The week of June 13th was an exciting one in Indianapolis. The Broad Ripple Parking Garage was announced. CIRTA launched a campaign to build a transit coalition to present to state lawmakers. And the City announced the 16 Tech Technology district that would be anchored by a redeveloped Bush Stadium. On the surface, the 16 Tech proposal looks like a positive one. An underdeveloped neighborhood with a culturally rich past gets a boost from the city while urban thinking residents are appeased by the presence of pedestrian and bike friendly infrastructure.
Indeed, The Technology Trail should be a fantastic addition to what is currently a very dead stretch of road. The addition of a linear park will also be welcome; throw in storm water retention in a quasi-natural method and urbanists have one foot through the door in supporting this. Additionally, a long-time decrepit structure is repurposed with medium (low?) density residential and greenspace to boot. However, upon further examination, I have a few questions that would make THIS urbanist feel better about the proposed development. Melissa Todd with Develop Indy was kind enough to answer some questions for me.
Q:What will happen to IUPUI owned parking lots? How does the city plan on using space that is already used by IUPUI for off-campus parking as well as Herron School of Art facilities?
A:We have worked closely with all levels of IUPUI, IU, & IU Medical School in the development of this plan, and they are very supportive of both the overall concept and the specific elements. The Herron building will undergo a major expansion this fall that will include the IU building immediately to the north. We have worked with the IU in house architect to coordinate this expansion with the Indiana Streetscape work. In the short term the existing IU parking lots will remain
Q:Will IndyGo shelters be “spruced up” and/or covered to fit in with the new design?
A: We anticipate new Indy Go shelters and planned for them along Indiana Avenue in the plan. It is further anticipated that the design of these shelters would be different to fit into the general theme of the project.
Currently, transit only makes a cursory visit to the proposed tech district area. This is likely due to the fact that there is really nothing there now. The 5 bisects the district and offers great service between downtown and the 16 Tech area. Also, the 25 & 10 offer walking distance stops for potential visitors and residents to get to and from the area. However, I was let down when I read Develop Indy’s brochure, and the only mention of public transportation came in the form of the Clarian (now IU Health) People Mover. Those of you who are locals know the laughable status of that service. Why would Develop Indy mention this limited and out of the way service, yet fail to mention IndyGo or local transit at all? Being located to the most dense concentration of employment of jobs in the entire state should merit at least a mention, but nothing. Perhaps a nice shelter for the 5 route at 16th & Montcalm St will match new streetscape? With the addition of 1201 Indiana, and The Avenue, transit boardings are likely to get a boost in this corridor.
Q: Will the Technology Trail ever connect with the Cultural Trail?
A: The two trails were designed to complement one another and it is certainly possible, based on the current design and would be welcomed, but no decision has been made about this.
Q:Helix Park does not get a specific mention in regards to when potential construction could begin. Is there a plan for this or is it included with the streetscape?
A: The plan is for Phase I of Helix park to start construction in 2013, and the City will own the land for this section of Helix park when construction starts. The entire area is currently being rezoned by the City. Tamara Tracy is the principal planner for the City on that effort.
Q: According to google maps overhead view of the focus area, there are currently a glut of industrial uses and/or vacant land. How are the owners of this land going to be compensated?
A: We will work with land owners to acquire additional property as the development progresses. There are no plans to exercise eminent domain.
Q: Is there some sort of master parking plan being developed to handle increased parking demand once developers start building in this location?
A: As the project progresses in the development cycle structured parking will be encouraged and required, which will be covered in the rezoning documents.
Q:Public transit does not receive much of a mention in the Develop Indy literature/brochure. Is there any thinking about how to further promote usage of IndyGo to future residents and business tenants?
A: The plan was centered around the concept of more convenient connections of all types: walking, biking, and mass transit. We contemplated and planned for the possibility that one day IU Health may want to extend the monorail system through Helix Park. We are talking to IPL about electric plug in station in the development.
Q: Is there a plan to relocate the long line of tall utility poles that are located on Indiana Ave? They seem unsightly and if the streetscape is aiming to beautify, I could see them being relocated underground or something like that.
A: The utilities will be buried north of Milburn Ave along Indiana Ave.
As I mentioned before, Helix Park looks to be an innovative and gravitating public space that is currently taken up by an industrial space and a freight railroad spur to the CSX line which also bisects the 16 Tech district. How could the CSX railroad have been utilized to further sell the district? Indyconnect’s long term future paints a line directly through here on the map as a means of running rail transit to the far NW metro area. Perhaps in the future, frequent service could be offered to the 16 Tech district by means of this railroad. But that is getting ambitious.
Taken as a whole, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. In addition, the videos, animations and renderings for this district look nice. However, and as I always seem to gravitate towards, transit never got a mention and I wonder how the dense renderings provided will ever be achieved without a large amount of automobile parking devoted to it by way of a parking garage or surface lot. One can already see that there are nearly 500 parking spaces planned with the Bush Stadium renovation. While I am pleased to see an otherwise underutilized area of downtown get pushed to the forefront, it pains me to see a disconnect between land-use and transit. If Indyconnect’s vision ever comes to fruition, perhaps demand for parking can be lessened in this area and developers of future parcels will recognize this. For the time being, this urbanist isn’t 100% sold. Let me be clear, I WANT 16 Tech to succeed, I just hope that we have learned enough to avoid this….