January 30, 2023

Best use of West Washington improvements being studied

The stretch of W Washington St being studied. (Photo/Develop Indy)

The stretch of W Washington St being studied. (Photo/Develop Indy)

A study of the West Washington Street corridor builds on past efforts to transform the area.  The next phase of urban planning seeks to reverse years of disinvestment and decay that left infrastructure in disrepair while surrounding neighborhoods struggled.

The new stage of the study aims to identify action items to provide a rehabilitation of the stretch. The city of Indianapolis, Develop Indy, Indianapolis Airport Authority, and other community stakeholders have partnered for the effort.

Indianapolis City-County Councilor Jared Evans said he’s less concerned about the opportunity for corporate development.

“I’m more concerned about a project that improves the quality of life for the residents who live there and continue to make that community a desirable place to live,” Evans said.

Some of the best opportunities are in undeveloped lands owned by the airport.

At least two other studies have explored development options for West Washington Street.  Studies for the originally planned Blue Line also include Washington Street, but late last year the span from Holt Road to the airport was left out because of costs.  That loss represents more than $20 million in investment.  The city did announce additional infrastructure investments for West Washington Street late last year.

Final phases of the study will identify what the market will allow and how best to get there. Plan recommendations could include housing, business opportunity, public spaces or entertainment spaces.

The development and implementation study focuses on details and how to direct resources for new initiatives.

Develop Indy Director Aletha Dunston said past studies have helped visualize what change could look like.

“Maybe the next step was a process to figure out how to get over the finish line to implement some of the ideas that are in those plans and truly vet them,” Dunston said.

Historic U.S. 40/ Washington Street connects the Indianapolis International Airport to Cumberland through the heart of Indianapolis.

Councilor Evans said recent zoning reform has helped stop unwanted used car lots and semi parking, which are common along the stretch.

“The community is in some ways in the shape it's in because it was a free-for-all,” Evans said.  “And the best communities don’t do that – they are planned out very thoughtfully, and they know exactly what they want and where they want those things to go.”

The four phases of the economic development study include: Phase One – Assessment, Phase Two – Redevelopment Plan, Phase Three – Implementation Strategy, and Phase Four – Public Finance Strategy. The study is set to be complete in May 2023.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.

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