I overheard this on this bus today:
“Indianapolis used to be a beautiful city. Then for the last 40 years, they tore down anything old and put up a parking garage or something.”
It’s a statement that hit home with me. I really wanted to quibble, but I could not. Recently at my work I have been reviewing Sanborn Fire Maps from 1956. The shear volume of good urban structures that have been lost in the past 50 years is staggering. Even worse, at least 9 out of 10 times they were replaced by something less attractive: a parking lot, a widened roadway, a gas station, a strip mall. Sure, we now have a semblance of a skyline, but outside of downtown, it’s almost a challenge to think of a fine new urban structure. Here are a few places that come to mind:
The Libraries at 42nd and College, and Michigan and Belmont.
The live-work units at 25th and Delaware.
The Boner Center on East 10th Street.
Big Hat Books in Broad Ripple.
Beilouny on Mass Ave and 707 East North (I’ll consider these outside of downtown for this discussion).
All of these have been constructed within the past 10 years. The good news is that there is some positive momentum out there. Is it possible that the College Avenue Library (circa 2000) is actually the most important structure for Indianapolis neighborhoods in this city? I believe that it deserves some credit for proving that something new doesn’t have to be worse than what it replaced. I haven’t been in Indy for long enough to remember the structure that was at this corner previously, but at least the library is much nicer than the one that was on Broadway and 42nd. With proposals like this and this, it seems that we are at least starting to “get it.”