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.
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.
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?
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.
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?