Monday, September 20, 2010

Star Editors Have A Good Idea

It's not very often that I read an editorial by the Star's editors and say, "Hey, that's a good idea." Today is one of those rare occasions. A good thought from the editors came in discussing plans by the City to pave over that gravel lot next to the City-County Building that formerly was home to Market Square Arena before the Simons ordered the City to build Conseco Fieldhouse and tear down the building where Elvis Presley performed his last concert or else they would move their Pacers somewhere else. The Star's editors think the City might make a wiser choice in converting the parking lot into a park akin to Chicago's Millennium Park:

What if, for instance, the Market Square site became an Indianapolis-sized version of Chicago's Millennium Park? What if it were to include gardens, fountains, public art and an amphitheater where the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and other premiere musical acts could perform in warm weather months?

Too ambitious? Perhaps. But the real estate and retail markets may well be saturated in the area around the site for years to come. And it's too prime of a location to allow it to languish as a parking lot for another decade.

In thinking through the future of the Market Square space, city planners should add another underused and neglected public space -- Pan Am Plaza -- to the discussion. Given that site's proximity to the Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, there may well be a market for a high-end development there.

I'm a big believer in having green spaces mixed in with high density development in a city's center of activities. I thought it was reprehensible when the City destroyed the green space across the street from the State House so the Simons could build an average-looking skyscraper that shadowed the State House to house their corporate offices as a show of their political clout in this city and state. Green spaces are ideal as a buffer zone for important government buildings, particularly in the age of terrorism. This is an idea to which the City should give serious consideration. Somehow or another it's an idea I doubt will be met with much fanfare by the downtown elites because it entirely involves the public good, a foreign concept to those people.


Russ said...

It has three strikes against it: it involves the public good, it wasn't an idea that came from Ice or B&T, and it doesn't generate tax revenue for Ice and B&T to fund their war chests.

Cato said...

I heard Lugar owns that land. Is that true?

Half park, half lot would be a nice use. People need to be able to park at the Market if the Market is to succeed.

P.S. Millennium Park sucks. Those hideous sculptures have defiled Chicago. I'm not sure why they even call it "Millennium Park." Sure looks like Grant Park to me. On Michigan, right across the street, are the entrances to the "Grant Park Parking Garage."

Paul K. Ogden said...

I sent an email to Ryerson pointing out that Pan Am has already been sold by the Sports Corp, for something like $3.5 million. The City doesn't own that property...and now neither does the Sports Corp. They're supposed to be building a hotel there. However, the economy crashed shortly after the sale.

As part of the 1985 agreement for giving the Sports Corp the entire city block that included Pan Am Plaza was that the Sports Corp was build and maintain the plaza for 30 years, or pay $3 million adjusted for inflation if they wanted to quit the requirement early.

The plaza requirement was reduced from 88,000 to 10,000 square feet by a simple resolution slipped through the MDC in late December 2007 as the Peterson people were leaving offce. That allowed the Sports Corp to sell the property without paying the taxpayers a dime.

That's why we filed the taxpayer lawsuit which points out that the proper procedure wasn't filed in reducing the plaza requirement and that the Sports Corp owes the City millions. Anyone who thinks the Ballard administration is standing up for taxpayers against the shenanigans of people in the Peterson adminstration which enriched the Sports Corp, hasn't been watching the antics of this administration over the past going on 3 years. The Ballard people are zealously going after the taxpayers who filed the lawsuit, even using taxpayer money to hire outside counsel to defend what was done.

I agree with you, Gary. Downtown needs more open spaces for the people and less development.

dcrutch said...

Or, for even greater public good, how about leaving it a gravel parking lot (similar to the downtown hole in the ground when we couldn't afford anything else). We could put any savings into public safety, education, or infrastructure.

The suggestion is a step-up for the Star, but they still haven't seen a public project they didn't like or thought we couldn't afford. More that a bit pretentious considering their own economic straits.

Southsider said...

Another thought...The C/C building was built in the 60's (?). Leave the C/C building for government offices. Why not use one of those lots for a Justice center? Move ALL the Courts, Public Defenders. Probation Office, and of course stop paying rent space for the Prosecutor's Office and have everything in one place.

Sean Shepard said...

Hey! It'd be just in time to have nobody go down there because of the parking situation! ;-) (just kidding - sort of) ... I guess people could visit after 9PM when the meters go to free like they do at 6 PM now?

interestedparty said...

So there are things taxes should pay for?

IndyDem said...

This makes so much sense to me. For years I've been saying we need to invest in making the north east quad of downtown more inviting. Continuously REINVENTING the inside of City Market has failed each time. It's time to think outside the box (market).
This idea looks to the future would help the local merchants and invite people to explore the area. . I don't unnecessarily think it has to be exactly this project, but it's an idea in the right direction. We've got to start thinking broader for long term solutions.
Unfortunately, it'll probably never get done. There aren't enough immediate returns. There is also the issue of all the cars using the lots. Where will they go in a downtown with little to affordable parking? Where will people visiting the park, park? So we're back to square one... parking.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Okay, IndyDem you had me until you said Indy had little in the way of affordable parking. You can park a couple blocks south of the City-County Building all day for $2.50, or at least that's what it was a couple years ago.

Indy has some of the cheapest downtown parking of any city its size.
Of course, jacking ujp the rates at the parking meters will have a ripple effect, with rates rising in the lots and garages. It appears that the Ballard administration is committed to ending cheap parking in Indianapolis.

Downtown Indy said...

Turning the area into a park would also turn it into HoboLand, unfortunately.

Had our tax dollars been managed intelligently (or just managed, period!), the city would have had money to build a 'justice center' and not have city offices scattered all over town and the attendant lease payments going out to them.

But it would be nice to have an open, landscaped area where the farmer's market booths could be set up more than Wed and Sat mornings, not tying up traffic on Market St and perhaps a number of parking spaces so people could stop and make purchases going to/from home.

IndyDem said...

Paul- I'm not familiar with a $2.50 lot anywhere downtown. Maybe there is, maybe not. If there is, you're right. That's plenty affordable. But my point was that there isn't enough to point to. As is often the reality, its about location, location, location. If there is an affordable lot 3 or 4 blocks south of the CC building, are people going to use it? We have to remember to keep in mind what the market will tolerate. North of Market St, the Market St lot is the only affordable lot. Some people use the Market St lot for things they do going north. I was looking at the map last week and the city owned lots are all concentrated on the west and southwest side. The east has little. I've been talking to Ballard's group for years about the lack of affordable parking and as early as last year, they were not going to renew the variance that allowed them to keep the Market St lot as-is and they had no intention of paving it. Now with the parking debate raging, they've decided to pave it. My concern is once that happens, will the cost go up? Moving the affordable lots further away from the destinations of the consumers will only make downtown less inviting. I know in most larger cities, walking a bit is part of the downtown experience, but people aren't used to it here. It will have an impact. We also want to remember a great deal of the selling value of Indy is our affordability. As we reach to become more "in line" with comparable cities, we make ourselves less competitive. We don't have mountains or oceans or scenic vistas so we've got to maintain the few competitive edges we do have to attract people. And I agree, we have the canal and White River Park, but they are located on the west side of downtown. Increased pedestrian traffic there does nothing for boosting the local small businesses as there isn't much on the west side.
A friend of mine works at Rolls Royce as an engineer building jet engines. Part of his job is to recruit from colleges to work at Rolls. He's given me a statement pointing to Indy's affordability and open and accessible downtown, specifically citing our free parking after 6 and on weekends, when marketing Indy to perspectives. Young people look at these things. Increased parking complications will make selling Indianapolis to these people more difficult.

James said...

So here I am with my politics a little left of center and I find myself arguing the other side of a park proposal against people to the right of me... go figure.

Look, downtown needs to be downtown... it needs more buildings that generate economic activity. It needs more higher-end people to live there, not just folks who work and go home at 5:00.

We need more development that generates property tax revenue: there are lots of non-profits and government offices already.

We do have green/public space - White river park, American Legion Mall, the circle, military park as well as Pan Am Plaza, the cultural trail and other areas.

Carmel is still building housing units... I've seen a few big projects going up along the Monon. We should be doing the same thing here.

Housing will come back and we should have units ready. My thinking is that a $30 million subsidy for a major mixed use development on the old MSA site would do far more for economic development in the downtown than handing that money to the Pacers.

Vox Populi said...

James, I don't know how many high-end people want to live right across the street from the criminal courts and bail bondsmen.