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October 24, 2014
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Beautification and Cleanliness: Keep Downtown Looking Good

Clean, attractive Downtown spurs development, increases safety

FlowerPlanterDowntown Indianapolis is well known for its beauty and cleanliness thanks to the efforts of many.  Indianapolis takes pride in its Downtown landscape.  Downtown Indy contributes to this reputation by caring for Downtown planters, gardens, gateways and trees.  These beautification enhancements create an inspiring sense of place and contribute to a safe, vibrant environment.

In fact, Indianapolis has been recognized as having one of the cleanest Downtown’s in the U.S.  In 2010, 81 percent of Central Indiana residents surveyed indicated that Downtown is clean, according to the Downtown Indy's Biennial Perception Survey.

Gateway gardens welcome visitorsPeace Garden
Since 1993, IDI has transformed 20 eyesore sites into landscaped gateways and gardens, planted more than 240,000 flowers and 2,487 trees and recruited and coordinated volunteers, partners and funding.  These results have been achieved with the help of more than 100,144 volunteer hours and many public and private partners.  Currently, IDI plants and maintains 206 planters and eight gateways and gardens, including:

  • Courtyard Garden at Presidential Place (1990 – SE corner of Alabama and Washington streets)
  • 10th & Central Garden (1994)
  • Alabama & St. Clair Garden (1994)
  • Washington Streetscape (1995 - from Alabama Street to Capitol Avenue)
  • Jackson Place (1995 – between Omni Severin Hotel and Union Station)
  • Pathways to Peace Garden (1995 – SE corner of Indiana and Senate avenues)
  • I-70/Illinois Street Gateway to Merrill (1997 & 2001)
  • Rotary Greenway (Phase II of West Street Landscaping Project) (1998 – median between St. Clair and 10th streets)

In addition, 13 gateways were developed in part by IDI, but are now maintained by others including:

  • West Street median between Indiana Convention Center and Victory Field (Phase I of West Street Landscaping Project)(1994)
  • Ohio Street & College Avenue (1995)
  • Kiwanis’ planting near Marion County Jail (1998)
  • Kiwanis’ planting at White River State Park (1999, 2002)
  • West Street Landscaping Project Phase III (1999, 2004)
  • I-70/ McCarty St. Gateway (developed by the City of Indianapolis and Eli Lilly) (2001)
  • Kiwanis’ plantings at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (2003, 2005)
  • Kiwanis’ planting at 16th Street & Fall Creek Park (2004)
  • Kiwanis Capitol Gateway (2006)
  • Kiwanis plantings at Historic St. Joseph Neighborhood (2008)
  • Kiwanis plantings at 11th and 12th streets between Delaware Street and Senate Avenue (2008)
  • Rotary and Kiwanis plantings at south Meridian from McCarty Street to Arizona Street (2010)
  • Ohio Street Rain Garden at Ohio Street and College Avenue (2011)

PennStreet PlanterSeasonal plantings add beauty
In partnership with the City’s Department of Public Works and hundreds of volunteers, IDI plants three seasons of flowers in Downtown’s 206 planters.  A “Beautification Calendar” that lists key events, timelines and flower colors is distributed to more than 1,000 Downtown businesses for a coordinated look.  Nine planters filled with topiary hibiscus, coleus and annuals were added on Pennsylvania Street to create a beautiful corridor identity for the Penn/Market district. 

Keeping pace with a growing Downtown
Faced with deteriorating and outdated planters, IDI has begun to evaluate replacing and upgrading the 200+ planters purchased in the mid 1980s.  IDI is also evaluating a more sustainable approach to enhance green space connectivity, energy efficiency and water conservation.  This approach examines such design elements as rain gardens, in-ground planters, trees and other best practices which encourage low maintenance and address some of the needs of Downtown’s aged storm sewer system. 

Rain GardenRain garden serves as model
In 2010, IDI implemented a pilot rain garden on Downtown’s eastside which was planted and finalized in April 2011.  Partial funding was made available through a United Water Green Infrastructure grant.  The site, located along the 600 block of East Ohio St. has experienced significant infrastructure challenges that include stormwater drainage issues, crumbling sidewalks and curbs and water main deterioration.   These conditions have resulted in poor drainage, flooding and inadequate pedestrian and handicap accessibility.  These issues were resolved with the installation of the new rain garden and porous pavement upgrades in the area.

The rain garden filters storm water runoff by allowing water to permeate the surface through specific plant and soil materials, pervious sidewalks and curbs and filter drains.  The clean storm water slowly soaks in the ground, filtering contaminants and keeping large quantities of water from going down the sewer system.  The rain garden includes a beautiful assortment of flowers, grasses and shrubs tolerant to Indiana weather and elements.

Washington StreetscapeDowntown corridors enhance streetscape
In the past 18 years, numerous corridor improvements have been made to enhance streets and revitalize Downtown.

  • Washington Streetscape features trees surrounded by beds of daffodils, daylilies and ornamental railing from Delaware Street to Capitol Avenue.
  • Jackson Place, between Union Station and the Omni Severin Hotel, is a Victorian perennial garden with a 10-foot wide granite and Indiana limestone urn.
  • Infrastructure improvements include repaved streets, new sidewalks, historic street lights, 238 shade trees, thousands of colorful perennial flowers, new trash receptacles, storm sewer upgrades and improved traffic signals.
  • In 1997, Well Point, Inc. and OneAmerica Financial Partners, Inc. invested $40,000 to create a major gateway into Downtown at I-70 and Illinois Street. 
  • Continuing the tree planting efforts, in 2010, 27 city trees were replaced with funding from IPL’s Trees for Tomorrow program and 63 new trees were planted with Rotary and Kiwanis Club members, University of Indianapolis, Builder’s Club, IPL and Concord Business Association.Top

West StreetWest Street grows greener
West Street, a major traffic corridor between I-65 and I-70 in Downtown, has a fresh look due to efforts that were completed in 1999.  The 2.3-mile stretch features more than 1,000 trees, 120 shrubs and 750 perennials and bulbs.

The West Street Landscaping Project improvements were made possible through an extensive public-private partnership totaling $764,370 including a $280,000 ISTEA grant from the federal government.  The City of Indianapolis, IPALCO Enterprises, Lewis & Wagner, Rotary International, IUPUI and IDI were also actively involved in the project. 

This is the largest tree planting of its kind in the state and was unprecedented in the Midwest because maintenance funding was included in the construction budget.  Phase II of the project earned three awards: 1998 Monumental Affairs Award, National Arbor Day Award and the Indiana Urban Forest Council’s Project of the Year Award.

Monument Circle PlantersPartnership maintains high cleaning standards
The IDI Cleaning Partnership was formed in 1997 as a coordinated cleanliness effort of the public and private sectors.  The Cleaning Partnership consists of 194 partners representing more than 689 properties.  An Advisory Committee, which helps guide the Partnership, has established cleaning standards for Downtown, improved cleanup after major events and advocated improved cleaning of bus shelters.  Additionally, the Partnership has improved sidewalk pressure washing, increased mowing and cleaning on interstates and encouraged owners of vacant properties to clean their areas.   

Partners regularly step outside their property boundaries to help keep Downtown clean.  They remove litter, gum and graffiti from their buildings, parking lots, loading docks, sidewalks and alleys up to four times a day.  In doing so, they increase property values, improve property appearance, enhance perceptions of public safety and increase the economic vibrancy of Downtown.

In 2011, IDI contracted pressure washing services for Wholesale District sidewalks and nine bus shelters.  These efforts are meant to enhance the area’s cleanliness and encourage adjacent businesses to raise the cleanliness bar in this important Downtown district.

In Fall 2006, The IDI Graffiti Task Force began to address graffiti issues in Downtown Indianapolis and nearby Cultural Districts.  The task force is comprised of IMPD, Mayors office, Marion County Prosecutors Office, DPW and IDI representatives.   Since its inception, IMPD has made 14 arrests of “taggers” Downtown.  More than 1,000 Downtown, Broad Ripple and surrounding area businesses have received information on ways to handle this challenging issue.  

To clean up the proliferation of cigarette butts, Monument Circle businesses and the City installed 54 ash urns in 1999.  Since then, cigarette butt litter has been reduced by 95 percent.  In 2000, a coordinated sidewalk pressure-washing plan was implemented to make Downtown even cleaner.   In 2003, the sidewalk evaluation area was expanded to include the Mile Square.  In November 2010, 81 percent of the sidewalks were rated “clean” with a strong push to businesses to get the clean rating back up to the 90 percent plus mark.


VolunteerFundraising and volunteers make it happen
Since 1994, Downtown has benefited from more than 98,802 volunteer hours from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 481, Neighborhoods, local schools and colleges, Master Gardeners, Tree Stewards, Kiwanis Rotary Clubs and Downtown friends and neighbors.  The City of Indianapolis and community service workers also help with routine maintenance.

The Downtown Beautification Committee, comprised of 15 community-minded volunteers, created the Marge Tarplee Downtown Beautification Fund, named after long-time beautification visionary and advocate Marge Tarplee, chairman of the committee.  To date, a $350,000 endowment has been raised to support plant material, maintenance, holiday decor, lights and electricity.  Memorials to honor family or friends are also welcome.

TwinkleLightsTrees shine year-round, during holidays
During the holidays, IDI works with its partners to install more than 700,000 twinkle lights on 200 Downtown trees to create a magical, festive environment.  Four IBEW-NECA/Quality Connection member companies install year-round lighting on 71 trees around Monument Circle and DPW installs twinkle lights on 100 trees on Washington and Market Streets and maintains all lighting year round.  Volunteer IBEW Local 481 union workers and the contractors of Quality Connection also install the holiday lights that decorate the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Monument Circle known as: Circle of Lights® presented by the Contractors of Quality Connection and Electrical Workers of IBEW 481.

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