INDIANAPOLIS - After years of construction and millions of dollars invested, the Cultural Trail connecting downtown officially opened with much celebration Friday.
The project, which took 12 years of planning, six years of construction and $63 million, is an eight-mile walking and bike path connecting the city's five cultural districts.
The trail creates unprecedented connectivity, connecting Indiana Avenue, Mass Ave., the Canal and White River State Park, the Wholesale District and Fountain Square with the Monon Trail and other city greenways.
"We have reinvented how city streets work," said Cultural Trail cofounder Brian Payne.
The owner of South of Chicago Pizza along the trail in Fountain Square said the growing pains have been hard, but worth it.
"A lot of people come walking by, and they've never even heard of me, and they're all coming in," said owner Bob Jaeger. "It makes the neighborhood look nice, too, because when I first moved in, it looked like the neighborhood was kind of struggling but, man, it's turned around a lot. It's like the new Mass Ave."
Trail users say the connector is opening up new parts of the city.
"I didn't even realize that some of these businesses were here. I was like, 'Whoa, that looks cool. That looks cool,'" said Elizabeth O'Brien, who exercises on the trail. "So, yeah, I'd probably come down here more often than I do already, as in not just exercising, but actually visiting."
Thanks to $2 million from Gene and Marilyn Glick, artwork will line the trail, a new legacy for the Indianapolis philanthropists.
"In my opinion, the trail is the greatest legacy my parents are leaving to our city," daughter Marianne Glick said.
There celebration really begins Saturday. There will be some 80 events and performances all along the trail from 10 a.m. to midnight.