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How the city wants 22nd and Meridian to become a new ‘downtown’

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The city of Indianapolis is looking at the near-north corridor, specifically the quarter-mile radius around 22nd and Meridian streets, as a possible “village center.”

Village centers, walkable concentrated areas with lots of retail, restaurants, housing and businesses, are found all over Indianapolis, largely surrounding intersections or destinations.

“In a small town, it might be downtown. It might be main street,” said Brad Beaubien, Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development’s administrator of long-range planning. “Here, you can think of Irvington or Fountain Square or Mass Ave., places that have a mix of uses with a lot of activity.”

The Department of Metropolitan Development is working with the Near North Development Corp. and the Greenstreet development firm to figure out what a village center might look like within the near-north corridor, which is the area south of Fall Creek North Parkway Drive, bordered by I-65 on the west and south and Meridian Street on the east.

Much of the corridor is defined by parking lots, empty buildings, single-family homes and a few businesses.

But change already is underway in parts of the neighborhood.

“There is all the market energy that’s going on east of Meridian Street, so we think we have a role in guiding how that plays out in this area,” Beaubien said. “This area will transform in the coming years. Our goal and desire is to have it transform in the most community-beneficial way.”

The near-north corridor was looked at for a number of economic reasons, Beaubien said, including, IU Health’s move to build a $1 billion medical center at 16th Street and Capitol Avenue; the further development of Fall Creek Trail, making it one of the longest trails in the area; an increased business and residential population, and the $96.3 million Red Line bus rapid transit system connecting Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis south of Downtown.

“These are all things that are going to be catalytic in changing the area,” Near North Development Corp. President Michael Osborne said. The development corporation works to revitalize the neighborhood’s housing and businesses.

There are 2,400 residents in the corridor and 23,000 employees, said Katie Wertz, senior associate at Greenstreet. Increasingly, developers are learning that residents want to live closer to where they work and in apartments or townhomes. Downtown Indianapolis has had an influx of apartments, but the new stylish builds that many potential residents are looking for haven’t extended much elsewhere in the city.

“We’re seeing the suburbs start to compete for this,” Wertz said. “We’re seeing a change in trends in where people want to live and the types of products they want to live in. The issue is that, in Indianapolis particularly, we don’t have that product. We have a growing unmet demand.”

With the city’s recent rezoning project to upgrade out-of-date zoning codes, the city is able to look at areas like the near-north corridor for mixed-use developments where it wasn’t able to in the past.

“This new zoning allows property owners to better respond to the market in quicker, more efficient and potentially less cost-prohibitive ways because they won’t have to get a variance,” Wertz said.

Within the corridor, there will be four Red Line bus stops when the project is complete in 2019. The northernmost one, 22nd and Meridian streets, is near an area experiencing a boom in businesses, such as Shoefly Public House restaurant, Tea’s Me tea shop and MashCraft Brewing’s tap room.

“We’re seeing that resurgence of local businesses that draw not only neighborhood residents to this area but people who do not live in the area come down to eat and shop,” Wertz said. “How do we tie that existing momentum, that existing investment with what could happen on the west side, so hopefully, it’ll look like a cohesive plan to tie everything together?”

The city, Greenstreet and Near North Development Corp. are asking residents for their opinions about what a village center at 22nd and Meridian streets should look like. A community meeting was held earlier in the month.

The next meeting is 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. July 18 at Ivy Tech Community College’s Illinois Fall Creek Center, 2535 N. Capitol Ave. Wertz said planners expect to present a concept for the community to offer feedback.

An online survey also is available for area residents, as well as neighbors, employees and commuters.

“So we can say, ‘Here’s the vision that we heard from you; tell us what you think,'” Wertz said. “And we’ll make changes to it. It’ll be just the bones at that point. We’ll fill in all the gaps and all the missing information hopefully by the end of the summer.”

Once the Department of Metropolitan Development finalizes a plan with the community, parts of it could go to the City-County Council to approve, as well as to use to encourage businesses to open.

“This process is about enabling a mixed-used center to be built,” said Brad Beaubien of the Department of Metropolitan Development. “A common misconception is that the city builds the city, but very rarely do we build the streets. We guide it.”

Call IndyStar reporter Amy Bartner at (317) 444-6752. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

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