete mess, changing it to this kind of layout would be ideal, i love circles when they’re appropriate. If they could also throw a circle into the intersection of Rural, Southeastern and English. It’s the worlds longest, messiest intersection.

    • That’s not a good candidate. Where you have heavy rush flows one way, it tends to overwhelm all the other directions. If you think you sit for a long time now on Rural or English waiting to cross, just wait until the line of cars inbound (AM) or outbound (PM) on Southeastern never has a break.

      • I forgot about rush hour, i’m never there then, only weekends and after 6 and it’s just a mind numbing intersection. I guess there’s really nothing they can do because all 3 of those roads are important so you can’t just cut one off. they really need to rework it though. as well as the pleasant run pkwy connection to english where you have the worlds most acute intersection/stop sign. If they build that horrible jail in twin-aire both of these intersections are going to be disasters.

  • Great work, Kevin–this area never occurred to me, but it does seem kind of silly to turn Morris into limited access, wedging the Turnverein and a few other homes/buildings in an “intact” block, with I-70 directly to the north.

    Even sillier is that Google Maps considers this park land. It’s basically unusable.

    Another overlooked spot I wrote about a few years ago was the “gateway” of Madison Avenue used to enter the city from a Meridian Street exit ramp on I-70. Not only is the naming unclear (is it Meridian? Is it Madison?), but the improvements created in the early 1990s predictably lack sidewalks. Visually it’s not a terrible-looking way to get into the city, but the road orientation is confusing, and the whole thing could be much, much better:

    • yeah that really needs a diet. it’s clearly all about funneling people to 465 or 70.

    • I think it’s a park since SEND and Bates-Hendricks took over there care of that land a few years ago. DPW still “mows” it once or twice per year but it’s a pain to manage. When the planting was done it looked great but it’s too big for us to care for as a neighborhood. I’d love to have less housing, we are already overly dense. I’d love more commercial development since we are lacking businesses.

      • you can’t have healthy commercial development without density and you don’t have density. Though this stretch could probably handle some commercial/mixed use.

      • I don’t agree that Bates-Hendricks is overly dense. Check the aerials from 1956 and 1962 to see the density that was lost. I don’t think that level of density is coming back, but that street section could easily afford 30-40 dwelling units.

        • I agree with Kevin that B-H isn’t overly dense, but I do think there is a mismatch in B-H between the amount of residents and the amount of consumer retail (aka retail, restaurants, bars, etc).

          Pretty much everything is on the perimeter of the neighborhood – a few restaurants over at Terrace and Madison, gas stations and restaurants at East and Morris/Prospect, and very little in the interior at Lincoln and East.

          I think a good way to fix that would be to reconfigure East St to have parking on only one side and use the other side as a cycle track/protected bike lane. It is totally unsafe to ride down East to Garfield Park, so no one does. If they did, a commercial node at Lincoln and East would make a ton more sense.

          • Regarding the parking on East, here was my “study” on the issue.

            I used to ride down there to Garfield Park at various times of day (typically 8-9am, 3-5pm, and 6-7pm) and I would count cars parked along East.

            The maximum count I ever had was 44 cars filling a few hundred spaces on both sides of East. The average count was a little over 30 cars.

            Taking away a parking lane would be very doable and it could even be reconfigured to be |travel NB|travel SB|parking|PPBL|. Though with the light amount of parking for now, it wouldn’t be all that much protection for cyclists.

          • they have a little commercial node at east and lincoln, it’s on it’s way back.

  • I drove here this weekend and kept getting turned around, you end up forced to follow the road in a spaghetti figure 8. It’s a mess.

  • Spaceport Exploration Center is looking for properties to consider for a new museum and STEM Center, we always appreciate any ideas

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