Now that the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 for 2014 are in the books one polarizing part of Speedway’s redevelopment has begun: The dead ending of Georgetown Road where it meets 16th Street and Crawfordsville Road along with the addition of a modified roundabout to replace the confusing intersection at that junction of multiple roads.
Some folks like the idea. Many more despise it. Count me in the camp that likes it, although like a lot of other things the general approach seems half-assed. I remain fascinated by plans that pre-date this current effort. Before Tony Hulman passed away and for a long while after his death IMS actively purchased all the land it could adjacent to Georgetown Road between 16th and 30th streets. Some of the land was farmed and was snapped up at sometimes eye popping prices. Many of us remember the well-kept houses that lined Georgetown Road. Only a handful of such properties remain today. The original grand plan was simply to relocate Georgetown Road a little to the west so that IMS fences could also be moved west and allow much wider access when entering or leaving the race.
There has been vague talk about how to replace the portion of Georgetown Road that is being permanently shuttered but nothing definitive. There is even discussion about shutting 16th Street down next to the track and using the old railroad bed as sort of a replacement road around the southern portion of the track. The grand vision of a park-like buffer around the main part of the track makes a lot of sense, both aesthetically and to appease fear mongers who have convinced themselves and seem determined to convince everyone else that IMS is the number one terrorist target in the world.
As a property owner on the west side of the track this redevelopment is appealing. What is less appealing is what the effect of no Georgetown Road will have on residents who live along now quiet streets like Auburn. Will folks hell bent on getting from turn 4 to turn 1 outside the track decide to use Auburn now? How will such redevelopment manage the effects of recent in-migration of those lower on the socioeconomic scale who have brought with them higher amounts of crime, violence and the certainty of decreasing property values?
That corner of the world is as prime a candidate for meaningful gentrification as any, but is the work now progressing meaningful? There are many success stories thus far. Main Street in Speedway is realizing its potential. Several run down businesses, hotels and other eyesores have been or are being removed. The intersection of I-465 and Crawfordsville Road is complete. There is simply so much more to do.
Is IMS willing to improve the property it now owns but essentially just allows to sit there? Will eminent domain be used to finish cleaning up eyesores? What are the plans to make traffic patterns around the entire track coherent? If I was the guy in charge of gentrification I would claim eminent domain in an area roughly bounded by 34th Street, Moeller Road, the Coke lot, Georgetown, 16th Street and Kessler Boulevard. I would then advocate a few things considered politically incorrect but filled with common sense, including bulldozing a large number of now ramshackle post-war National Homes, rehabilitating structures with historical merit and incentivizing a higher class of people to move in, remodel and act as magnets for those who have fled anything inside 465. Much of the west side of Indianapolis now positions itself as an ‘international cultural zone.’ It sounds good in theory but serves primarily as a flowery euphemism for ‘ghetto.’ A drive down 38th Street is like driving though bad parts of Detroit. Gentrification of the area around the track is essential, but it will never work long term unless the entire west side of Indianapolis is meaningfully improved and cleaned up.