Mass Ave, continued

The Mass Ave series continues today with insight on the blocks between East and College -one of the most walkable corridors in the city. This particular stretch of Mass has become a vibrant commercial node serving the Chatham Arch neighborhood, the aorta of Indy’s LGBT community, and a considerable contributor to Indy’s local theater scene. Here follows a brief discussion of significant developments that will supplement one of Indy’s true urban hamlets.

Between East and Park


Mass between East St. and Walnut/Park. 

  1. The Libertine Liquor Bar – 608 Massachusetts Ave – Owned by Neal Brown (arguably the greatest chef in the Great Lakes region), one of the best bars in the country according to Esquire, a favorite of Katy Perry’s, and now, a resident of Mass Ave. Formerly located on E Washington St, Brown moved The Libertine for the late night foot traffic generated on Mass Ave and, if there was some before, there’s going to be more now. This is a huge win for this stretch of block and a particularly neat location, considering the bar is now in the basement of Pizzology.
    The entrance to the Libertine Liquor Bar can be found

    Maybe it’s the Manhattan in me, but this bar entrance just feels so…urban

    2. Millennium on Park – Proposed mixed-use infill coming to block surrounded by N Park Ave, E North St and Leon. Squeezed right between Chatham Arch and historic Lockerbie, this project has found one of the best locations downtown in terms of real estate. It’s fantastic to see infill downtown rising to more than 4-5 stories. If the project is built as proposed, it will aid the developments already underway in creating a massive influx of residents to the Mass Ave area, further bolstering street vibrancy. With added density and increased pedestrian activity, it’d be fantastic to see Mass Ave make the leap from solely local businesses/boutiques to a business district with a wide-array of commercial properties.


    Hopefully, the design is improved…but you gotta love that density!

    Between Park and College

    Obviously, most critical here is the development of the Firefighters Credit Union, Museum and parking lot on St. Clair -all of which permits the land swap that allows Montage on Mass to be built a couple blocks south. mass51. and 2. Fire Credit Union & ****ing parking lot – The $5 million project migrates the Firefighters Credit Union from its current location at 501 North New Jersey Street, where Montage is to be constructed, to the north end of Mass Ave. A new credit union would be constructed next to the IFD Museum and union hall located at 748 Massachusetts Ave. As part of the project, the union hall will be expanded 40 feet to allow for more offices.

    Okay, let’s just discuss the few positives here: the contribution to the Mass Ave street wall by the Credit Union/Union Hall is decent and the public plaza on the corner is okay only because it’s better than what was already there. That’s about where the positives end.

    Although the buildings may aesthetically look “nice” if you ascribe to mediocrity, even their assistance in street wall creation is mitigated by the fact their uses totally DO NOT activate the streetscape or engage pedestrians. Yeah, the little plaza is cool but really, they occupied a delicious, prime corner spot (on perhaps Indy’s most urban street, at one of its major intersections) that possessed glorious potential.

    The intersection of Mass/College is downtown’s door (I enjoy alliteration) for those traveling south on College and this is what we get, Indianapolis? I was already sick of seeing IPS driving in, but there was hope we would get something other than potential wasted on asphalt  – a golden opportunity which was not only wasted, but an opportunity that spoiled and then was force-fed to the populace. Just cover it with some art -what a slap! A surface parking lot, what an entrance! Oh! A trifle plaza that feels more like concession than intention to create public space – a public space that could have been capital, activating streetscape. It seems that with a small amount of creativity, planners could have combined both these facilities into one building on the plot of the parking lot – a parking garage in back and underneath a certain portion would be a drive-through for the credit union.  Instead of the land actually being used, developing the lot on St. Clair could have relinquished the ripe, luscious Mass Ave-facing property for private commercial uses.  But that would have required too much thought. Or money. But damn, think of the future property taxes that would have been generated for the city by a mixed-use development built adjacent to (and perhaps branded with) the old fire station. I can imagine a cool mixed-user named The Station or something. Maybe that would have made up for the investment. At least the option should have been frickin’ explored. Goodness gracious.

    Alright, I’m calming down. Anyways.

    Tomorrow, we will be discussing the beautiful Mass Ave from College to 10th St.. Feel free to comment, as always!


Development: The Good, the Bad, and NIMBYism pt. 1

*Today is the first of a three-part series on what smart development is, what it isn’t, and the obstacles it faces. *


Let’s get it out of the way: despite being proponents of development, it is near-sighted to address every neighborhood project as beneficial for a community. If that were the case, this website would promote Greenwood retail development or herald construction of gray-scale OneAmerica garages as a success when that is certainly not the case.



Which of these would you rather walk past?

Rather than totally regulating neighborhood development from top down, there must be a balance between the best interests of developers, residents, and planners to ensure that future construction projects help contribute rather than assist to diminish communities.

But what makes one development “good” and another “bad”?

This piece will explore several principles many urban planners have commenced to advocate over the past couple decades (as well as principles that have proved destructive) and apply these to recent projects in Indianapolis.

The Good

For the sake of brevity, I will underline, uppercase and embolden this next sentence. DESIGN AFFECTS BEHAVIOR.

It is imperative for communities to hold developers accountable to design standards in order to keep neighborhoods desirable, sustainable, and stimulating. Thankfully, there are several components to smart design that cities (even Indianapolis!) have begun to acknowledge and enact.

The first step is encouraging intelligently crafted, mixed-use development in neighborhoods- this is paramount to creating engaging urban environments.

Mixed-use implies an array of uses throughout the day (opposed to single-use suburban zoning) as business associates will naturally mingle with citizens that reside there and both these groups will organically interact with the patrons of businesses. It has been well-observed that this interaction between people of various socioeconomic backgrounds is conducive to the incubation of new ideas, hence why cities throughout history have proved instrumental in mankind’s progress. That being said, mixed-use development is a huge step in creating vivacious neighborhoods. The next step is creating mixed-uses that are desirable to invest in, look at, and interact with on a human level.

Here is a peek at just a few smart-design components that communities can and should demand, helping developers attain profits by ensuring built places people demand while simultaneously creating interesting, engaging urban communities.

Communities should demand activating uses on the first floor and continuous storefront windows!

Sidewalk-adjacent, active commercial uses should be placed on the first floor, creating a activated pedestrian streetscape. Good job, Hinge!


Trailside: continuous windows and frequent, highly visible entrances along the street should provide visual interest while promoting walkability. Keep it up!


Communities should demand facade interruption to provide inspiring and architecturally appealing streetwalls!


Lockerbie Lofts: residential projects should be designed to avoid large box-like forms with continuous unrelieved surfaces. Notice how colors break up the flow of form. *highfive


Bulky, or block-long buildings, should limit building length by implementing horizontal and vertical setbacks/stepbacks instead of long flat walls. You go, Montage!


Communities should demand limited setbacks!


Buildings should be adjacent to sidewalks, enclosing the public realm of the street while locating shops and restaurants next to the sidewalk to engage pedestrians, encouraging street vitality. You did good Slate, you did good. 😉


Less shallow setbacks are appropriate for a few things: wider sidewalks where they are narrow, entrances/structure articulation, outdoor restaurant seating (as seen on the corner of the rendering above), and plazas or other high activity areas. I see you, Marott Expansion! c:

The Alexander: setback areas should be used for public entry and outdoor commercial activity. This makes them destinations as gathering places. They should provide shade and places to sit. Gold star, CityWay!


Communities should demand diminished/hidden parking!


Do you see that parking? Didn’t think so. That’s because Collegiate did a great job here of keeping it wrapped up by some nice, ol’ residential units. The visibility of parking from the street and sidewalk should be minimized, especially at corners. Parking detracts from aesthetic pleasure and negates interacting streetscape. Parking should be placed to the side or rear of buildings, or underground. So proud. :,)

As stated before, these are just a few of the demands communities can request of developers to ensure a healthy, vibrant community and create places people want to be -a scenario beneficial to everyone involved. These are not demands to discourage growth and should not be distorted as NIMBYism -collectively, they are nothing less than having enough respect for our communities in order to make them the best, most vibrant and stimulating urban environments they can be.

As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Later tonight, we will have the fourth article in the Mass Ave series.