Renovation of Monument Circle could begin by 2016

Planners want to modernize, keep historic feel

INDIANAPOLIS - More details were released about a potential overhaul for the historic centerpiece of Indianapolis on Friday.

Hundreds of thousands of people visit Monument Circle every year, and it is the home to several events including the annual Circle of Lights, Strawberry Festival, the Boy Scouts Cookout and countless other occasions during the year.

For such an active scene that sits at the heart of downtown Indianapolis, the Circle is showing signs of age -- bricks cracking in the street, crumbling spots on sidewalks and grates that cause people to stumble and fall.

Officials warn some of the biggest problems involve the infrastructure below the street.

“The vision for this is how do we come back and reactivate Monument Circle. It's our premier public space," Cynthia Bowen, principal planner with CHA Companies, said.

Community leaders are pushing forward on a proposed $60 million plan to overhaul and modernize the Circle – while still keeping its historic look.

"How do we get more people to it, how do we get more events on it and how do we lessen the conflict between vehicles and pedestrians," Bowen said.

The work, which could begin in 2016, would start with the Circle itself, then expand to each of the spokes.

That plan is still on the drawing board, but could include adding parking and pedestrian areas, and narrowing or reducing traffic areas on the Circle.

What officials promised they wouldn't do is close the Circle to traffic for good, alter the monument itself or lower the lawns around the monument to street level.

As officials work on the plan, an even bigger question looms --- how to pay for the work.

"We only have the first phase of this project funded at this particular time, so part of our scheduled work is to work with the city to put together a funding strategy, so we're leveraging federal, state, local and private dollars," Bowen said.

Planners were already working on possible designs. The final design will be complete in 2015.

Construction is set to begin in 2016 and should be complete by 2017.

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