Who Owns Indy: What Projects Are We Going To Regret?

Not all of the community’s development projects withstand the popular thinking of time in which they were conceived. Local experts and civic leaders weigh in on the undertakings we’ll later come to regret.

Single-Story Sprawl

“We can’t continue to build low-density sprawl. We won’t have any money for schools, parks, and all the other requirements of local government if we do. Much of the growth in Central Indiana since 1970 has been suburban in nature—one-level development that doesn’t begin to pay for the infrastructure. Take a 40,000-square-foot piece of land. Option A is a 10,000-square-foot building, and the other 30,000 square feet is used for parking. At $2 per square foot, that’s $20,000 per year in taxes. Take that same 40,000-square-foot parcel, go up five levels, and build on the entire thing, and you get $400,000 in taxes.

Many communities are failing to do that kind of fiscal analysis of new development. When I put someone on one of my commissions, I tell them I want them to listen to the professional planners 99 percent of the time.” — Jim Brainard, Mayor of Carmel

Widening the North Split

“The state’s proposal to widen I-65/I-70 downtown is a disaster. Expanding the freeway when it’s already a barrier to development downtown is the kind of mistake Hoosiers used to make. It’s one thing to rebuild what’s there—that’s at least defensible. But widening it? I can’t even believe they’re talking about that in a downtown environment in 2018.

A forward-looking government would examine the possibility of removing the inner loop entirely, replacing it with a surface boulevard that reconnects neighborhoods, and routing traffic around I-465. The idea of enlarging an interstate downtown flies in the face of the national trend. Twice in the last decade, the Indiana Department of Transportation closed the entire inner loop for 90 days for “hyperfix” projects. If you can do that, the real question is, do you need it at all?” — Aaron M. Renn, author of the Urbanophile blog

Parking Garages

“Of the many varieties of development, parking garages may be the toughest to convert to other uses if they become obsolete in the future. And Indy builds a lot of them, especially downtown. Many of them are single-use structures, which means the street level is usually a blank facade. Every dollar that’s spent on those is another dollar that can’t be spent on residences, offices, and other buildings that enliven the city center. Without a proper transit network in place, they’re something of a necessary evil in the Mile Square right now. But it will be interesting to see if anything changes after the Bus Rapid Transit lines are up and running. Will we keep building these ugly things that serve a soon-to-be outdated mode of transportation? Or can we find a better use for valuable downtown parcels?” — Kevin Kastner, administrator of the Urban Indy blog