More than two years after the COVID-19 pandemic and a summer of social unrest swept through downtown Indianapolis, the core of Indiana’s capitol city is still recovering.
Though the convention business has bounced back, Circle Center Mall is struggling, offices are empty as employees learned to work from home and restaurants and businesses shut their doors when customers quit coming in.
Mayor Joe Hogsett and Downtown Indy Inc. have partnered to clean up and secure downtown in advance of a pair of major sporting events that will bring Indianapolis international attention in 2024.
“The city of Indianapolis will partner with Downtown Indy Inc to invest more than $3.5 million into safety, cleanliness and outreach within the Mile Square,” said Hogsett. “That includes overtime for additional off-duty IMPD Bike Patrol. It includes adding incentives for the B.Link security camera program. It includes a new Indy DPW cleaning crew focused specifically on downtown.”
The funding will also include housing navigators and social workers to help persons without permanent shelter get off the streets.
“Downtown is our city’s front door and as downtown goes, so goes the rest of the city,” said Taylor Schaffer, President & CEO of DII. “Downtown Indianapolis represents only about 1.5 square miles, but it accounts for nearly 20% of the property and income taxes for the entire city.”
“The downtown of Indianapolis is the economic engine for all of central Indiana,” said Hogsett who touted $3.8 billion in what he called new investment in housing and development investment in the core of Marion County. “Over the next three to four years you’re gonna see a lot of cranes in the air all over the downtown area.
“With a 96% residential occupancy rate downtown, we’re gonna continue to build. In fact, we’ve announced over the course of the last several months incredibly major developments.”
Downtown is seeking to evolve from a place to work and play to a place to play and stay.
“We might be on the cusp of the best five years, the most exciting five years in downtown from a development standpoint that we’ve ever had,” said Rick Fuson, President & CEO of Pacers Sports and Entertainment which is building a plaza on Maryland Street adjoining Gainbridge Fieldhouse. “You know, we’re gonna open the Bicentennial Unity Plaza here sometime in the summer and we’ll have ice skating and roller skating, and we’ll have all kind of different events. That’s an opportunity in downtown where you can come and be safe and you can go to a Pacer game and come back out as part of the same complex.”
IMPD expects to spend one million dollars this year on overtime and special patrols mainly in the trouble-prone downtown bar district in the 200 block of South Meridian Street.
“We created a task force to put pressure and have staff to put pressure on establishments that sell alcohol and ask them to be more responsible,” said IMPD Assistant Chief Chris Bailey. “We’ve asked for greater partnerships with the state, specifically the Alcohol Tobacco Commission, in order to hold these managers and bar owners and building owners accountable for what they do and don’t do in their businesses…from about eleven o’clock at night until about four in the morning.”
The clean up partnership between the City and DII will last through Indianapolis’ hosting of the 2024 NBA All Star Game and the USA Olympic Swimming Trials later that same year.