East 10th Street Gateway & Payne Connec10n

the payne connect10n | a Component of the East 10th Street Urban Design and Gateway Plan

East 10 Connection 

The Connection links the Near Eastside with the Mass Ave Arts and Entertainment District and downtown, while seamlessly connecting the Monon Trail with the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. It celebrates that connection with a "supergraphic" mural environment by artist Carl Leck, and with unique wayfinding and identity elements that combine to create a dynamic place and connection. 


Urban Design and Gateway Plan

storrow kinsella prepared the overall East 10th Street Urban Design and Gateway Plan, which optimistically identified the dismal segment of East 10th Street under the interstate 65/70 and railroad bridges as the site for a Near Eastside gateway.  The corridor plan concept identified the multiple neighborhoods on either side of East 10th Street, celebrating both their shared identity and their unique individual identities. It expressed that as a series of spaced mixed use nodes connecting adjoining neighborhood districts.  The plan proposed what we term place-based transportation improvements to transform East 10th Street from a commuter corridor to a series of traffic-calmed connected neighborhood front doors...a to rather than through experience. The Interstate bridges area, the proposed gateway, became a first priority for plan implementation based on the need to dramatically alter the negative perception of the Near Eastside as an early initiative towards its economic revitalization and social stabilization.

The gateway concept had a two-fold objective: smooth the transition from the existing Monon Trail to the newly constructed Mass Ave section of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, and  dignify the experience of all users entering both the Near Eastside and Downtown.  The design sought to brighten the space with color and art, calm traffic, celebrate experiential inter-district movement for pedestrians, bicycles as well as cars, and provide two-way gateway marking for the East 10th Street neighborhoods and for downtown. While this grand vision had no identified funding stream, it did have a strategy. An early win began with a commitment from INDOT to advance their scheduled bridge maintenance program and alter it to accommodate the proposed design elements. Those included bridge paint color, safety fence relocations and concrete slope preparation for planned murals. The combination of INDOT's $1 million dollar investment and the design's readiness for implementation made it a winning candidate for inclusion in Superbowl XXVI Near Eastside investment commitments. Those commitments had been part of the City's winning bid for the Superbowl which was an economic win for the city.

The interstate bridges: INDOT was approached at the commissioner level and heard the logic of fixing/relocating the decrepit fences and offered to advance a planned maintenance repainting by a couple years. It also became convinced that non-standard black paint was ok (had been done in Ohio, would match the adjacent RR bridge, and fit the "Black Box Theater" design concept of the bridges being the backdrop for proposed art elements). INDOT thus committed to a million dollar project. That told other potential partners that this was more than a shelf-ready vision plan....it was shovel-ready and would succeed.

The roadway: the City's Superbowl XLVI Near Eastside initiative leaders understood that this particularly gritty piece of road was not a positive introduction to the neighborhood it was spotlighting, and became an important partner, enlisting Rebuild Indy to further the gateway plan by narrowing and repaving the roadway for traffic calming, widening sidewalks for walkability, and preparing sideslopes for framing the new murals.

The murals: a 'why not try' pitch to the Arts Council for help in implementing the plan's proposed murals on the interstate bridge slope walls fortuitously coincided with early stages of the Superbowl XLVI partnering with that group.  The Arts Council was scouting potential venues for a 46x46 Murals program, and here was space for five. Several artists were offered; Carl Leck was chosen and became a creative collaborator in development of his dynamic piece, personally laying out the immense work, helping hundreds of Lilly Day of Service volunteers install it, and fine tuning it after. The piece simply works at a visceral and scale-appropriate level...no need to intellectualize about it! It even offers a brief flash of delight to interstate motorists which was unforeseen. Background on the Arts Council and its stunningly successful murals program can be found in this piece by David Hoppe:  Indy gets 46 murals for Super Bowl XLVI

More about the murals: the Arts Council of Indianapolis guaranteed to site owners that the 46 murals citywide would be maintained in-place for ten years, then removed.  That’s good, generally, and facilitated the INDOT permit. But the program also allows works of stature (such as Carl's) to remain if funds for upkeep can be found. So while Carl’s work (competed in October 2011) is approaching a theoretical half-life, it’s hard to imagine this place without them. They are timeless rather than topical and, we hope, permanent rather than ephemeral. Perhaps it’s time to start a fund for insuring this work remains and receives whatever conservation is needed in the future (cleaning, touch up by the artist if needed, maybe coating to help shed atmospheric grime, as well as to make easier periodic cleaning of the grime generated by highway and RR bridges that leak).  The work has relevance and stature and we hope funds can be found to keep it in place.

The identity elements:   a Superbowl XLVI Near Eastside sponsor, Chase Bank Foundation, funded the Mass Ave/East 10 gateway markers, which are a crucial element. Funds for the wayfinding compass pole and a series of interpretive, acknowledgement and wayfinding plaques were assembled by the East 10th Street Civic Association.

The 10th street connect10n design process  followed our tripartite approach of strategy, places, connections:


Develop a corridor framework plan and its inaugural gateway project; assemble and guide multiple partners for gateway implementation: INDOT with a $1 million dollar interstate bridge improvement and right-of-way fence relocation (the defer/advance concept employed in the Columbus Front Door project); Super Bowl Legacy Project with RR bridge painting and street improvements by Rebuild Indy; Arts Council 46x46 Murals project commisioning Carl Leck muralist; KIB volunteer landscape installation and coordinator for Lilly Day of Service painters and planters;  the Chase Foundation funding of gateway identity signage; the Lumina Foundation; and the Stanley K. Lacey Executive Leadership Series/Indiana Recycling Coalition Bike Sculpture. Essential seed funding from Central Indiana Community Foundation enabled the planning and design process.


Transform a dank, scary and noisy concrete and asphalt multiple-bridge underpass area into a dynamic spatial experience that links multiple trail and district corridors, celebrates art and establishes neighborhood identity


Reconnect the Near Eastside and downtown with an inspiring and safe bicycle and pedestrian-friendly experience linking the Monon Trail, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the future Pogue's Run Trail.  Provide a traffic calming passage and sense of arrival for motorists entering the downtown as well for those entering the Near Eastside Neighborhoods.


This model has led to INDOT's willingness to do similar interstate downtown ring bridge improvements at other downtown gateways (INDOT discovered that moving the fences closer to the interstate actually reduced its maintenance burden while providing equal or better safety). It has also demonstrated how having good plans at the ready, with multiple targeted funding partners identified,  can lead to comprehensive projects of impactful scale. It has demonstrated, as evidenced by subsequent corridor investments, that focused planning and high design do result in economic development and quality of life benefit...the original goal of the Quality of Life plan for the Near Eastside.


The gateway was immediately effective in connecting the Superbowl Legacy project to the downtown. And easily inferred is the subsequent attraction and success of private sector investment. The gateway now immediately leads to fresh new housing that inhabits formerly vacant parcels and an exciting repurposing of the vast Circle Center Industrial complex into new employment ventures ranging from a microbrewery to maker spaces. Importantly, the once negative term Near Eastside now has a positive vibe gained by the intentional synergy of this and many parallel initiatives.

The Future 

Still needed corridor improvements include much of the larger plan's traffic calming, strategic placement of compact urban roundabouts, and development of  an SKA-designed legacy plaza in the Rivoli Theater district. Hopefully they will be implemented at a high level of integrated rather than applied urban design. Integration of the proposed Bottleworks development with the gateway, and INDOT's  planned replacement/expansion of all the bridges over the gateway are of concern. SKA is hoping to influence those such that they build upon and amplify rather than diminish the positive effect the gateway has had. But we are worried.


East 10th Street Civic Association: clent agency

storrow|kinsella: overall planning, design and engagement; wayfinding and identity elements

RW Armstrong: 1oth Street underpass roadway engineering

Carl Leck: murals (execution by KIB/Lily Day of Service)

Indy Fabrications: wayfinding/identity element fabrication

Bicycle Sculpture: Jeff  Larramore

Facilitating partners: East 10th Street Civic Association, Boner Center, Central Indiana Community Foundation, INDOT, Super Bowl Legacy Project, Rebuild Indy, Arts Council  of Indianapolis, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Lilly Day of Service, Chase Foundation, Stanley K. Lacey Executive Leadership Series/Indiana Recycling CoalitionRecycling Coalition.