New cultural district includes makeover for CCB Plaza

The plaza is crumbling and unattractive.

The old Market Square Arena area has a new name: Market East. It's the city's seventh Cultural District.

Mayor Greg Ballard unveiled the new name and logo during a news conference Wednesday morning.

He talked about all the new development taking place in the area, including the new residential tower planned for the north end of the old MSA site and the new Cummins campus planned for the south end.

A new transit hub will also be going up at Washington and Alabama, just south of the City-County Building.

"Simply put, Market East will be a playground for the greatest ideas and thinking in urban planning and design," the mayor said.

Ballard also announced plans for a contest to redesign the plaza on the south side of the City-County Building.

"We've been talking about the plaza for years because it's wasted space and not pretty. Why is it there," he said. "We to make it something better."

Not only is it wasted space, but much of it is in disrepair from the cracked and crumbling concrete to the rusted walls and chipped fountains.

As Don Campbell said, "I've tripped a couple of times. It's deteriorating quite a bit."

Kelly Brown agreed, "I have to look out for the broken rocks, the cracks and other materials I might slip on."

Aside from the poor condition of the space, Everett Collins says it's never been a place where people want to go.

"You got courts, and criminals and places to pay parking tickets...I hate to come here, but you got to do it," said Collins.

Adam Thies, director of the city's Department of Metropolitan Development, hopes with a makeover, that will change.

"It's almost two acres. Given its size, it's a dramatic piece of downtown and it represents an opportunity to create an active space rather than an inactive space," he said.

Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. is sponsoring the contest, looking for "qualified teams" to enter, meaning landscape architects and urban designers.

The Central Indiana Community Foundation is funding the contest with a $50,000 grant.

The mayor wants entrants to be "very creative" hinting the one feature he would like to see is an outdoor skating rink. He and others pointed to public spaces like Chicago's Millenium Park for inspiration.

Brown thinks Chicago has done "so many good things when it comes to public spaces," and using that as an example of urban design will help out "even on a smaller scale."

Collins, though, needs some convincing.

"Seeing all this money going into something people hate to come to?" he said, shaking his head.  "Maybe 10-15 years, but right now?  I don't see it."

The hope is people will want to go to the City-County Building once the plaza's done and not because they have business inside the building.

The winner of the design contest will be chosen in October. 

Mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter says after the city has a plan and knows the cost, they'll begin looking at funding sources, which may include things like grants or public/private partnerships. 


In order to provide a signature public greenspace in this new district, the City is launching a competition to redesign the plaza at the City-County Building.  The current plaza bordering Washington Street is deteriorating.  The competition will be funded by a $50,000 grant from the Central Indiana Community Foundation through its Inspiring Places Initiative. Once a design is chosen, the City will begin seeking partners and funding for construction of the project.

Final designs will be reviewed by a panel of local city stakeholders. The winning design is expected to be announced in October.  Details on the submission deadlines and requirements are available online.