Friday, November 20, 2009

Oak of Mamre: East African Restaurant at 14th and Pennsylvania

I was handed this flyer while walking out of Methodist Hospital this morning:

Intriguing. A quick googling of the name shows that they participated in the Indy Winter Farmers Market that kicked off last weekend. I don't believe that Eritrean/Ethiopian cuisine is represented in the downtown area, so give 'em a whirl and see what you think. Personally, I'm curious about the 'traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony'.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo 21 (Set)

This photo set focuses exclusively on one block of the Cultural Trail: Walnut St. between Senate Ave. and Capitol Ave. This block is unusual in that the entire road bed has been replaced by the Cultural Trail. I've been told that this is to be a shared vehicle and trail space, as businesses around Walnut St. require access to Walnut St. for trucks, but that signage will attempt to limit unnecessary vehicles on the trail.

Looking East on Walnut St. at Senate Ave.

Looking East at the inlaid brick pattern.

Looking East at the Cultural Trail-standard lamp posts.

Looking East at the intersection with Roanoke St. (an alley).

What was once a sidewalk along Zesco Products'
building is now a raised bed of greenery.

Looking Southwest from the intersection of Walnut St. and Capitol Ave.

For comparison, earlier construction photos of this area -- with the sidewalks and road bed completely removed -- are available here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail meets the Central Canal (Pre-construction)

Construction on the North Corridor of the Cultural Trail continues, with significant work on the realignment of St. Clair St. to accommodate the Cultural Trail at the intersection with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. Here are a pair of shots looking West on St. Clair St. from the intersection with Fayette St.

The next phase in the North Corridor construction process is the interface of the Cultural Trail with the Central Canal. This section, connecting St. Clair St. to the pedestrian bridge across the canal at Walnut St., may be the only piece of the trail that goes "off road." The trail will cut through a section of parkland on the west side of canal, immediately adjacent to the Gardens of Canal Court apartment complex. Before it's completely torn apart in the coming weeks, here are a set of pre-construction shots to document the state of the area:

Get ready for earth to be moved. This is looking Southeast at the point where
the trail will cut south from St. Clair St. to the Walnut St. pedestrian bridge.

At least DPW avoided American Dirt's complaint about putting construction warning signs directly in pedestrian walkways. It does say something about the department's mindset, however, that they have no choice but to put up a "Road Closed" sign even when they're doing construction on a walking path.

Looking north toward St. Clair St., Gardens of Canal Court at left.

Looking south toward the Walnut St. pedestrian bridge, Gardens of Canal Court at right.

Looking north from the West St. access path near the Walnut St.
pedestrian bridge. Those orange flags may denote the trail route.

Looking west from the Walnut St. pedestrian bridge.

Looking northwest from the Walnut St. pedestrian bridge at the West St. access path (left)
and the canal access path (curving right), with Gardens of Canal Court in the background.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Photo: Bar Yats -- Coming Soon

NOTE: as of 9/8/10, Joe Yuskovich and the Yats name are no longer associated with this restaurant. It is now open under the name The Bar at The Ambassador. More info can be found here and here.

How would you like your Indianapolis Central Library experience with a side of étoufée?

In the near future, it looks like that will be possible. Yats, the beloved locally-owned chain of cajun-creole restaurants, is moving into some ground floor space in the Ambassador Apartment building at 9th and Pennsylvania Sts., next to the Central Library (see the curving north side of the library at left in the picture). The twist? This Yats will feature a full bar serving cocktails. Yats joins a mixture of bars and restaurants already established on the 900 block of Pennsylvania, including Datsa Pizza, Urban Element and the Living Room Lounge.

Buckingham Properties recently purchased the Ambassador Apartment building from the Central Library and has also been quietly buying every available property immediately north of the library. In the area bounded by Meridian, 10th, Pennsylvania and the Central Library, they envision a mixed-use block called Library Square. It's refreshing to see the fruits of their work, despite the bad economy. In addition to Yats, the refurbished Ambassador Apartments reopened recently and a Key Bank branch is set to open at Meridian and Sahm Sts. shortly.

See additional information on Property Lines. Sounds like this may be a bit more than just adding alcohol service to the existing Yats concept.

Friday, October 2, 2009

DIG-B: Hiatus and Second Anniversary

Apologies for the brief absence, but I've been tending to a new priority in my life -- my new baby girl was born on September 17th! Since then, I also missed DIG-B's second anniversary, which occurred on September 24th. Blogs published in a vacuum don't mean much, so my thanks go out to everybody who continues to stop by to read and those that provide feedback with comments on the posts.

Not surprisingly, my post volume is likely to stay low for the foreseeable future, though I'll probably pop up from time to time with big items and things local to me (e.g. construction on a segment of the Cultural Trail essentially right outside my front door is set to begin 10/8, so I really have no excuse for not updating you on that). Long term, I hope to get back to two or three posts a week. Thanks everybody for continuing to read!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Development: Senate Ave. and St. Clair St. -- A Blank Slate

Several years ago this warehouse went on the market (9th St. and the Canal, still currently used by Kirkbride Bible Co.):

Then sometime in the last year or so, this warehouse went on the market (east side of Senate Ave., between St. Clair St. and Walnut St., previous tenant unknown):

Then a couple weeks ago, this warehouse went on the market (St. Clair St. and the Canal, formerly B.H. Gardner Co.):

And now, as of a week or so ago, this warehouse is on the market (St. Clair St. and Capitol Ave., formerly Litho Press Inc.):

The former Litho Press building is a full quarter-block, four story building at St. Clair St. and Capitol Ave. It's just begging for a first rate refurb that opens up the huge window openings that were bricked-up years ago. It could be a great residential loft conversion, though many other uses are certainly possible. An 88 space parking lot is associated with the building. Here are a couple photos that show the detailing on this old warehouse:
The Southeast corner of the building, St. Clair St. facade.

Same location, focusing on the roofline.

Looking West at the Capitol Ave. facade.

Same location, focusing on the detail around the main entrance.

The Northeast corner of the building.

With the Litho Press building now on the market, my eyeball estimate is that about 25% of the land in the four city blocks around the intersection of Senate Ave. and St. Clair St. is now actively for sale. Additionally 15% or so could be classified as completely vacant or underutilized (though not actively for sale). Talk about a blank slate!

Here's a look at the land for sale (sites outlined in green) and vacant/underutilized (outlined in red), with the Cultural Trail route through this area in blue:

View Senate and St. Clair in a larger map (longer descriptions of each site are also available).

With this much land simultaneously available, it behooves the city to have a specific, long-term vision for how redevelopment of this area should progress. This is doubly important given that this area sits adjacent to the future crossroads of Indianapolis' two great urban walkways: the Cultural Trail and the Central Canal Walk. The Indianapolis Regional Center Plan 2020 specifies 'Residential 27-49 DUA' (Dwelling Units per Acre) for the block northwest of the intersection and 'Research Community Mixed-Use' for the remaining three blocks.

What goals should the city have for this area?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Photos: More Al Fresco Dining on Washington St.

New outdoor seating areas recently opened for The Pita Pit and Adobo Grill.

Looking East on Washington St., just East of Pennsylvania St.

The expansion of al fresco dining on Washington St. doesn't end there. At the intersection of Washington and Illinois, Tastings, a new wine bar in the Conrad that is scheduled to open in the fall, plans to have outdoor seating on the northeast corner, while Panera Bread has filed plans to have a seating area on the northwest corner (opening date not yet known).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Development: B.H. Gardner Discussion

The B.H. Gardner site I posted about a couple weeks ago is now the focus of some more in-depth reporting by Indianapolis Business Journal and an extended commentary by The Urbanophile. Both are highly recommended reading.

In response to the IBJ article, I'd like to address two specific comments. The first is by Dennis Dye of Browning Investments Inc.:
The challenge with retail is that St. Clair Street and Senate Avenue isn’t exactly “Main and Main,” he said.
I believe Mr. Dye's comment misses two points:

1. The intersection of St. Clair St. and Senate Ave. isn't "Main & Main" not because something else is there, but because there's NOTHING there. Literally: the northeast corner of that intersection is a completely undeveloped grass lot (the other three are parking lots). Rather than being a drawback, I'd call that a blank slate upon which to build anything you want -- including making it the next residential/commercial corner in downtown.

2. There is untapped potential in that area to support retail. I've estimated in the past that the immediate vicinity of the canal is the highest density residential in the city. To give an idea of what I'm talking about, here are the approximate total residential units in the apartment complexes along the canal:
425 Gardens of Canal Court
275 Canal Square
125 Canal Overlook
825 units
At 1.5 people-per-unit occupancy (it's probably higher), that's a capacity for 1,238 residents in the canal apartment complexes. That doesn't even include people living in the Watermark condos, Fayette St., and Senate Manor (not to mention Ransom Place across West St.). By next year -- when 218 units will be open in the Cosmopolitan on the Canal -- I'd estimate roughly 2,000 people will live within one block of the canal, with nearly zero retail to support it. This is at least twice as many residents as any neighborhood in downtown, in an area that only stretches from New York to 10th St. Flaherty & Collins recognizes this opportunity and built retail into the Cosmo; any development at St. Clair and the canal should be expected to follow suit.

The second comment in the IBJ article that I'd like to address concerns potential uses of this site:
The most feasible use of the parcels is for apartments or for an expansion of an existing campus of buildings serving Clarian Health and Indiana University, real estate brokers said.
Simply put, it would be huge, HUGE folly to allow Clarian or IUPUI to develop this land. I cannot stress that point enough. Neither is land-starved at their main campuses and both have already proven themselves to be incompetent in designing their existing buildings' integration with both the canal and the urban setting. It would be terrible to let them continue to suck up valuable canal-front land for strictly self-serving buildings. If IUPUI and Clarian REALLY feel the need to expand in that area, they should build a parking garage next to Fairbanks Hall and put that gigantic parking lot to better use.

Rather than allowing them to expand their presence, we should actually work in the opposite direction. I suggest that IUPUI shrink their footprint in the area by relinquishing the IU Emerging Technologies Center (ETC) parking lot between the ETC building and 9th St. That would open up three contiguous canal-front properties to redevelopment, a potentially enticing option for local developers. As for the loss of parking at the ETC, they could still maintain their main lot on 10th St. and there's more than enough additional parking available in the Fairbanks Hall lot for overflow. The land that their secondary lot occupies is far too useful and valuable to continue to be used for a parking lot.

The B.H. Gardner site and the warehouse site immediately north of it are critical to the continued development of a cohesive neighborhood between the canal and Senate Ave. I would rather see those sites lie fallow than allow more bad development to scuttle the opportunity of this area.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Development: Canal Restaurants -- One Opportunity Not Yet Lost

While the natural draw of the Central Canal presents a unique opportunity for restaurants to generate business during the warm summer months, an almost complete lack of drawing power during the winter makes profitable business during those cold months nearly impossible. Because of that, and despite all the clamoring that is commonly heard for canal-side dining, the near-term odds for full-year canal restaurants are dismal.

For now, I believe that the best prospects for year-round restaurants on the canal are at the interfaces of streets and the canal. Bi-level restaurants with one floor fronting the street and the lower floor fronting the canal would provide restaurants with the best of both worlds: the draw of canal-side dining during the warm months and the safety of a standard street-front for advertising and access during cold months. Unfortunately, there are precious few of these locations left (one such opportunity exists at the B.H. Gardner site I recently wrote about).

There is also a similar opportunity presented by the head of the canal. That northern terminus slopes up to street level all around, in a way providing canal-front at street level. The restaurants in Buggs Temple can make it work as year-round restaurants right now because they front both the canal and 11th St. (obviously, their proximity to three mid-rise office buildings and a transit stop doesn't hurt). Unfortunately, the unique opportunity of this zone was wasted in the IU/Clarian Fairbanks Hall and almost completely squandered by the IUPUI Health Information and Translational Sciences (HITS) Building.

An opportunity for Fairbanks Hall to interact with 10th St. (and the canal) was lost.

The HITS Building was dedicated in 2007, providing 167k sq.ft. in a 6-story $42M concrete structure. Almost all of its canal frontage is occupied by office windows and a massive main entrance. However, it also provides an interesting, and until now completely vacant, space immediately next to the entrance.

The IUPUI Health Information and Translational Sciences Building.

At the HITS Building groundbreaking ceremony, it was reported that, "When completed in 2006, the building also will include restaurants and other shops to serve the occupants of the building and the general public." When the building was dedicated on March 7, 2007, the IU School of Medicine's press release stated, "As an added convenience for employees, the building includes 3,810 square feet of retail space for a café and other specialty shops." Two-and-a-half years on and none of this promise has materialized, though fortunately, the space is still available.

Three doors provide access: two seen here to the right of the main entrance
that open directly to the canal -- one is partially behind the first pillar, the
other is between the third and fourth pillars -- and one off of the main lobby.

Utilizing this space seems like such a slam dunk for both the building and the canal that, even if it were a chain of some sort operated by Chartwells (the IUPUI Food Service contractor), I'm not sure why this space still isn't occupied. Parking could be a concern, but a core business of serving lunch to employees working in and around this building should not require parking. Serving dinner is probably a stretch, but opening up the 27 parking spaces in the small lot on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. side of the building to after hours public parking could also make dinner service viable. The visibility of the building on 10th and 11th Sts. also provides an opportunity for signage to advertise such a space.

A small parking lot for the HITS Building sits next to Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr. St., with an entrance off of 10th St. shown here.

Whatever the reason for the delay up to this point, here's hoping we don't have to wait another two and a half years for this space to be put to good use.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Photos: Market St. Reconstruction Preview

The Market St. ramp is long gone and the reconstruction of Market St. is nearly complete. I'll likely have a full spread of pictures once this project is complete, but for now, here's a taste of how things are turning out (photos taken during the SSC Tour on August 22).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Development: B.H. Gardner Co. "Available"

Sometime earlier this week, a sign was erected advertising "Available" in front of the B.H. Gardner Co. warehouse.

B.H. Gardner is a bakery supply distributor that has been in business in Indianapolis since 1924. Based on the above photo, this could be almost any warehouse in the city. What makes this particular one special is its location on the Central Canal in downtown, one of several generally nondescript warehouse structures lining the East bank of the Canal between St. Clair and 10th Sts.:

A guess for the whole site based on apparent property lines is outlined in green at the lower-right.

This site is just one piece of the largest strip of Canal frontage left to be developed:

Looking North from the St. Clair St. bridge over the Canal. The B.H. Gardner
warehouse is the first building on the right and ends roughly at that cluster of pine trees.

Looking East from the same location, St. Clair St. at right.

Is this building and site "Available" for sale or lease? It's a key difference but, as of the time of this writing, this property is not yet listed on Hokanson Co.'s website to provide us the answer. Hopefully it's for sale and this property can be used to continue the budding of retail on the canal. You may find this surprising, but the length of canal frontage for this site is almost exactly the same as the Cosmopolitan site (about 250 ft.).

Also see an excellent analysis of the history of canal development over on the relatively new blog American Dirt.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo 20

Looking West from the intersection of Walnut and Capitol (Zesco Restaurant Supply at left). The road bed here will be a shared vehicle and Cultural Trail space. An attempt will be made to discourage unnecessary vehicle traffic, but the businesses around this area require Walnut for truck access.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo 19

The median that will house the Glick Peace Walk, looking West on Walnut.

Stepping back and looking at the median from the intersection of Walnut and Capitol.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Skyscraper City Meetup and Tour, Summer 2009

Many of my readers are no doubt familiar with Skyscraper City, a collection of forums dedicated to the discussion of all things urban. There is a particularly active forum for Indianapolis and I've organized a meetup and tour for this Saturday. Anybody that regularly checks this blog but doesn't participate over on Skyscraper City is more than welcome to join us as well. We aren't scary and you don't have to be an expert. Just bring an interest in Indianapolis development and a desire to learn more. And, of course, your walkin' shoes.

If you're interested in joining us, here's the meetup info and a map of the tour route (please bring $1.75 exact change as we'll be using the IndyGo Red Line to move from the east side of downtown to the IUPUI campus).

Skyscraper City Indy Meetup and Tour

  • Saturday, August 22 at 9am
  • Meet at the outdoor tables at the downtown Dunkin' Donuts (NW corner of Washington and Pennsylvania)
  • Look for me, the guy wearing a kelly green t-shirt with the Hoosier Beer Geek logo on it

View SCS Meetup & Tour, Summer 2009 in a larger map

Photo: JW Marriott at Night


Matt Heidelberger is right -- night shots are hard (this link goes to an interview with Matt that is worth checking out). I tried capturing some shots of the JW Marriott at dusk and ended up with this one shot that seems worthy of posting. Note the reflection of the Capitol in the upper-left corner.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Photos: Cosmopolitan on the Canal Rebuilding

I also posted this set of photos back in April, immediately after the site had been cleared of the arson remnants. This time I added a fourth photo to the set, showing the beginning of the rebuilding process. Looks like a reset to last October, which confirms reports that the fire "set the $37 million project back about 10 months."

October 7, 2008

March 12, 2009

April 11, 2009

August 18, 2009

Also note how much more secure the left edge of the canal-front safety wall is than it was before the fire. I recall that you could essentially walk up, pull on the chain-link fencing and waltz right into the site if you were so inclined. Not any more. Flaherty & Collins isn't taking any chances with security this time around.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail Photo 18

Up to this point, the design of the Cultural Trail has been nearly flawless. However, some very bad decisions were made regarding the Walnut St. sidewalks outside of the Glick Peace Walk. Consider this sidewalk on the north side of Walnut between Illinois and Capitol:

I put my arm down on the sidewalk to get a rough measurement: wall to curb = fingertip to shoulder = about 28". Why even bother with a sidewalk that narrow? Apparently the designers decided they wouldn't and completely eliminated the sidewalk on this section between Meridian and Illinois:

What do you think about these decisions?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Development: Observations Around Town

I attended a wedding last weekend and left my camera in a friend's car. Unfortunately, that car went to South Carolina before I realized the camera was missing. For now, here are some things I've observed around town.

Cosmopolitan on the Canal: After the March fire wiped out a significant portion of the complex, workers spent several months salvaging and rebuilding the spared main building at Senate and Michigan. Now, they appear to have started the process of rebuilding the rest of the complex. Some new wood framing is present along Michigan and one of the two metal frames for the canal-front sections have reappeared (EDIT 8/15: just walked by and both frames are now up). Their website says "COMING FALL 2009 - NOW LEASING" so they must be fairly close to finishing the rebuild on the main building. Maybe the retail sections will open this fall as well? (EDIT 8/16: the Indy Star reports that they won't reopen any of the complex until early 2010. Maybe Flaherty & Collins should update their webpage?)

Indiana Convention Center Expansion: This project is moving along fast. It's obviously very visible as you drive south on Capitol but you can see a significant portion of the expansion rising above the train tracks while driving north on Missouri as well. It's BIG. The "diving board" for the new main entrance at Georgia and Capitol has been installed.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail: It seems like you can't go anywhere immediately north of downtown without seeing some aspect of the construction. Almost the entire North and Northeast Corridors of the trail are simultaneously under construction, a total of approximately 2 miles (for comparison, the completed section on Alabama is 0.5 miles).

Zing: We're just a couple weeks from the one year anniversary of their opening. Why do I note this? Because the owners indicated that they needed to wait one year for the galvanized steel of their wrap-around deck to cure before painting it. Here's how they envisioned the final product:

Elements: When they closed in April, owner Dennis Dunn indicated they would remain available for special events while attempting to secure funding to reopen. He was most likely blowing sunshine, but if not, that possibility is officially dead given that there is now a For Lease sign in the window. With a prime location on the Cultural Trail, next to a pocket park and very near Mass Ave, I can't imagine this space will stay empty for very long.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Photos: Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Photo 17

Looking west from St. Clair and Fayette Sts. (more utility relocations).