The Indianapolis Star has a story today discussing how both Democrat Joe Hogsett and Republican Chuck Brewer think it's time to focus more on the city's neighborhoods instead of downtown. "I recall (former Mayor Bill Hudnut) saying this many times, 'you can’t be a suburb of nothing,' " Hogsett said. "I want to add the Hogsett corollary to the Hudnut doctrine: You can’t be a downtown of nothing. A strong downtown will only remain strong if it has thriving neighborhoods around it." Brewer agrees. "Most people will tell you now that Downtown is doing pretty well, and it’s probably time that we shift focus,” he said. “And I think that’s what this next chapter is about in terms of doing things differently." I personally don't believe either of them means what they say. The people bankrolling their campaigns have moved to the far hinterlands of suburbia and could care less what the urban neighborhoods outside of downtown have become. The Star also continues to be the consummate apologist for our current mayor.
In fairness to Mayor Greg Ballard, it isn't as though no efforts have been made. During his last state of the city address in 2014, he stressed the need to rebuild the city's neighborhoods, and announced the $350 million RebuildIndy 2, the second major infrastructure spending program of his tenure. Ballard and the council ultimately settled on a $340 million compromise, earmarked for roads, sidewalks, curbs, parks and swimming pools.
During his administration, the city also has expanded the use of tax-increment financing across the city to fund neighborhood redevelopment efforts. The most recent, the Avondale Meadows TIF district at 38th and Keystone, was created to spur development of a neighborhood grocery.Please. All of that spending is aimed at lining the pockets of his campaign contributors. Any small, incremental benefit to neighborhoods has been purely accidental. The stats cited by the Star show how badly things are deteriorating outside of downtown as property values continue to plummet.
Still, the divergent trajectories of Downtown and the rest of the city are palpable. From 2008 to 2013, the median assessed value of residential property downtown increased 9 percent from $170,600 to $185,900, according to data maintained by the Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. In that same period, median assessed residential values across Marion County declined 8.2 percent from $96,800 to $88,900.
Include other types of property, and the divide is even starker. While median Downtown property values increased 10.7 percent, Marion County as a whole declined 8.8 percent.Residential properties downtown may not look so rosy in a few years after Ballard has foolishly allowed his campaign contributors to slap up all of these cheap apartment buildings all over downtown that are charging high rents. Give them a few years when the newness wears off and the owners fail to keep them up to the standards renters expect for rents that high. Look out. You need only head out to the I-465 beltway to find apartment complex after apartment complex that once were nice places to live that have now become undesirable places to live.