Friday, June 19, 2009

Downtown Indianapolis

Just got back from a few work days in Indianapolis. Their downtown was impressive - lots of people and night life, without the phony, dress-coded corporate feel of a Cordish strip mall. There was a great blend of local restaurants and bars along side the expected chains, and most were located in genuine old buildings. It was great.

I started to ask around about how it all happened - what kind of tax breaks were given to whom to spark such a vibrant downtown? Unfortunately, I don't have the answers yet, and, even more unfortunately, I realized I don't really care that much. Kansas City's ship has sailed. We have what we have, and we're never going to have what Indianapolis has.

Indianapolis has downtown Indianapolis. We have Kansas City/Daytona/4th Street/Philly/Power Plant/Woodbine Live!, thanks to the "leadership" of our prior Mayor and council.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Melinda said...

Dan!!! You should've let me know! I could have met you for dinner. I'm in Bloomington, just an hour south.

6/19/2009 9:30 AM  
Blogger New Hoboken said...

Little Rock is also coming back to life, slowly of course, and delightfully, and all without a Cordish booze court. Yay! Maybe we drift through Indianapolis this summer in our family travels...

We are in KC this weekend. Robin (and you) should come over and see if any clothes fit her. I would be sure to turn my back to encourage and support shoplifting. Things must leave!

6/19/2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous C Beal said...

Dan,

Downtown Indy is impressive. I lived there for three years until I moved back here. I hated every day I lived there even though I found it a great place to do business. I travelled to Indy for 10 years before I moved there. Here are some facts that you have not heard.

When they built the new stadium, it created a $50 million hole in the city's budget. It had to be filled through the passage of emergency legislation this past year.

Property taxes in the part of town that is similar to Brookside have skyrocketed. Property taxes in my old house went from $5,000 to $13,000 in over several years. In order to make up for screwups in the assessment and billing system, I ended up have to pay around $1,500 per month in taxes through my escrow account. My house sold for $500,000 last year. My overall tax rate was higher than it was in DC. Plus, you paid a local income tax that was over our 1 percent earnings tax.

The schools are as bad as they are here.

The arts scene is lacking in sophistication. There is a small area similar to our Crossroads area, but it is just a few blocks. First Fridays is a joke.

Many of my neighbors would join me in complaining about the lack of decent restaurants in town. There are very few independent eating places in town. Indy is one of the few places without an identifiable cuisine. There is only one independent coffee joint compared to dozens here.

Next time you are in Indy, drive around the city. Get out of downtown. Indy does not have block after block of great neighborhods like you do here.

6/21/2009 5:07 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

C Beal -

Welcome back to town. I had lunch with your former sister-in-law before I caught my flight to Indi, and she said you were back. It sounds like you've really started back where you left off!

The stadium controversy continues in Indianapolis - further evidence that our own downtown stadium folk are off base (pun intended).

Aside from the stadium, I'm curious about how much money went into developing their downtown, and how it compares to ours financially, though, as I said in my original posting, it doesn't matter much - we are stuck with what the big-shot developers sold to Barnes and Cauthen.

As for the rest of your comment, I agree that a thriving downtown scene has little to do with the livability of a city, and given a choice between the two, I'd choose KC's livability over Indi's downtown any day.

6/21/2009 9:00 AM  
Anonymous cbeal said...

Dan,

Thanks for your welcoming comments.

I missed the community service aspect of life and was sick and tired of travelling most of the time and wanted to be close to family. So, I quit my Lilly corporate job, accepted a job in KC and here I am! I am excited to be back after seven years. We even bought our old house back and have the same phone number! Who says you can't come home? You have a great blog by the way.

Here is the downtown story for Indy. Corporate vision. Indy's government and civic leadership decided to make Indy a sports capital of the US. They largely accomplished it. Realize before the early 1980s, Indy was truly "nap town" as the locals would deride their own city.

First, they built a stadium downtown without an NFL team in the early 80s. The Colts arrived.

Second, Indy attracted the Pan Am games in 1987. Sports infrastructure was built downtown for the games including the convention center. In 1992 or so, Lilly (the pension plan) and other investors worked with the Simon company to build the Circle Center Mall that brought retail back to downtown Indy. It opened in 1995. At the same time, they built Conseco Fieldhouse. In 1996, they made a full court press to attract the NCAA to town. They won. The location for the NCAA headquarters was in a bad part of downtown and the new building helped revitalize that area. In 2001, they increased various hospitality taxes to build a new stadium downtown. The new stadium has lead to the 2012 Super Bowl.

I am not sure of the total amount of public funds that were expended in all of these projects. I do know they have used TIF and other incentives. However, it is well below the percentages in Kansas City. However, these investments were and are about a larger "vision" and were made over time. Once you understand the vision, the decisions that Indy made over time make a lot of sense.

They forgot the neighborhoods, though. Something to think about.

6/21/2009 9:12 PM  
Blogger hatercopter said...

Dan, you're completely right. No public money went into Indy's smaller, tacky downtown. Everything was done 100% privately. AWESOME work.

Are you also aware Indy wrestled the NCAA (and its big events) away from Kansas City some years ago? Indy stole KC's spot as a mid-level destination for large sporting events and conventions decades ago. While citizens of KC allowed downtown to rot and turn into a bunch of parking lots, Indy built facilities which brought people back to its center.

You do realize P+L does NOT = downtown? It's a small corner for tourists and others that don't know much about the rest of the city. If you're impressed with Indy I'd hate to see what you'd like KC to look like.

7/14/2009 12:38 AM  

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