The New Downtown: The Canal

The Canal is recently living up to its potential.

This article is part of Indianapolis Monthly’s The New Downtown package, which includes a guide to five hotspots, a few big city problems, and a look at what’s next for the city. For more content on navigating the new downtown, click here.

neighborhood can’t consider itself trendy without an indie coffee shop and microbrewery, so it’s a good thing the west side of downtown has both in Quills Coffee and Two Deep Brewing, each new additions. The one-two punch of IUPUI’s growth and the Cultural Trail brought other new life to Senate and Capitol avenues between Michigan and 10th streets in the form of swanky apartments (Axis has a rooftop Sky Bar and courtyard pool; 800 Cap offers compact lofts), which complement established amenities like Mo’Joe Coffeehouse, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Italian-ice emporium Fresco on the canal—and the beloved waterway itself.

The canal is “one of our best assets in the city,” says Catherine Esselman, Downtown Indy’s real estate development director. But only recently has the surrounding area started to live up to its potential. The urban playground may appeal to tourists with its gondolas and Segways, but there’s no better place for residents to take a jog or a pre-concert stroll. Downtown Indy will start offering free morning yoga on the banks this spring, too. Can we stop comparing the canal to San Antonio’s River Walk now?

Who’s Moving In

IUPUIStudentsIUPUI Students – Despite a handful of high-end homes on the canal, most of the area is composed of rentals—and IUPUI’s nonresident population has grown by nearly 40 percent in the last decade. The new offerings keep coming, too. Of the 4,300 apartments slated for downtown in the next two years, nearly a third are on or near campus. Study group on the gondola!

Just Passing Through


Lunchtime Workout
Find your way to the canal through one of 53 public entrances (best parking: meters on 11th Street west of Senate Avenue). A 3-mile loop runs from a 17-foot waterfall on the north end to White River State Park on the south end.


Sunday Funday
Have a curator give you a 30-minute complimentary tour of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library (340 N. Senate Ave.). Ask about the sealed envelope in one of the glass cases—it’s a war letter, never opened, to the author from his father.


Pre-Concert Dinner
Just north of the St. Clair Street bridge, the neon sign of Burgerhaus (335 W. 9th St.) beckons. Grab an outdoor table on the canal and devour The Aussie (bacon, fried egg, beefsteak tomato). Bonus: validated parking for two hours at 9 on Canal.

Still Cool

The Stutz Business Center

Grub – Traditional Hoosier fare—tenderloins, fried catfish, greasy burgers—adorns the menu at Bearcats Restaurant (1045 N. Senate Ave.). The unlimited soup and salad ($7.99) is a steal.

Mingle – The Open House gallery crawl,, April 29 and 30, is going strong after 27 years. Friday night is the party. Saturday afternoon is calmer.

Game – One artist keeps arcade games outside his studio—no quarters necessary. At last check, they were on the second floor of Building D.

The Obstacle


Businesses don’t want to open in a three-season destination. But as more apartments arrive, the permanent population base makes canal retail more viable. In the meantime, Downtown Indy is working to improve signage and parking options.