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Will parking be allowed on the Cultural Trail in front of the Conrad?

Cultural Trail Construction in front of Conrad, 7/31/2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Cultural Trail Construction in front of Conrad, 7/31/2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

An interesting debate has been raging over on the Skyscraper City Indianapolis Development forum for about 4 weeks now. The debate has centered upon the design of the Cultural Trail’s Central Corridor as it passes in front of the Conrad hotel. For the uninformed, the Conrad has been using the sidewalk along Washington Street and in front of it’s hotel for years now as a staging spot for valet parking. It’s common to see a high end automobile sitting on the sidewalk at any point in time.

Cultural Trail Construction in front of Conrad, 7/31/2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Cultural Trail Construction in front of Conrad, 7/31/2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

With the arrival of the Cultural Trail came the notion that perhaps the Conrad would be moving their valet elsewhere. Indeed as trail construction moves forward, their valet has been moved around the corner and onto Illinois Ave. However, it is marked off with red traffic cones indicating to me at least, a temporary respite from the old location.

Cultural Trail Construction in front of Conrad, 7/31/2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Cultural Trail Construction in front of Conrad, 7/31/2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

What does this mean for the future of valet parking? Will the Conrad be permitted to park on the Cultural Trail and in the process setup a potential conflict area with pedestrians and cyclists who wish to use the trail? Will the valet be moved long term onto Illinois? Will the design of the trail be modified to allow both to coexist within the limited amount of street space that exists here? Rumor has it that the Conrad wants to retain the space along Washington Street for valet parking. This notion seems baffling in the context of the trail since it is a “world class” bike & pedestrian urban trail. Why would a hotel, a purveyor of quality temporary dwelling for people, be so bent on maintaining a presence on the sidewalk for automobiles when a potential economic delivery machine is being built, quite literally, at it’s front door?

Cultural Trail in front of Conrad, 8-5-2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Cultural Trail in front of Conrad, 8-5-2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

In the photograph above, you can see what the final design for this space is going to be. According to the information that I was given, the lane closest to the curb will be used for valet drop off and staging leaving the trail itself devoid of potential contact between a cyclist and an upscale automobile’s fender. I have read conflicting information elsewhere stating that there will be perpendicular parking for the Conrad.

Will the light colored paver separate parking? 8-5-2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Will the light colored paver separate parking? 8-5-2011 (image credit: Curt Ailes)

Whatever the final decision is on this project, one fatal conclusion can be drawn. Why did the Cultural Trail (or someone else in the ultimate decision making position) pander to the whims of the Conrad, a high end and obviously financially well off business, while much smaller local businesses located along the East End of Mass Ave and Fountain Square have to endure months of seemingly no progress in construction at their front doors? I sought comment from Tom Battista who owns property both along the east end of Mass Ave as well as the Fountain Square leg of the Trail, “We midwest car dependent people are taking away lanes from cars and giving them back to pedestrians. The way Portland moved interstate 5 across the river in the 70’s and gave the riverfront back to the people. It is a pain to deal with closed streets and limited access to our tenants but the long range is what we should focus on. It will be worth it.”

One interesting footnote. Is the Conrad paying for anything here? Are they “renting” the space on the trail for parking? Another member of the blog pointed out that at current parking rates, and given approximately 7 spaces worth of parking space at $1.50 an hour, it could be assumed the parking revenue for these spaces would generate $45k a year. Is the Conrad paying this? Or is the Conrad’s valet parking being subsidized by taxpayers?

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21 Responses to “ “Will parking be allowed on the Cultural Trail in front of the Conrad?”

  1. Richard W says:

    If they park cars on the trail/sidewalk, they should be ticketed just like we would be if we did the same, or any other business would for doing that. The Conrad should have designed a pull thru into their hotel to allow for patron drop off and valet drop off. Their poor planning doesn’t mean they can park cars on the sidewalk. Even before the CT work began, trying to drive by there was a nightmare due to the cars parked partially in the road, maneuver, etc.

  2. Matt Stone says:

    Curt, what many of the high end restaurants do is that they rent out the parking meters in from of their restaurants in the evenings and weekends for valet and event parking. They just send a petition to some county board, pay a fee (which is really low and not even close to the cost of a meter for the time they’re using it for), and get it stamped. This process may have been changed with the recent meter ACS lease.

    I imagine the Conrad does something similar.

  3. Ross McL says:

    I have to assume the primary reason to leave high-end vehicles on the same intersection as the sax man and various panhandler-du-jour is status. The Conrad has every intention to remind all passers-by that their hotel is the top of the top.

    Interestingly, I wonder if any decision making went through the folks who actually live in the Conrad’s penthouses. My money says their money has plenty of pull.

  4. Joe says:

    I would hope Brian Payne and the CT designers wouldn’t compromise here when the rest of the trail is so well built. I can see this receiving special attention as the city fronted money for the Conrad to be built. My guess was that the 2 rows of lighter pavers were the division of cars vs. pedestrians and I hope that is the most they get.

  5. ahow628 says:

    Isn’t the Conrad some sort of private-public partnership of some sort? I thought I remember reading that the city makes money off the Conrad because it financed a bunch of the cost. I could definitely see this as being a very sad offshoot of that agreement.

  6. Kevin says:

    Just odd. It’s the downside of a “business friendly environment”. We’ll bend over backwards to the big money people, but the local business owners on the outskirts of downtown who are struggling to survive seemingly have no say in the process.

    Kudos to Mr. Battista on not becoming bitter about the project, btw.

  7. Me says:

    What I have heard is that the trail will dead end into perpendicular parking and trails users will be expected to dismount from the bicycles, walk them past the Conrad, and continue from there. This stems from the demands made by Kite. He doesn’t like the trail and thinks public space is his own little playground.

    • the says:

      Have you ever met Mr. Kite? No. If you had, and asked him yourself, you would know that he requires of the valets to keep the left side of the drive open for pedestrians and bicyclists, Mr. Kite being one of them. If you had encountered the successes and failures he and his partners in business have shared you might then understand how this trail affects the business of a unique drive the Conrad offers as a spectacle to draw all kinds of attention to our wonderful city. The quality and class of Conrad patrons are that which gives the most back to local businesses, who don’t steal from venders but in fact help pay the tuition and rent and insurance for the future of our great little city. You should be kissing Mr. Kite’s feet, not comparing him to immature kids. Why not the dirty bums that have made the entire public spectrum reek of grime, making potential customers of these local businesses turn away because there’s no public restroom because of the abuse and cleansing of said bums and lowlifes. It’s because such public slime don’t work and earn their wage infiltrated from this great class of clientele that they cannot pay for a proper place to rest their heads and shake their change in their cups, in private at home where nobody has to hear it interrupt the everyday. The slanted parking of which you speak is what spurs businesses, both private and public, into a far-reaching economy of community. And the line of Ferraris and Bentleys can only be seen at night, while bicyclists would be wise to not zigzag through or around them, and while pedestrians are actually free to roam throughout the cars and talk about them and ham it up, free from interruption so long as they don’t touch the cars and disrupt those outside enjoying their meal at Tastings or their half-cooked steak and wine at The Capital Grille, both of which Mr. Kite frequents and observes and chews on the very real, yet very little, Trail dilemma, thinking how he can better fuse public safety with public expression. Have you ever contributed to the economy of these restaurants? Well, it looks like you should before making slights about whom you know nothing. At least dining their once might give you some manners that you obviously could use. Mr. Kite is one of your many respected elders, and he deserves nothing less than your gracious gratitude for what he’s done in our great Midwestern city.

  8. John Howard says:

    Somewhat a tangent yet somewhat related: The bike track on Shelby is starting to look like sections may have been allocated for bus stops. There seem to be several wide gaps in the separation barrier. If those are designated for buses to pull into (and out of the southbound travel lane) it will be a problem in two ways. (1) buses in the lane endangering cyclists and (2) the usual deformation of the asphalt by buses leaking oil and their weight pressing on the weakened asphalt.

    I hope this is not the case!

  9. Jeffrey C says:

    I agree with the concerns raised here, but am not quite sure what you’re getting at when you say: Why would a hotel, a purveyor of quality temporary dwelling for people, be so bent on maintaining a presence on the sidewalk for automobiles when a potential economic delivery machine is being built, quite literally, at it’s front door?

    What’s the potential economic gain here for the Conrad? Trail riders who decide to stop in for some wine at Tastings? Bikers checking into a 5-star hotel for the weekend? Whatever it might be, the Conrad would likely get those folks regardless of whether or not the Trail passed immediately in front of the building.

    • JP says:

      I think you are looking at it too narrowly…there is maybe no direct impact, but investments like Cultural Trail, Convention Center, etc. all contribute indirectly to hotels like Conrad by attracting new visitors, residents & businesses. However, it takes great companies/leaders to raise above short-term self-interests.

  10. Paul says:

    City-owned right-of-way since 1821. Partially city-owned hotel. Allowing parking here and demanding that bicyclists dismount and walk their bikes past the Conrad is a joke. What’s really lame though is the total void of any information provided by local government about what is occurring and why.

  11. MetroCard says:

    Kowtow to the rich, kowtow to the automobile…textbook Indianapolis.

  12. PAJ says:

    This video highlights the importance of keeping bike lanes clear: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ The same rationale applies to keeping multiuse paths like the Cultural Trail free of obstructions.

    I think that the first time someone rides into the back of a Rolls Royce parked on the Cultural Trail in front of the Conrad, the hotel will cease parking cars on the trail regardless of legality/permission/etc. Sometimes (usually) it is easier to simply avoid conflict.

  13. Chris Barnett says:

    I’d imagine that the first time a Conrad car jockey bumps/injures a cyclist, the Conrad’s insurance company will put a halt to Cultural Trail parking. Ah, the awesome power of personal injury attorneys in American life…

  14. Jenny says:

    I find it funny how they worked so fast to to that half block section in front of the Conrad. while the rest of Washington looks like a war zone.

    Same goes for Shelby, Virgina, East interchange. It’s like they’ve just walked away from a job in progress.

  15. Paul says:

    Yeah, what’s really funny is that the Conrad had a very workable alternative to use on Illinois, but yet still needed their portion of the “trail” completed at lightspeed. Meanwhile, most of all the small businesses along Virginia have no such alternative.

  16. Colby says:

    As of tonight, the Conrad is parking cars parallel along the side of the Trail closest to the hotel. Bicyclists appear to have an unobstructed path between the parked cars and Washington Street that is actually pretty wide. It seems like a decent solution considering some of the alternatives.

  17. Ben says:

    There wasn’t room for bikes this afternoon. They were 3 wide on the East side and 2 wide to the West with a drop-off opening in the middle. http://t.co/hUk0EvT

  18. Joe says:

    I suppose they need to remove the “taking a lane away from cars” aspect of the trail if the above image represents the future. Perhaps we have spent a lot of time and money on just a glorified sidewalk. Too bad………..

  19. ahow628 says:

    What I would give to see that guy from the above YouTube video go plowing into the side of a $200,000 Rolls Royce…

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