A More Connected City

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail: A Legacy of Gene & Marilyn Glick is a unique eight-mile urban bicycle and pedestrian path that delivers users to every major art, cultural, heritage, sports, and entertainment venue in downtown Indianapolis and connects five Cultural Districts. Additionally, the Cultural Trail has commissioned six new permanent public art or placemaking projects that are being integrated into its construction. The largest and most ambitious project is “Swarm Street” by Acconci Studio, which is being supported through a grant from ArtPlace.

“Swarm Street” is an interactive light-environment that is being built as a creative way to connect the Fountain Square Cultural District with the urban core using the Cultural Trail. The project turns an unevenly lit garage that straddles a roadway into a dynamic destination that supports multi-modal transportation. The project is about ninety-five percent complete, but the builders have run into an unexpected site condition. Despite being in a huge garage, the area has a great deal of water in the ground. Therefore, re-thinking where and how they house some of the in-floor technology has slowed the project’s completion. Multi-disciplinary teams in both New York and Indianapolis are working together to get the project up and running.

ArtPlace asked Mindy Taylor Ross, the curator and public art project manager for the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, to tell us what will be different in the Indianapolis community once the project is complete. Here’s what she had to say:

“I believe the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, the big umbrella placemaking project under which we are building “Swarm Street,” has changed the culture in the city. There are so many more cyclists in downtown Indianapolis now. It is truly amazing. Our management team was riding the entire trail last week and we passed a large group of folks on Segways taking a tour on the trail right in the middle of downtown. It was awesome! In a city that has had its roots deeply seeded in car culture for a very long time (from the early manufacturing of cars to the current Indy 500), it is great to be part of a grand project that has successfully gotten people out of their cars and onto this inspired linear park and cycle track.

The Cultural Trail has sparked connectivity, which was a key goal. People are out of their cars, sharing public space, moving from Cultural District to Cultural District under their own power — well, I guess a Segway is not human power, but they are out and about! It is incredible to see it all coming together as we approach the completion of all eight miles.

Connectivity is also the big goal of the “Swarm Street” project. When the project is up and running we hope the community will feel safer in this space and that people will connect more with the historic neighborhoods and the Fountain Square Cultural District on the southeast side of downtown. Many people are of the opinion that this big dark garage that was built straddling one of the four diagonal streets in the city — the street which is the direct artery to these neighborhoods and an arts district — has been a physical and psychological barrier for people. Finding real and creative ways to reconnect and move people to these areas of town will help to bolster the real estate market. It will cause more small businesses to see the area as a viable place to set up shop. We believe the Cultural Trail and “Swarm Street” are doing this.

Just last week, I visited with a young couple who are opening an Italian themed bakery and fine dining restaurant on the Cultural Trail in this southeastern area, between the Fountain Square Cultural District and the downtown core. They said the fact that the Cultural Trail was coming through this area was a major reason why they decided to buy the building and set up shop. They know that the trail will bring foot traffic to their business in a way that was not happening for businesses in this area before.

In my opinion, the Cultural Trail as a whole and “Swarm Street” as part of that whole, have changed the attitudes in Indy about alternative modes of transportation and creative placemaking. We’ve created a real paradigm shift in the city. It has been an amazing ride and I’m honored to have been part of the team who designed and built it.”

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