Group hopes "City Sidewalks" brings families downtown


A holiday festival that begins Friday downtown aims to bring families to Georgia Street, an area that some say has stayed too quiet since its Super Bowl debut.

"City Sidewalks" features free ice skating, cookie decorating, music and visits with Santa Claus.

Christmas trees and holiday trim are all sprucing up Georgia Street.

The "City Sidewalks" event, on the same site that hosted mega-crowds for the Super Bowl, is designed to renew that energy for the holidays.

Indianapolis Downtown, Inc., which maintains and markets Georgia Street, is marketing this event to families.

It starts at 2:00 Friday afternoon, with free ice skating beginning at 4:00. Saturday hours are from 8 am until 8 pm, and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.

You also can buy a Christmas tree, see Santa and shop local.

"We'll have wineries, Sun King Brewery will be here, chocolatiers, some bookstores so you can do a little Christmas shopping as well," said Melissa Thompson of Indianapolis Downtown, Inc.

Organizers hope the biggest draw for families will be the outdoor ice rink between Capitol and Illinois. Families can skate for free on a synthetic surface that mimics real ice.

IDI is spending $16,000 on the rink for the weekend. Like the Super Bowl zip line, it's meant to bring big crowds.

"It's not cheap, but I think it'll be fun and we're willing to make that investment to try and draw people down to Georgia Street and let them experience downtown," Thompson said.

That's been the challenge along Georgia Street. With a $12.8 million renovation, it was designed to be an outdoor destination.

But after some lackluster events, like the sparsely-attended "Second Thursdays" this fall, business owners say Georgia Street isn't what it could be.

Carlos Harrington is the bar manager at The Pub, on the corner of Georgia and Pennsylvania.

"Overall I'd give it a C+. It hasn't been a complete disaster, but it hasn't been the financial thing that everybody was expecting or talking about since the Super Bowl," Harrington said. "As far as the creativity of bringing people down here just for Georgia Street, I still haven't seen that effect yet."

Harrington would like to see more concerts held along Georgia, more unique events.

"To me, that was the thing that drew people here. That was something that actually was proven that everybody benefited from," he said.

Harrington believes the City Sidewalks holiday festival is a step in the right direction.

Organizers also hope the experience this weekend gives families a reason to come back. In fact, they're planning changes to events next summer.

Thompson says instead of Second Thursdays, they may hold a weekly event to draw people downtown.