In case anyone hasn’t noticed, Georgia Street in downtown Indianapolis is currently getting an extreme makeover and turning large portions of its right-of way over to the pedestrian. Announced in early May of this year, this project has been touted as the latest example of Indianapolis taking positive steps in turning their downtown into a more pedestrian friendly environment. Taken together, the Cultural Trail and the Georgia Street makeover prove that Indianapolis is on the forefront of the pedestrianization acceleration movement sweeping across the United States. New York has their Times Square, San Francisco has their Pavement to Parks initiative, and Indianapolis too has a collection of projects that rival what’s happening on the Coast’s.
I have to say, I am a huge fan of the Georgia Street design. Click here to see the design details, completed by the local firm Ratio. The idea isn’t something I had ever thought of or heard anyone talk about, so when the news broke in early May, I was pleasantly surprised. And when the renderings came out later that night, I became excited and doubly surprised at the City’s continued bold moves to ready themselves for the 2012 Super Bowl. Below are the reasons why I ultimately love this idea and the design:
There is really only one feature, or lack thereof, that bothers me about this project. As the design currently stands, there is no connection to Pan Am Plaza, which directly abuts Georgia Street. I am sure this is intentional; as the word on the street is that the City wants to develop the Plaza into an office tower or two. I think this is a mistake and a missed opportunity, as the Pan Am Plaza could be incorporated nicely into the Georgia Street makeover, providing much-needed public space for the south side of downtown. For this to happen, the ice skating rink and associated building have got to go. Also, the building along Capitol Street needs reworked so retail and restaurants can locate there and spill out onto the new Plaza. Finally, the entire Plaza needs to be lowered so it is flush with the sidewalks of Illinois and Georgia, visually and spatially connecting the space to the new and improved Georgia Street. If these designs ideas are implemented in accordance with the Georgia Street makeover, a truly great public space could be created. But considering construction has already started, it looks like this is a bit of a missed opportunity for the City.
I’m definitely not complaining though, as I think the concept, policy, and implementation of this project is right on and I am excited to see what it eventually looks like. But I think the true headline here is the fact that Indianapolis is positioning itself on the forefront of the pedestrianization acceleration taking over the country. In fact, I think the City is presently doing more in this regard than anywhere else in the Midwest. So they deserve to be commended in my opinion. Cities like Cincinnati and Columbus need to be paying attention to what Indianapolis and others are doing, notice the trends, and act quickly to ensure they aren’t once again left behind in the next wave of progressive urban policy. In this instance, Indianapolis won’t.