INDYSTAR.COM 11:33 PM, Jul. 20, 2011
[feature story about storrow|kinsella-designed 1oth Street Connect10n project]
LET'S CONNECT DOTS BETWEEN GREAT SPOTS
I'm no fan of road construction, especially the kind of construction that forces me to take a detour unless I'm walking or riding a bike. But sometimes it's just flat-out necessary -- and I'm not just talking about the need for smoother streets and sidewalks. That's short term. Sometimes, construction projects can have the long-term effect of setting an example for urban planning. This -- at least, I hope -- is the case with the 10th Street Legacy Gateway Project.
Earlier this week, the city blocked off East 10th Street from College Avenue to Dorman Street. This area, at the northern tip of the Mass Ave. cultural district near Downtown, is where the Monon Trail and the Cultural Trail end. The trails should meet, but they don't. Instead, between them, there's a series of rusty, graffiti-tagged bridges, one of which drips brownish water onto passing cars and bicyclists.
The gateway project will fix all of that, turning the area into someplace beautiful. There will be a new median with flowers, wider sidewalks, better lighting, repaved streets and public art. Finishing all of this will take until late November, although 10th Street will reopen to cars in September, and the entrance to the Monon will remain open throughout the project. "It'll look all shiny and new when it's done," said Tammi Hughes, executive director of the East 10th Street Civic Association. Indeed. But this is more than a beautification project. It's about connectivity.
There are so many great places and spaces in Indianapolis. But only a few of them are actually connected by any sort of marked path. There's nothing to encourage people to wander or explore new neighborhoods on a whim. Sure, there's Monument Circle. There's the conservatory at Garfield Park. There's Eagle Creek Reservoir. There's Pan Am Plaza. There's the quaint strip of "downtown" Irvington and the funkiness of Fountain Square. But all of these places might as well be in different cities, as much as they're connected to one another. If you want to visit different parts of the city, for the most part, you still have to drive. And when people drive, they typically go from Point A to Point B. They don't wander. This is why I'm such a huge fan of the Cultural Trail. Until the start of its construction, there was no incentive for people to wander over to Mass Ave. if they were sitting over by the canal near West Washington Street.
Or think about how many people just ignore University Park, the Indiana War Memorial Plaza, Veterans Memorial Plaza and the American Legion Mall unless there's an event. What would happen if Monument Circle were somehow more connected to those parks north of New York Street? How many more people would discover parts of Indianapolis that they've never known? These are the things that make a city feel like a community. When places are connected, we're connected.This is what the 10th Street Legacy Gateway Project could do for the rapidly revitalizing Near Eastside. "This will be a great way of connecting the vibrancy of Mass Ave. with the promise of East 10th Street," said David Forsell, president of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, which is working on the project with a host of nonprofit, public and corporate partners.If it works, it would be an amazing example of what can happen across the city if we put more energy into connecting what we already have."This project," Forsell said, "is an example of the best that Indianapolis can be on many fronts."