The New Downtown: Market East

Cosmopolitan living is coming to the old Market Square Arena site (finally).

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.

Californians would call the change coming to the Mile Square’s eastern edge “the big one.” The old Market Square Arena site has been poised to rumble since the building came down in 2001. Now seismic transformation is here—in the next two years, the area’s population will increase by a few thousand people once the Downtown Transit Center, a Cummins headquarters, 360 Market Square tower, Whole Foods, and the 21c Museum Hotel all cut their ribbons within a few blocks.

The destruction metaphor isn’t apt, of course. Yes, there will be challenges. A population explosion and new public greenspaces bring security concerns for businesses like City Market, for instance. But the overwhelming effect will amount to perhaps the most urbane pocket of the city. Modern architecture will push Indy’s staid aesthetic envelope, starting with the stair-stepped glass Cummins building, projected to open at the start of 2017. The company’s worldly workforce and the 21c’s contemporary art scene should bolster the area’s sophisticated tone. Some insiders jokingly call Market East a “Carmel relocation program.” But as a center of city government and urban transit, the district preserves a diverse edge that the suburbs will never have. “Demographics are shifting to prefer urban living,” says the Department of Metropolitan Development’s Brad Beaubien. “This is the area’s only genuine downtown.”

Who’s Moving In

High RollersHigh Rollers – No one is unpacking yet, but when 360 Market Square opens with nearly 300 high-rise apartments (mostly one- and two-bedrooms, plus some penthouses), the rent will also hit the sky: $1.90 to $2 per square foot, pretty much the most expensive in the city. The good news for families willing to deal with the space constraints? There’s an excellent public school—IPS’s Center for Inquiry II elementary— just up the street.

Just Passing Through

BikerFull Moon
Hate biking in heavy traffic? Take the safety-in-numbers route with Full Moon Riders, a group that cruises city streets under a bright nighttime sky. The free ride leaves from City Market. Next: March 23. RSVP on the group’s Facebook page.ShaveThree Days Post-Shave
Walk-ins used to be welcome at Brick & Mortar barbershop (126 N. Delaware St.). But the cool one-chair place’s business has picked up to the point that appointments are now required for the $30 shave, complete with house-blended oil.TomlinsonThirsty Thursday
Tomlinson Tap Room (City Market mezzanine, 222 E. Market St.) is the only place where you can both try beers from around the city and state—and take home a growler from more than one Indiana brand. Call it one-stop drinking.BrickMortar


Still Cool

The Catacombs – In 2012, City Market thrilled the public by opening its underground treasure: an original 1886 cavern with rows of brick arch supports that look like a Roman aqueduct. The buzz has died down, but there’s still demand for public tours that begin in May. And mark your calendar now for this year’s Halloween party. Organizers are talking about dinner with Gothic candelabras followed by a silent horror movie.


Check It OutLittleLibraries

Little Libraries

– Rachel Simon, daughter of Herb Simon, has put 14,321 books into circulation on the streets through a program of free micro-libraries called The Public Collection. “Harvesting Knowledge” (pictured below) at City Market lets users operate a machine to simulate the process of unearthing reading material from the ground. 

“There has always been a love of reading in my family—Dad especially. Everywhere he went, he had a book under his arm. We still do our trips to the bookstore, now with my daughter. I appreciate that I have that, and I realize it’s not the case for many kids. I also have a passion for education and equality in the sense of resource allocation. You’re going to reach a lot of people with a project like this—and you don’t run across many people who are like, I hate books.”

The Obstacle

Parks – Both Cummins and 360 Market Square will offer public green-space. But those outdoor amenities won’t be enough to satisfy families. A makeover of the City-County Building’s south plaza should help. Details are expected to shake out this spring.