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Time to Remove the Georgia Street Skywalk

Photo Credit: Curtis Ailes

The Georgia Street project is showing its potential to be a great public space.  In fact, it could be the definition of outdoor living room, as termed by the Project for Public Spaces.  One aspect that now stands out like a sore thumb is the pedestrian bridge that connects the Circle Center Parking garage to the Omni Severin Hotel.   I can’t imagine that the bridge gets much foot traffic as it stands.  And now that we have this great public space, shouldn’t we be inviting the Omni guests to get in on the party?

I don’t think that I’m 100 percent against skywalks.  They might have their time and their place.  But that time and place has passed here.   The skywalk is blocking the view of this gorgeous project, with little benefit to show for it.  In addition, I hope that if it were removed, it could be reused in some capacity so as not to be wasteful.  Perhaps the People for Urban Progress could find a great use for an old skywalk, or at least the materials that are contained within.   Regardless of what happens, I’d love to see this bridge removed in order to make this great space even more attractive.

44 Responses to “ “Time to Remove the Georgia Street Skywalk”

  1. Joe says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Skywalks can be nice in cold months, but also take away from the street life. If we are displaying this as a great pedestrian breakthrough and a gathering place, then allow people to stumble upon it or pass through it. Georgia street has the infrastructure, now provide it people so businesses will flourish!

    • Ross Pierce says:

      I agree also. I’d love to see it torn down.

      Not that this is a reason to keep it, but it could give visitors a great view of the project and might put wandering around Georgia Street onto their To Do List?

  2. Scott says:

    It doesn’t make a ton of sense, but when one of the city’s major selling points is X number of connected hotel rooms, I don’t imagine it’s coming down anytime soon.

  3. Jeremy says:

    On one hand, consider the sense of enclosure it is currently providing to the space (specifically in the photograph above). I would rather have the people on the street level, just as much as any one of you, but currently the skywalk is taking the form of a building arcade which is found in many historic precedents of great public spaces (think piazza del campo, italy where almost every entrance is arcaded). Until trees establish, the space just bleeds to infinity and personally the view of conseco or the convention center don’t offer any grand or remarkable terminus. If we are promoting new construction efforts, make it toward establishing businesses that actually open on to Georgia street. In case you haven’t looked lately…. it’s pretty barren! Even near by businesses don’t necessarily have doors toward Georgia. Then we have the parking garages, bohemouth mall anchor store (that even when filled doesn’t address the street very well… no windows), and some unactive pan-am buildings.

    Just saying

  4. Nick says:

    Silly idea.

    These skywalks are used primarily in the winter/raining season and are a selling point to attract conventions coming to our town.

    The hype and rhetoric of this Georgia street project has become too much.

    Its a over glorified sidewalk.

    Your crazy if you buy the fact Superbowl fans will flock to an outdoor Georgia street fair in January and avoid indoor venues.

    Your crazy if you think a sidewalk with passing cars on either side is a viable place for an outdoor cafe or concert venue.

    This rarely used street will not see a burst of activity until all the empty retail space along its path (Nordstroms/Jillians) are filled up and the long stretches of solid brick walls are redeveloped into pedestrian friendly retail.

  5. CrossedWires says:

    No it will be a private party space for conventioneers. Dont be suprised when the general public is not allowed to enter, especially with out going through metal detectors.

  6. JP says:

    I am all for considering good aesthetics, and while realizing that this skywalk is not exactly what you would call inspired, I don’t think the cost of removing it would be justifiable. In general, I find it to be an interesting urban form that has potential if more developers were open to experimentation.

    • Curt Ailes says:

      Experiment? How? By hanging christmas ornaments from it? Your reply sounds like the people who say they support transit but now is not the right time. When is the right time? No time is bad to remove things that kill street life and activate our pedestrian spaces. Some talk of the lack of retail along Georgia Street. That is true. But watch what the presence of this space presents, and the development will follow. Look at the Cultural Trail. We are seeing development spring up along the trail that was caused simply because hte trail was there. Bringing people and stiumulating great pedestrian environments.
      .
      As for metal detectors, that is ridiculous. while it is conceivable that could occur, the vast majority of the time, it will be an open pedestrian environment.
      .
      Such pessimism in this town.

      • JP says:

        A good example of an experimental design would be DSSH Bridge concept by Sanzpont. As you probably know, I am delighted about the Georgia street project, I just don’t think removing this skywalk is such a good idea. And yes, I do believe skywalks can be interesting.

  7. John M says:

    My guess is that both Simon and Omni see this as a selling point and probably have some entitlement to the skywalk in their leases. If, as both Kevin and Curt believe, this skywalk isn’t garnering much traffic right now, then it isn’t doing any meaningful harm to the street life. I think it would be fine if the skywalk had never been built there, but it is there. I don’t see the minimal damage to street life or aesthetics as justifying the expense of demolition, and wouldn’t be surprised if the contractual rights of the adjacent owners/tenants prevent doing anything with it.

  8. Chris says:

    I think it is fine to engage in thought experiments and to put out interesting ideas for discussion. That said, the skywalk is not going to be torn down, at least not for several decades. It was expensive to put up and it would be costly to demolish. Also, the hotel and convention industry use the skywalks as a selling point. Moreover, as another poster noted, there is probably some sort of contractual obligation by the city to keep it up.

    As for skywalk itself, I do not it detracts much from the street scape. The additional foot traffic would be nice, but there will be plenty of pedestrians using the board walk, even with the skywalk in place. Also, the view is not greatly impacted by the skywalk, and in some ways it even provides a point of visual interest. If there were several skywalks criss-crossing the street, then I might have a different opinion, but one skywalk is not a big deal. I would much rather see the same amount of money that would be spent on demolition instead used to improve other streets and intersections in the downtown area.

  9. Paul says:

    I’ve said it before, but since nobody has said it again here yet, here goes: Eliminating the entrance to the mall at the corner of Georgia & Illinois when they created Harry & Izzy’s was a very strange, if not stupid idea. I mention it again now, because I think it makes the skywalk all the more relevant since a person can no longer walk out of the Omni, cross Georgia, and enter the mall. Besides, it’s a decent enough design. I wish the skywalk between the jails on Market Street looked nearly so nice.

  10. Chris Barnett says:

    Okay, I know everyone hates parking, but a certain percentage of hotel guests drive to the Omni, and this is their parking. Every downtown hotel with parking has direct access from garage to hotel; I prefer it when I drive to hotels ’cause I’m too cheap to valet park or pay the bellman $5 to roll my rolling bag for me.
    .
    Just sayin’

  11. This post has brought out the haterade like none other. And that is fine. I hope it has at least been an interesting topic for discussion. My next post will probably strive to find a better consensus.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      You don’t hate parking? :-)

    • Chris says:

      “Haterade?” Kevin, I don’t think any of the posts have been what anybody could possibly conceive of as being hateful. There has been some criticism of the proposal and a few posts criticizing individuals for rejecting the idea, but that is it. My understanding of a web forum is that it serves to allow discussion and debate of ideas, not that it must serve as a means to reach consensus.

      So long as no one is using abusive language or posting threatening remarks, I would not worry about there being some disagreement.

    • Curt Ailes says:

      The way that people are reacting, you’d think that we were proposing that we close all of downtown to automobile traffic. How many people are using the Omni skywalk? Really… I stand ny my initial clam that these things kill street life.
      .
      In fact, you should all know that there is a variance request making it’s way through regulatory hearings to open up some business near Georgia & Penn. Seems the new “streetlife” may already be leading to some additional street level retail. Meanwhile, businesses are leaving the mall.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        Hooters thrives at street level, literally in the shadow of the skywalk. So might new businesses.
        .
        The biggest urban design and streetlife issues on that half-block of Georgia are the “blank walls”: garage entry/exit, the lack of mall entry @ Harry & Izzy’s and the fact that the Omni’s “front door” faces Union Station. None would be fixed by removing the skywalk.

  12. Tim_Waynes says:

    I don’t think the skywalk takes away from the view at all. One can stand on Georgia St. and see down the street. While I understand the concept/idea of forcing people to cross Georgia Street, I think the idea that somehow forcing people to cross the street will magically get them to return and spend money questionable. Also, the area is supposed to be this magnificent area, surely with the large windows people using the walk will see everything below. To me, anyone who would return being forced to cross the street would just as likely return when they see what is going on below from the crosswalk. Plus, it can get bitter cold here in the winters, and I doubt much will be going on down on Georgia Street during that time frame.

    I somewhat agree with Nick about Georgia Street. I don’t like the concept of vehicles. To me, it should have been block after block of pedestrian only areas. I’m guessing there is a reason to allow one lane of cars the full length of Georgia Street? Just kinda looks like having a pedestrian area, bordered by two one way drive lanes will kinda hamper folks viewing it as a true pedestrian hang out area.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      There are multiple reasons to allow cars on Georgia, Tim: access to St. John church, access to several parking garages, access to and through alleys for truck deliveries, and (since it’s one of few two-way streets downtown), increased ability to circle blocks when necessary (pickup and dropoff, find parking meters, find specific location).
      .
      Kevin, consider this: The view from the “mezzanine level” could be inviting. It will certainly be a good place for intrepid blogger/photographers to capture the panorama and activity level of major downtown events. (Like balcony shots looking down on Bourbon Street, but without the women flashing.)
      .
      Who knows, it may become a “standard view” of downtown. Anything would be better than the now-standard “corporate park” view of a canal fountain and lawn in the foreground with AUL and Chase Towers looming. :-)

      • Jeffrey C says:

        I get the aesthetic argument, but think the point Chris raises here is a very valid one. When I’ve had visitors from out of town, they’ve really enjoyed standing in the Artsgarden and watching the street activity. Given the view of Georgia Street events, the skywalk will likely serve the same function for some.

        • Chris Barnett says:

          :-)
          .
          Perhaps the only good thing about the old MSA was the upper (outdoor) mezzanine view west on Market to Monument Circle and the Statehouse. Out of towners used to like that, too. Again, much better urban downtown view than the cliched, overdone canal-fountain-grass-skyscraper.

      • ahow628 says:

        Wait. No women flashing on Georgia St? I feel greatly mislead…

  13. @Nick – Y-o-u-r is ‘your.’ Y-o-u-’r-e is ‘you are.’ Learn basic grammar rules then bring your opinion to a public forum. Otherwise you look, as you would say, silly (not to mention stupid.)

    Tearing down ALL skywalks in Indy would be a major boon for DT Indy. Indy is not nearly cold enough to warrant them and all they do is suck the life off the streets, DT Indy’s most important public space. This is urban planning 101, much like the ‘your-you’re’ rule is grammar 101.

    • Chris says:

      Greg, I assume Nick knows the difference between “your” and “you’re.” The error was most likely just a typo. I rarely see grammatically perfect posts on a message board. Perfection should be reserved for resumes and paid work product. Also, while I agree Nick seems overly pessimistic, I do not think you should call another poster stupid (yes, if someone posts something hateful or otherwise truly out-of-bounds, then have at it, but that did not happen here).

      A condescending attitude is unattractive, even on a cute guy.

    • D says:

      Maybe lay off the grammar policing until you learn how to click the “Reply” link on the post you’re responding to.

    • Jeffrey C says:

      Do you have data to back up your assertions that it would be a “major boom” to business to tear down all of the skywalks? I’m fairly certain the ICVA could give you studies that show meeting planners factoring in the skywalks as a reason why they are willing to choose Indy in winter months.

      Yes, our winters are mild. But few convention-goers are going to want to have to bundle up in a winter coat to walk to a convention center and have to coat-check it for meetings. With our convention center expansion, Indy has to attract large events competing with warmer climates in the winter months. A few skywalks connecting hotels actually helps business, not impedes it. As Chris says below, not all skywalks are evil.

  14. JP says:

    Since Kevin opened this forum with the statement “I can’t imagine that the bridge gets much foot traffic as it stands”, I thought Curt/Greg’s viewpoint that skywalks “suck the life off the streets” was little dramatic. Of course, they raise valid point. But you could also argue that, in general, their convenience adds some activity that otherwise would not be there (e.g. office worker does mall shopping during lunch break, etc). I always found them to be an interesting urban form (the whole futuristic Metropolis feel). And I guess my (unscientific) take on this is that ‘no skywalk can suck the life out of an otherwise vibrant downtown’.

  15. Cincinnati was probably the second city in America to start building skywalks — largely at the insistence of former city councilman Charlie Taft, grandson of the president — who once visited Minneapolis in the winter and proclaimed them to be the greatest thing ever.

    Eventually, the network grew to span most of downtown. Starting around the turn of the last decade, street-level merchants began to criticize them, and a couple have now been removed. I’m guessing that, as they require repairs over time, they will all be going away.

    Since the first two were removed in the Fountain Square area, street-level businesses have boomed. There is not a single vacant store anywhere around there now.

    Keep pushing. Real cities don’t have skywalks.

    • Chris says:

      John, aren’t you being overly dramatic? Indianapolis has just a few skywalks, and they mainly serve to connect hotels and the convention center. The city does not have anything like the scale of the Minneapolis skywalk system, etc. Also, most cities have at least one skywalk somewhere in their downtown, even mild weather cities. So, unless, most cities are not “real” cities, I would say your comment undermines any credibility you might otherwise have.

      It seems some people seem to be getting overly worked up over what is really a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Indianapolis has serious problems–failing public schools, a still too high crime rate, deteroriating infrastructure, urban sprawl, a lousy public transit system, etc. The existence of a handful of skywalks, even if you don’t like them, does not rank anywhere close to the most important challenge facing the city.

      I said it once, and I will say it again: The skywalk is relatively new, and I believe there are contractual obligations in place to maintain it. It is not coming down, at least not for several years. Its fine to say, “Gee, the view would be better without it, etc” But, right now, this is nothing more than a “visioning” experiment. Even if it had 100% support, which it does not, it would not be implemented this year, next year, or anytime within the next several years.

      My suggestion, would be to focus on positive things the city is doing that could be built upon. E.g. continuing to make intersections safer, widening or installing sidewalks, beautifying street medians, etc.

      • “John, aren’t you being overly dramatic?”

        Actually, no. The vitality of Cincinnati’s Fountain Square area improved dramatically once the skywalks were removed. Lots of new street-level businesses and many more people on the sidewalks. And no one has complained.

        If you have just a few skywalks now, count your blessings. Cincinnati still has a lot of them, and few street-level businesses exists where the skywalks do. Over time, they will probably be going away. No one wants more of them these days.

        And I agree that skywalks are low on the list of our city’s ills. Just one of those “little murders” which, in the aggegate, make for a much less-vibrant city.

        Don’t build any more of them.

      • Joe Smoker says:

        I would like to point out that Indy has the 2nd most skywalks in the nation behind Minneapolis.

        • Chris Barnett says:

          I would point out that Indy is ranked higher as a convention destination than other cold-weather cities, and that the “visitor taxes” thus generated (such as rental cars, hotel rooms, and sales taxes on purchases in Circle Centre) are a significant source of city revenue.
          .
          Downtown was hopping on Saturday around LOS, and the mall was busy. Colts game? Big 10 game? No. State band championship. Skywalks had no appreciable effect on the crowds or the streetlife.

  16. Chris Barnett says:

    As everything else in life, it’s tough to declare skywalks always good or bad. I like to consider each on its merits.
    .
    There’s a new one under construction at 26th & Illinois to connect Ivy Tech’s newest building to the other side of the street. One just finished connects the JWMarriott complex to Convention Center across West St. Both of those would go in my “good” category.

  17. JP says:

    Food for thought – skywalk networks are not build only in the “cold cities”. I believe the largest networks of skywalks in the world is currently being built in Mumbai. Similar idea though – just air-conditioning appeal vs. heating.
    .
    And the project has been controversial (just like this thread :).

  18. marimacc says:

    As a frequent visitor and conventioneer to Indy, I must agree that the skywalks (or hamster tubes as we often call them), are a HUGE draw. I’ve been to conventions across the country and the world, and I have never been to a more convention friendly town, and the skywalks definitely contribute to that.

    I also don’t think they in any way hurt the downtown businesses; on the contrary, they help cconsiderably. Think about this; if I’m in an unconnected hotel room across from the convention center, and it’s very hot, or very cold, or raining, well, I have to cross the street to get to my convention, but if there’s nothing else connected, I’m going to grab a hotdog at the ICC, or possibly eat something in my hotel, but that’s it, I’m not venturing out. But the way things are connected now, it’s so much easier to go to any place in the mall to eat, or some place like the RAM which is just a few steps out of a hamster tube, or even somewhere as far away as the Weber Grill. With more things connected, there are more places I can go, and I’m likely to spend more money at those places. Not to mention, since it’s so convenient, I can break away from my convention to grab something at Dairy Queen, or do a little general shopping in the mall.

    I’m sorry if you think those hamster tubes are an eyesore. As a visitor to the city, I think they look neat, and honestly, the easier you make it for people to get around, the MORE they will get around. I love to stand in the middle of them and take pictures of the city/convention traffic.

  19. Aaron says:

    Here’s a strange idea…

    Why don’t we capitalize on that sky walk and give it more of a purpose. How about increasing its size and connecting it to the new pedistrian paths with stairs. Would be a great way to push people in an out of the the mall.

    Or how about a make-over. Make it more of a public art piece that happens to hold a skywalk.

    Just my humble ideas.

  20. Paul says:

    Good ideas Aaron. I like the idea of reestablishing a mall entrance that way.

  21. MikeW says:

    Keep it, but upgrade it. Give it more of an “arched walkway to let trees grow under it instead of front of it. Consider it like a foot bridge going over a promenade. The idea of extending it down to the street is good.

    It’s pulling any street life activity away because there is no street life to really venture too. Whohoo Hooters, a closed unusable entrance to the Omni, parking garge entrance. Thats it on that portion of the block.

    It has to stay, because when I need to make my way to Union Station from the Government Center North – I never have to be outside until the last 25 steps…..plus “connected” hotels rooms is a huge reason we continue to get business.

  22. Anthony jackson says:

    Sorry guys i think the skywalk looks good and blends in quite nicely with the new georgeia street and besides indy like minniapolis,and cincy., is known for its, huge skybrige connect system, and if not minstaken indy/ours is the largest in the US. and they look good, and are great for cold belt places,i truly love them.

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