INDIANAPOLIS — When rioters rampaged through downtown Indianapolis during two nights of unrest in late May, banks and their windows were among the hardest hit totaling millions of dollars in property damage.
Jeff Hendrix of the National Bank of Indianapolis wants to make sure that never happens again. That’s why he’s petitioned the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission for permission to install roll-down steel shutters on the windows of his building headquarters that overlook the intersection of Market and Pennsylvania Streets just a block off Monument Circle.
“It is not our intent to roll these down nightly but only as needed for civil unrest or severe weather,” Hendrix told the Commission during its February 3rd meeting.
He continued, “They look a lot better than the boards. During the May event, the boarding up of downtown just…we had a lot of our employees not even want to come downtown for fear of their self.”
Most of the plywood that covered the shattered glass from those two nights in May has come off downtown buildings. However, Commission President William Browne believes the NBI request is only the first his board will hear.
Many property owners, and their insurance companies, are leery of a repeat the next time an angry group takes to the streets in the heart of the city to protest injustice.
“This is gonna be a request that is maybe going to be coming from a number of other applicants in the future,” Browne told the commission. “You would like to think that this is a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing, and if it’s not, we have a wider problem to sort of deal with.”
The other commissioners were unanimously opposed to the NBI request.
“I’m a little concerned about property owners wanting to create a sense of that the city is not secure,” said Amandula Anderson who remembered what a virtually abandoned downtown Indianapolis looked like 40 years ago.
“Once we start setting a precedent around putting garage doors on front of windows, we will have a shuttered downtown once again, and that’s not the direction I want to see our city go.”
“It just breaks my heart that we’re even talking about this,” said Susan Williams.
“Once it gets started, you’re going to see it I think on most buildings and you’re gonna have a fortress-like look to the downtown,” said James Kienle. “You’re gonna see graffiti sprayed on it. Look around at other cities where they have these, its what happens.”
“Its sort of a sad statement for our bicentennial,” said Kevin Murray. “Its reminiscent of the Florida Keys.”
Hendrix warned city officials and downtown property owners may have to make a choice between security and esthetics because, “if they’d rather see boarded up windows during the day cuz I think this is gonna happen in the future again.”
The commission voted to table the NBI request until at least March 3rd in order to give the bank more time to consider other window treatments such as shatterproof glass to protest its property in a less obtrusive manner.