Friday, November 30, 2007

Gear: The HD Format War (continued)

The Toshiba HD-A3 arrived earlier this week and I promised I was going to write about my experience with it. Unfortunately, the installation of the player was so simple, I don't have much to write. I plugged it in, connected it by HDMI cable to my HDTV and it plays all my discs perfectly at 1080i. A perfectly seamless process, unlike most electronics installations these days. Honestly, I wish I had gotten a player sooner. The headaches with playing HD-DVDs on my HTPC were really not worth it, though I did end up with a much lower price and a boat-load of free HD-DVDs.

Instead, here's some more about the HD format war. With the Christmas shopping season on, things are certainly heating up. Word is that Toshiba sold 90k HD-DVD players during the week that the Toshiba HD-A2s went on sale for $98 at Best Buy and Wal-Mart. Good news for them, but HD-DVD still has a smaller installed base compared to Blu-ray when PS3s being used to watch Blu-ray movies are factored in. The entry level Sony player (BDP-S300) is still selling for about twice the Toshiba HD-A3, so we'll how sales go through the holiday season. Toshiba seems well aware that this time is crucial for HD-DVD.

Disc sales numbers for the week including Black Friday are now in, showing an almost 3-to-1 advantage for Blu-ray, up from 2-to-1 in recent months. At first glance, this might seem odd with jump in HD-DVD player sales, but it's pretty likely that a large number of those players were bought as Christmas gifts. The bump in Blu-ray sales could also be explained by high sales of new releases. January disc sales numbers should prove telling.

In any case, I still hold firm to my belief that both formats will live on. Sony CEO Howard Stringer seems to share my view, having recently said he believes the war will end in a stalemate. Naturally, he quickly backpedaled from that position, but the fact that the head of the company arguably winning the war even hinted that we'll end up with a stalemate is pretty interesting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday's Five Ws (and One H)

Who is going to drive me home at the end of the Hoosier Beer Geek New Year's Eve Party at Deano's Vino?

What is going to become of all the proposed downtown developments when Ballard becomes mayor?

When will I actually start shopping for Christmas gifts?

Where can I find Goose Island Bourbon County Stout and Founders Breakfast Stout?

Why can't the NFL get over themselves so people can actually watch their product (like tonight's excellent Cowboys-Packers matchup)?

How does Buggs Temple still not have their menus online?

Development: Canal Refurb Project Pulled

In what is fast becoming a pattern, the $3.2M refurb project of the Ohio St. basin of the Downtown Canal has been pulled until Mayor-elect Ballard and his team can take a look at the proposal. This proposal is months old -- renderings for the project are dated 04.30.07 -- but I first read of this over at Property Lines on November 19th and now, just 10 days later, it's already being shelved.

As the Star notes, the Ohio St. basin is one of the oldest sections of Canal and it certainly could use some attention. The City did some half-assed work on the crumbling steps about a year ago and it looks terrible. But $3.2M? That seems like an awfully high price tag, especially given the crumbling infrastructure all over the City. Compared to some road surfaces and neighborhood sidewalks, this area of the canal is practically brand new and perfectly serviceable.

The Star has a 7-page, 1.3MB PDF of the proposal available here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beer: A Night at Badaboomz

My wife and I celebrated 6 months being married by going to Badaboomz last night (am I lucky or what?!). Since it was a special night, we decided to splurge a little and went with more interesting/expensive options than we normally do. This was helped by the fact that one of their Tuesday drink specials is $1 off goblets, which are normally a stiff $6.50 for about 8 or 9 oz. Everything we ordered was something we'd never had before.

We decided to start off big and went with Stone Double Bastard Ale on tap. Man that's a tasty beer. The bartender was nice enough to provide us with a sample of regular Arrogant Bastard so we could taste them side-by-side. The Double is more hopped than the regular but manages to still be more balanced overall. And of course it's quite a bit more alcoholic, 10% to 7.2%. Beer Advocate users rank this as the 39th best beer in the world.

We knew we needed something in our stomachs, so we paired the Double with some wings and pub chips. I love their house-made pub chips, a delicious mix of sweet and regular potato chips that puts my hand on autopilot going back to the bowl. A perfect accompaniment to an evening of drinking beer.

After the Double Bastard was gone, we decided to switch to splitting 12 oz bottles. The menu mentioned "Founders Harvest Ale (limited release)" so we had to try one of those. The bartender told us that they had a very limited quantity to start with and only had 4 left. One sip and we ordered a second to we could each have a full beer! Another guy at the bar ordered one later, leaving just one lonely beer in the cooler. Matt's Beer Blog has a review of Three Floyd's Harvest Ale as well as some information about the harvest ale style. As Matt discusses in his Three Floyd's review, the Founders Harvest Ale is also a "wet hopped ale." Beer Advocate classifies the Founders as a Pale Ale, but I'd put it more in the IPA category. Very hoppy and refreshing.

The bartender also let us know that they recently got in some of the limited-release beers from Goose Island, including the Imperial IPA and the Bourbon County Stout. I've still got a couple bottles of the Imperial IPA at home, so we went with Bourbon County Stout. My god that beer is delicious! Creamy, chocalatey and carmely with vanilla hints and some coffee. Wonderful, coating mouthfeel. If I ever see this at a store, I'm buyin' a whole bunch. Beer Advocate users rank this as the 21st best beer in the world, and I whole-heartedly agree.

For our last beer, we decided to go for a big splurge and spent $15 to try 120 Minute IPA for the first time. I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but it wasn't what I put in my mouth. Huge disappointment. Much too sweet for my taste. I read recently in a wine book that alcohol is partially perceived by your tongue as sweet, so it's likely that some of the sweetness of this beer is linked to its 21% abv. What I was most surprised by was its hoppiness, or rather it's un-hoppiness. I was expecting a huge hop blast, but if anything I think it's less hoppy than the 90 Minute IPA. I'm glad I tried it -- and I took the bottle to prove it -- but I doubt I'll be back soon. 90 Minute is more my taste and costs much less.

Other interesting info we picked up from the bartender:
  • The Lafayette Rd. Badaboomz only shares the name and menu of the downtown location. It has a different owner and an independent beer selection. If you've never been, they've got a handful of interesting beers but overall it doesn't come close to the selection downtown.
  • Badaboomz recently received a case of Founders Breakfast Stout that, as is apparently quite common, was immediately split between owner Mike DeWeese and other employees before it ever saw the cooler shelves. Oh well, I don't blame 'em! Anybody know where it can be had around town right now?
  • The owner of Three Floyds brewery apparently owns a small piece of Badaboomz. That's how they're able to get Dreadnaught on tap every once-in-a-while. Apparently Badaboomz is the only place outside of the FFF Brew Pub that you can ever get Dreadnaught on tap. I asked if they could twist the arm of the the FFF's owner to get Alpha Khan on tap. The bartender actually wrote it down, so we'll see if anything comes of it (cross your fingers, Matt!).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Development: Indiana Avenue Restaurant and Lounge

First reported here more than a month ago, a "real" news outlet finally picked up the Indiana Avenue Restaurant and Lounge (Payton's Place) story while I was away for Thanksgiving. Jeff Swiatek did the digging that I don't have the time or connections to do and reports that it will house a "family restaurant" with some seating on a second-floor balcony addition. Unfortunately, no opening date is reported.

Gear: Toshiba HD-A3

I cracked.

I'm not proud to say it, but I've given up on my HD-DVD-on-HTPC experiment. It was fun for a while, getting HD-DVDs to play on the cheap -- Xbox360 HD-DVD drive connected to the HTPC, playing the discs with PowerDVD and output to the HDTV through HDMI -- but sometimes klugey is just klugey and you have to move on.

Things were fine with all discs through the first half of this year, but recently I've been having more and more problems playing HD-DVD rentals from Netflix. Fortunately, I was always able to make them work and I happen to enjoy working through those kind of problems. That is, until Transformers arrived. Whatever they did with that disc simply doesn't like my setup and I was never able to make it work. That seriously pissed me off, since I'm almost sure it has to do with some new quirk of HD-DVD Digital Rights Management (DRM). Goddamn corporations making it so legitimate hardware owners can't view legitimate content...ugh....that's a diatribe for another time.

Anyway, since it finally failed me I've decided I'm sick of futzing around with this setup and it's time for a dedicated set-top box. A couple Fridays ago, Wal-Mart and Best Buy both put the entry-level Toshiba HD-A2 on sale for just $98, apparently trying to move stock to make room for the new HD-A3. Unfortunately, I didn't know about it until it was over. Some other online stores had left-overs in the days after that sale at prices only a little above $98 and I tried grabbing one. They ended up running out of stock as well. Oh well.

Last Wednesday, I received an email from Amazon advertising the HD-A3 for $197 with 10 free HD-DVDs and I jumped on it. Word is that the player is basically the same as the HD-A2, just a refresh of some of the internal components to cut production costs. It differs from the higher end models primarily in that it only outputs video at 1080i as opposed to 1080p. My HDTV is only 1080i, so that's no problem for me. The 10 free discs includes the two in the HD-A3 box (300 and The Bourne Identity), 3 immediately free from Amazon (from a selection of about 15), and the on-going Toshiba promotion for 5 free with a mail-in rebate. Seemed too good to pass up so I went with it.

It should be here sometime this week and I'll have another post talking about my experience with my new toy.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm off to Dallas this afternoon, so no new posts until next Monday. I'll be in Southlake, which I think has a strange "No Beer Over 5% abv" law that basically precludes any interesting beer from being stocked in the grocery stores. On the bright side I'm going to try to get over to nearby Grapevine to try Big Buck, one of two brew pubs in a small chain that gets pretty decent reviews on Beer Advocate.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Photo: The Bridge on the Fall Creek

Here's a bonus photo from my Riley Hospital set that I think turned out pretty cool. I took this on the pedestrian bridge over Fall Creek between 10th St. and the old Indianapolis Water building.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Photos: Riley Hospital for Children Simon Family Tower Photo Update

Riley Hospital for Children Simon Family Tower Facts:
  • Cost: $235M (part of a 10-year expansion plan expected to cost $500M)
  • Height: 10 stories, 210' (64m), 27th tallest building in Indy at completion
  • Floor Space: 675,000 sq.ft.
  • Project Start Date: June, 2006
  • Expected Completion: 2013 (some areas will begin to open in 2009)
  • Riley Hospital for Children first opened in 1924

Some renderings: From the West:
From the Northwest:
From the Northeast:
From the East:
From the South:
The West Facade:
The South Facade:
From a distance, you can tell how it will
stand out on the IUPUI/IUSM campus:

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Beer: This n' That

Kahn's Fine Wine: Kahn's currently has Goose Island Imperial IPA in stock. It doesn't come cheap -- a 4-pack will set you back $19.99 -- but this is a fairly rare beer to come across and I've heard it's absolutely incredible. They got 3 cases in on Saturday, though they're a little lighter after my brother and I raided them. Their beer guru estimates it won't last more than a week, so get there quickly if you want some.

Badaboomz: I recently met the bartender/beer buyer for Badaboomz for the first time. Very interesting guy that LOVES his beers. I hadn't been to Badaboomz in a couple months but stopped by specifically to get some Brugge Black. They've got some other interesting things on tap right now: Bell's Special Double Cream Stout, New Albanian Hoptimus, Two Brothers Hop Juice, Gouden Carolus Noël and Bell's Batch 8000. Also of note is that you can get a bomber of Stone Imperial Russian Stout for a reasonable $9.50, as opposed to the ridiculous $25 that Shallo's wants for it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

DIG-B Gear Update

You may have noticed that Gear posts have fallen by the wayside. A quick glance at the labels sidebar shows more posts about Buggs Temple than Gear. This blog is obviously still a work-in-progress, but it seems that there are four reasons for this:
  • Gear posts take considerably more time to write because there's generally a lot more detail to include and getting things just right is important in case somebody stumbles upon this blog and wants to follow a project.
  • The few posts I have written don't seem to garner the same interest and response, though I do get a lot of random Google hits from places like Romania and Pakistan that land on Gear posts. I better not be unwittingly aiding the terrorists...
  • Whereas there's room to work in local niches of beer and development, there's a glut of national electronics and technology websites doing a far more comprehensive job than I could ever do here.
  • The biggest reason: this blog seems to have become my new "gear" outlet, taking up all the time I used to spend obsessing about my next project. I haven't even purchased the parts for the last project I wrote about -- an infrared receiver for my HTPC -- let alone worked on the project!
I guess the long and short of it is that you can expect Gear posts to be few and far between. Apologies to those that were interested in those posts. I promise it's not gone forever, if for no other reason than DI-B sucks as a blog name.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Beer: Craft Beer vs. Fine Wine Price

For fun, I thought I'd work through a quick little calculation to compare the cost of the alcohol content in fine wine vs. craft beer. Yes, I'm a geeky engineer. First, the contestants:
  • For beer, I decided to go with a 6-pack price of $10. That's probably a hair above craft beer average, but it's a nice neat number to work with. For alcohol content, most craft beer ranges from 5-10%, so let's split the difference and go with 7.5%.
  • Wine price is a little trickier, as the range is much larger. I'm going to abitrarily go with a $15 bottle. Fine wine is generally about 12-14%, so let's split the difference again and go with 13%.

Beer Calculations:

  • 6 * 12 oz. bottles = 72 oz.
  • 72 oz. * 7.5% = 5.4 oz. alc.
  • $10 / 5.4 oz alc. = $1.85/oz. alc.

Wine Calculations

  • 750ml bottle = 25.36 oz.
  • 25.36 oz. * 13% = 3.3 oz. alc.
  • $15 / 3.3 oz. alc. = $4.55/oz. alc.

Interesting: the alcohol in fine wine costs almost 2.5 times the alcohol in craft beer.

For even more fun, I researched the most expensive bottles of beer and wine ever sold to see how they compare. This article says the most expensive beer ever sold is called Tutankhamun Ale -- an ale brewed based on archeological evidence at an excavation site -- the first bottle of which sold for $7,686. Unfortunately, I can't find information about the alcohol content of the beer or size of the bottle, which makes calculations difficult. Since this is all for fun, let's assume 12oz at a generous 10% abv.

The most expensive wine ever sold was a Chateau Lafite 1787 Bordeaux that went for $160,000 at auction. Again, who knows the exact volume or alcohol content, but let's assume 750ml (25.36 oz.) at a generous 15% abv.

Tutankhamun Ale Calculations:

  • 12 oz. * 10% = 1.2 oz. alc.
  • $7,686 / 1.2 oz. alc. = $6,405/oz. alc.

Chateau Lafite 1787 Bordeaux Calculations:

  • 25.36 oz. * 15% = 3.8 oz. alc.
  • $160,000 / 3.8 oz. alc. = $42,105/oz. alc.
The uber-comparison makes the difference even greater, with wine over 6.5 times as expensive as the beer. Hope you enjoyed this comparison!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photos: Biocrossroads Area

With a little extra time after lunch I decided to try to take some pictures of the Riley Hospital Tower addition (in case you haven't heard, the Simon's are giving $40M to Riley Hospital). I was trying to get a wide perspective of the construction by driving up Indiana and ended up driving SW off Indiana toward the White River.

I haven't been back there in years. When I first moved here five plus years ago, I used to drive around everywhere to get a feel for the city. This area is so funky and awesome! You've got the abandoned Bush Stadium, the White River and the greenway trail, an old railroad track (the Beltway RR? anyone know?), the classic old Indianapolis Water treatment plant, and tons of warehouse buildings, several of which seem to be occupied by IUPUI.

That last part is worth noting because this area has been earmarked by the city for future development of an integrated life sciences research area called Biocrossroads. IUPUI has apparently been buying up property all along this stretch in preparation for this. A large swath has already been cleared on the north side of Indiana between Fall Creek and Rembrandt St.

I'll probably post some pictures of the Riley Hospital Tower in the next couple days, along with some renderings I just discovered. For now, here's a quick look at the area around the water treatment plant where I was today:

The Indianapolis Water treatment plant:

Railroad Bridge over White River (Candlewood Suites and Park Place Apartments, formerly Riverpointe, in the distance):

The slowly decaying main entrance to Bush Stadium:

Water treatment plant with Riley Hospital tower in the distance (yes, a $235M construction project apparently gets you two big yellow cranes):

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beer: This n' That

  • Rock Bottom: We popped in yesterday for nachos and beer. I normally avoid their seasonal wheat -- really, I avoid most wheat beer -- but Monday's are $2 wheat pints and I was intrigued by the board description: "unfiltered German Hefeweizen with hints of banana and clove." That's exactly how I like wheat beer, if I'm going to have one. It was delicious and refreshing. My wife had the seasonal Hoosier Ma Stout, an Imperial Stout. Equally tasty -- I ordered a pint of that for myself as well.
  • Brugge On Tap: Hoosier Beer Geek reports that Badaboomz has Black on tap right now.
  • Buggs Temple: My wife and I finally ate at The Grille on Saturday. We started off splitting a bowl of french onion soup and boy did it stink when it arrived at the table! Still, it was damn tasty. I'm no connoisseur of french onion soup, but it was perhaps the best I've ever had. For my entre, I ordered the Indiana Style Fish and Chips, local catfish with house-made thick-cut potato chips. My wife ordered the burger with blue cheese. Both were very tasty, but at $11 each, they didn't seem quite worth it (thankfully we had a buy one, get one half-off coupon to help). For burgers, I think you can get one as good or better at Front Page on Mass Ave. for quite a bit cheaper ($6-8). As a side note, I have to call them out for still not posting their menu online. They've been open almost four weeks already! Delays must be part of their business model.
New and very creatively titled blogs that have recently popped up:
  • Goose Blog: new blog from The Goose. Hopefully they'll end up with some creative content, but for now it looks like it's being used to easily push store and sale info to customers.
  • Brugge Beer: brand new blog from Brugge Beer/Brasserie. As of right now they only have their "mission statement" up, but from the sound of things, this should be interesting to follow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Development: Legends District - SODO

The rendering of Legends District that's been released (see "This 'n That" below) leaves something to be desired in terms of detail, not to mention that it only shows about one-third of the proposal. On Friday, WTHR and WISHTV posted videos of their news pieces that include some fly-through video and more renderings. They don't help much with detail, but they do provide a much better idea of the lay-out of the project. I captured some of the images from the video so we can take a look at it (sorry about the quality and size -- a slightly larger version is available if you click on these images):
Site Overview:
Looking North:
Looking Northeast:
Looking West (Henry St. runs down the middle):
Looking Southwest:
Parking Garage between the CSX Line and Pennsylvania:
Looking Southeast:
Looking Southeast at the corner of South and Madison:
Ground level in the public plaza:

Quick observations:
  • The developers respected the street grid, not only maintaining Henry St. between Madison and Pennsylvania, but extending it to the CSX line. The Scioto St. alley between Arby's and Subway would be vacated, though I don't think that's much of a loss.
  • It's clearly designed with street-level atomsphere and walkability very much in mind.
  • Decent density on the northern section of the project. It appears to be generally around 5-10 stories, with the one large structure at South & Pennsylvania perhaps as tall as 15 stories.

Hopefully we'll get some more detailed renderings in the future.

(note: the Legends District logo is a trademark of the Legends Entertainment Group, LLC.)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Development: This 'n That

Three Mass Ave: the pit continues to grow. At this point, I think they're still just removing dirt and shoring up the pit walls. Very soon, we may see some concrete for the underground parking garage.

Cultural Trail: the Alabama St. paving is largely done, just some work left at the intersections. Signs indicating bike and pedestrian sides of the trail (and other information/directions) have been attached to the lights. If the weather clears up this week I may try to grab some pictures.

O'Malia's: the renovation work appears to be in the final stretch. The "wine room" where the cooking school used to be is really shaping up nicely. The temporary shelves have finally been removed, opening up the huge windows in that room (though I like the additional light, is this good for the wine?). An interesting paint job, very different than the rest of the store, has been added to the walls -- you'll just have to check it out. One thing that really pleases me about this renovation is that it hasn't been completely converted into a generic Marsh. There are elements of the "stock Marsh" but you can still tell it's O'Malia's.

Paramount Tower: if you missed the update below, the big news from Cory Schouten is that the Paramount Tower proposal is being moved from its original location on Illinois to the NE corner of Michigan and Capitol, directly across from the Gibson Building. The height has also increased from 11 to 16 stories and an on-site parking lot has been added to the proposal. This figure is included with the IBJ article:

The gap along Michigan St. is an old 3-4 story building that I believe is currently occupied. A 1-to-2 story building on the North St. side appears destined for demolition.

Legends District - SODO: a huge $480M project has been announced for 11 acres of downtown bounded by South St., Madison Ave., the CSX Railroad Line and Merrill St. This is very preliminary and many, many things need to fall in line for this to become a reality. Still, it represents one of the most exciting announcements for downtown in quite a while. The addition of urban-style big-box stores like Target, Best Buy and Dicks would be huge for downtown residential development. The absence of these kind of retail optons is one of the major gaps in downtown living that keep some people away. Here is a rendering, with Madison Ave. in the foreground and South St. at the far left:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Beer: Fine Dining and Craft Beer

Say you're going out for a delicious steak dinner at Ruth's Chris, or any of the glut of steak houses in downtown. What's your drink of choice? 99% of people would ask for a red wine, likely a Cabernet Sauvignon. And you know what? They wouldn't be wrong. Wine and steak go together like PB&J. But you know what would also taste delicious next to that steak? A nice pint of brown ale, or maybe a porter.

Sadly, the world of fine dining has not really caught up with the fast-growing craft beer movement. You'll be lucky to find a restaurant with 10 craft beers available while they gladly stock their shelves with hundreds of different wine options. These days, if you want craft beer with a meal, your options are generally bar food or bar food. Not that craft beer is bad with bar food, but there are so many other interesting and delicious food-beer combinations!

Around Indianapolis, the various breweries generally specialize in bar food, though Rock Bottom has a surprisingly good menu. Alcatraz Brewing Co. changed their menu in the last year or so to gourmet burgers that I've heard are quite tasty, if a bit expensive, topping out around $15. There are also a handful of local restaurants that stock an impressive selection of beer including Shallos, MacNiven's, BadaBoomz, Rathskeller and the Ale Emporium. Indiana Beer provides a list of other local restaurants with noteworthy selections.

One of the few fine dining restaurants around town with a decent beer list is R Bistro and even then they've only got 6 or 8 options. Still, I gladly order beer when I'm there because the option is so rare -- last time I got a Unibroue Trois Pistoles -- not to mention quite a bit cheaper than wine.

So, what's the answer? I'm not sure. Asking restaurants to suddenly start stocking their beer shelves in proportion to wine isn't going to do anything unless diners ask for it. And diners certainly aren't going to ask for beer unless they're informed and options are readily available. Even then, we've got years and decades and centuries of wine-drinking tradition that goes against the notion of beer with fine dining. And there's nothing wrong with that. I'm not asking for wine to be replaced with beer, just that the option be available.

I think the answer is that it's going to be a long, slow process of educating both restaurants and diners that great beer pairs well with great food. If food-beer pairing interests you, for now you can always dine at home where you can control everything! Here are a handful of sites that offer useful tips on pairing:

Apparently Stone Brewing is very interested in this concept as well and recently hosted a beer vs. wine "Tasting Menu Showdown." You can read a bit about it here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Photos: Lucas Oil Stadium

I was driving south on Senate the other day and this view grabbed me, with Lucas Oil Stadium just peaking over the top of the Hoosier Dome (Indy natives tell me I should call it that). My camera happened to be in the car, so I popped out and grabbed this shot. Imagine what this is going to look like when the Hoosier Dome comes down next spring.

Lucas Oil Stadium from Senate and North:

Development: A Monumental Affair

I had the pleasure of attending "A Monumental Affair" last night as an Indianapolis Business Journal "guest of honor." Sounds grand, eh? Well it most certainly was! A Monumental Affair is an annual awards ceremony sponsored by Keep Indianapolis Beautiful that honors excellence in all phases of development, from design to construction to public art. The ceremony was held in the Indiana Rooftop Ballroom, a grand old space built in 1927 and refurbished in 1986. It was my first time in there and it's quite impressive.

I was a guest of Cory Schouten, writer of IBJ's Property Lines blog, along with fellow posters Steve (indy steve here at DIG-B) and Ryan. We were joined by IBJ Editor Tom Harton and Andrea (sorry, I can't remember her last name). It was kind of surreal to be meeting all these people that actually read this fledgling blog! IBJ had a table at the extreme back-right of the room, which worked out perfectly, giving us the opportunity to play peanut gallery, chit-chatting amongst ourselves and alternately praising and ripping on the various projects being honored.

The actual ceremony was about what I expected -- generally mundane projects being celebrated and presented in some cases like they had built the Burj Dubai. The 38th St. Reconstruction project and the Simon Property Group Headquarters won multiple awards, the latter taking home the Monumental Award (the "Best in Show" of this awards ceremony). Douglas Pointe Lofts, home to The Goose and one of my favorite new developments downtown, was up for 4 awards, though they only received one "Achievement" (aka 3rd Place). Some categories had so few entries that everybody won something (is this elementary school?). My favorite category was "Innovative Reuse" where two of the four entries were the renovations of the Rink-Savoy Building -- from apartments -- and Herron High School -- from art school to....high school. Congratulations, you're very innovative.

I'd like to thank Cory again for inviting me. I think a great time was had by all -- we should try to have blogger/poster gatherings more often. One final, cryptic note: Cory let us know he has a very interesting column coming out about Paramount Towers. I won't spill the beans, but be sure to check back to IBJ over the next couple days to find out the big news.

UPDATE: Cory's Paramount Tower article is up at IBJ now. Check it out here. The proposal has been moved from Illinois St. to Capitol St., directly across Michigan from the Gibson Building. Though the number of "beds" remains the same, the height has apparently increased from 11 stories to 16 stories.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Development: DMLK Jr./10th/11th/I-65 Interchange

I don't intend to review roads and road projects much. Frankly, I'm no expert and The Urbanophile already does a fantastic job. But since this area is a hot topic over at Property Lines right now -- there was an update on the planned Circle Truss "gateway" at this interchange -- and I happen to have a vested interest in the roads in this area (I live on the canal), I thought I'd take a look at this one.

First of all, I should note that this interchange is in no way under consideration for redesign by INDOT. Lord knows they have bigger things to deal with right now. I'm well aware that I'm dealing with a pipe dream here.

That said, let's start off by looking at some of the problems with this area:
  • The road is extremely wide, presenting a huge barrier to pedestrians.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. (DMLK Jr.) and West St. are viewed by many motorists as an extension of the expressway. The speed limit drops to 35MPH immediately at 11th St., yet people frequently rip down the road at speeds close to or even exceeding 55MPH. The Indy Metro Police don't seem to care at all about this since I've never seen someone pulled over in the three-plus years I've been living in the area (both in Ransom Place and along the canal). Obviously, this is very bad for pedestrians.
  • The DMLK Jr. northbound cross-over is confusing, complicated and kludgey. You have to go through three ill-timed lights to go from the point it splits (near 9th St.) past 11th St. This is quite a hindrance to people that want to travel that way.
One of the losing entries in the 'Rotary International Centennial Gateway Competition - Indianapolis' is called "Triumph." It includes a large statue pointing toward downtown, an expansion of greenspace, and a redesign of the on/off ramp structure in this area. Obviously, the statue is pretty silly, so let's just heave that part of the proposal into a very oversized dumpster. It's a shame this wasn't selected because their road proposal, on the other hand, has a lot of great ideas. You can view the whole proposal, as well as the other 4 finalists, here. This section is pertinent to this roads discussion:

There are many things to like about this design:
  • It moves the I-65 southbound merger with DMLK Jr. further to the north. This has multiple effects. First, it provides a ramp over DMLK Jr. northbound traffic, eliminating the need for the kludgey DMLK Jr. northbound cross-over. Second, it places I-65 on city streets earlier and onto an underutilized road. This should help to slow down traffic while helping to revitalize this forgotten corridor.
  • It restores a semblance of the normal street grid around the interchange. The current DMLK Jr. becomes one-way-south and a new road is built for one-way-north, connecting to the current Northwestern Ave. near 16th St. The I-65 northbound off-ramp is realigned to 12th St. (the proposal incorrectly identifies this as I-70 West), giving it direct access to both DMLK Jr. north and south.
  • A roundabout is built at the intersection of 16th and DMLK Jr. The normally light-to-moderate traffic patterns, along with generous land available around this intersection make it an excellent candidate for the first downtown roundabout (Monument Circle isn't a true roundabout as you must stop before entering).
  • The large landscaped boulevard between north and southbound DMLK Jr. is a wonderful addition and should help immensely with the walkability of the area.
  • The Canal Walk is extended all the way to 16th St., albeit with a break at the expressway. Again, this should be a boon to this forgotten corridor.
One downside to this proposal is that it brings the I-65 off-ramps right to the doorstep of the neighborhood to the west of DMLK Jr. This will be slightly to the detriment of the neighborhood in terms of walkability, but I think this downside is balanced by the possibility of investment in the area as well as expansion of the neighborhood, with the addition of a public park along the extended Canal Walk.

(Aside: does anybody know the name of this neighborhood? If I had to guess, the housing style seems to date it to something around 1950.)

Now, contrast the "Triumph" proposal with the plan put forth in the winning "Gateway Circle" proposal:

This looks like a horrible mess, and I think it is. As I said, I'm no expert in transportation planning, but I find it hard to believe that this will work effectively during peak rush-hour traffic. As I understand it, traffic circles and roundabouts work well up to a saturation point, after which they become less efficient at moving cars than traditional intersections. This interchange sees a huge amount of traffic during morning and evening rush-hour and would likely saturate this design twice daily, leading to gridlock.

Even if my traffic analysis of this design is dead wrong (a distinct possibility), I can't get past the fact that this plan is arguably worse for pedestrians than the current situation. Between St. Clair and 11th St., there is one way for pedestrians to cross DMLK Jr., and that's the crazy, winding, raised pedestrian plaza. On top of that, this design is extremely wasteful of land. It exchanges copious amounts of pedestrian-and-environmentally-friendly green space in the Triumph proposal with impassable bi-layer roads.

I sincerely hope this roads proposal isn't inextricably linked to the Circle Truss gateway design. I'm not crazy about the truss, but I can live with it. On the other hand, I'm very much against this roads proposal.

As one final note, I've always wondered why a spur from the I-65 northbound ramp to Missouri St. doesn't exist, something like this:

It would be such a simple thing to do -- it's relatively small and no buildings would need to be acquired (certainly part of this lies within the current I-65 ROW). I'm sure businesses in the area, particularly Clarian, would be very supportive of something like this as it would greatly improve transportation through the Biocrossroads area. Any opportunity to improve connectivity across urban expressways should be embraced, especially one that would be as simple to implement as this.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Beer: Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

I was reluctant to try Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner the first time I saw it at Kahn's. Sam Adams has a place in the heart of every craft beer drinker -- maybe you love the mainstream Boston Lager or maybe you're more into their seasonals and sampler 12-packs -- and I'm no different. But I make it no secret that I don't particularly like pilsner. I drink a Becks or a Heineken and say, "this doesn't taste that much better to me than a Bud." So, needless to say, that one simple word kept me away at first.

When I got home I quickly looked up the beer on Beer Advocate. I was surprised to read that many people compared it to a Double IPA and I immediately thought, "I need to give this a try." So the next time I was at Kahn's I ponied up for a 4-pack. I've spaced my tastings out over about a month so I could try to get a handle on this style. This past Sunday I had the fourth bottle and I have to say, I don't particularly like this beer.

First of all, this beer is hops, hops, HOPS!, and more hops. Normally that would be a good thing for me, but there is very little malt to balance out the hops. That means that after the hop bite fades all that's left is a German Pilsner backbone that I simply don't like. Pilsner usually tastes a bit bitter to me, so throw a huge amount of hops on top of that style and you've got an insane bitter blast. Not my cup-o'-tea.

All that said, don't let me deter you from trying this beer! It's a limited-time-only release, but if a wacked-out, hopped-up Becks sounds like something you might be interested in, I know Parti Pak still had three or four 4-packs in their cooler a couple weeks ago. If it's gone and you're still interested in the style, Clipper City also brews an "Uber Pils" year 'round called Small Craft Warning. I've never tried it, and likely won't, so I can't make a recommendation about that. On Beer Advocate, there are a grand total of 35 beers that fall into this category (compared to 1279 for the American IPA style) so it doesn't appear to be particularly popular.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Development: Canal Food Quicky


I'm still trying to rebound (in many ways) from ND's stunning upset loss to Navy yesterday -- is a 4-4 team beating a 1-7 really an upset? -- so forgive me this short post today. The lone bright spot of the game? Tony Rice walked into the South Bend restaurant where I was watching the game and chatted with my table for about 5 minutes. I even got to shake his ridiculously large hand! (ND fans will understand why this meeting was a big deal.)

Anyway, here are a couple quick updates about canal food options:

  • Buggs Temple reviews are starting to pop up. Feed Me/Drink Me has reviewed the Tavern at the Temple while the Indianapolis Business Journal reviewed The Grille.
  • Hoaglin to Go at the Stardust Terrace (Indiana History Center) recently started offering a limited breakfast menu. This location has always seemed like a golden opportunity to offer Sunday brunch -- particularly during the summer -- so hopefully the weekday breakfast goes well and they expand things.
  • A large dumpster recently appeared outside the former Payton's Place, indicating that we're likely to see a lot more than a slap-some-paint-up-and-rename-it kind of reopening.
  • The Cosmopolitan, a 4-story mixed-use development at the corner of Senate and Michigan, will finally break ground later this month. The project, originally announced almost 11 months ago, will include 218 apartments, 18,000 sq.ft. of retail space along Michigan and Senate as well as 2,000 sq.ft. at canal-level. That space will extend off the canal, configured around a central plaza with a fountain. The developers envision it being used for a pub or coffee shop.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Photos: Meridian Arch Update

Meridian Arch Facts:
  • Address: 802 N. Meridian St. (NW corner with St. Clair St.)
  • Originally Constructed: 1906 as the Meridian Street Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Architect, Historic Church: D.A. Bohlen & Sons
  • Architect, Rear Addition: Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf Architects
  • Previous Use: Indiana Business College (from 1947 to 2003, when they relocated to E. Washington St.)
  • Developer: Hearthview Residential
  • Number of Residences: 27 Condominiums (a potential second phase may include 48 more condos in a building to the west)
  • Expected Completion: 2008
Here's the status of this project as of November 1st:

Looking South on Meridian (is this God's approval of the reuse of his house?!):

Here's a rendering provided by Hearthview:

And finally, here's a 1925 photo from the Indiana Historical Society's collection that shows the long-gone and not-to-be-reconstructed 145 ft. spires:

One last note: I had to laugh when I read in the most recent Up Downtown that Hearthview was proud of their preservation plan for this building. Quite to the contrary, their original plan called for knocking down the entire structure and building anew. Once preservationists heard this, IHPC expedited it to Historic Individual Property status. To Hearthview's credit, reports indicate that they quickly and without much fight agreed to preserve the historical front portion of the building (the rear portion was apparently an addition put on by the Indiana Business College). But presenting the preservation as if it was their plan all along is playing with the facts.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Photos: Pennsylvania St.

This is my new favorite stretch of road in Indianapolis:

This particular picture is looking south on Pennsylvania St. near 24th St., but the tree canopy is pretty amazing all the way from Fall Creek down to 16th St. I've been driving through this area a lot recently, having already gone to The Goose four times since they opened (duck, salami, great beer, beef ground on the spot, that place is the best!). The area is so cool looking -- especially with the leaves changing color right now -- that I frequently find myself driving well below the posted 35MPH speed limit to take in the ambiance. American Forests has a page about Urban Tree Canopy Goals if this interests you.

If I had my druthers, they'd reduce the speed limit on Pennsylvania to 25MPH and allow parking on both sides, effectively choking it off as a commuter route. Progress has been made in gobbling up the parking lots on the west side of the road -- which generally serve businesses fronting Meridian -- and I'd like to see that continue.

Let me (and others) know about your favorite stretches of road around Indy in the comments.