Indianapolis business leaders seek Monument Circle upgrades

A view of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis business leaders are calling for upgrades to the city’s centerpiece, Monument Circle.

Downtown leaders say the brick pavers surrounding the Soldiers and Sailors Monument are aging and the area lacks coordinated event planning, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported. Leaders also say they have safety concerns.

Insurance giant Anthem Inc.’s decision to vacate its Monument Circle headquarters at the end of the year should raise the stakes on making Monument Circle improvements, said Sherry Seiwert, president of the not-for-profit Downtown Indy Inc.

“The condition of Monument Circle will, I’m sure, play a role in being able to attract a high-level tenant,” Seiwert said. “We have to keep Monument Circle at a high standard in order to attract additional private investment.”

The city has a $250,000 annual contract with Indiana Reclamation and Excavating Inc. to repair the bricks and concrete. The Department of Public Works also cleans up trash and maintains plants.

“There are Band-Aid approaches whenever a fix is needed,” Seiwert said. “At some point in time, there has to be a unified decision made — the business community, city leaders and folks that really care about and love Monument Circle coming together (and saying) it’s a priority.”

The Department of Public Works is continuing to design a Monument Circle renewal project, said Director Dan Parker.

“We’re still looking at a major expense,” Parker said. “We did not include that in our capital plan because it would have consumed a good portion. But we’re going to seek out other funding opportunities.”

Two smaller initiatives are also seeking improvements to the area. One proposal from Downtown Indy and the Indiana War Memorials Commission would create a daily patriotic light show on the circle. Another initiative seeks to rebuild and upgrade two blocks of one of the circle’s spokes, Market Street.

Upgrades to Monument Circle need to happen soon as the area’s infrastructure continues to decline, said Cynthia Bowen of Rundell Ernstberger Associates, who is deputy project manager for the Market Street project.

“Every year we go, that infrastructure is going to continue to crumble and the city is still going to have to pay more dollars to keep it fixed,” she said. “It becomes a safety concern for people walking down the street.”