9:55 PM EDT, May 18, 2012
Indianapolis has applied for a $20 million federal grant that would be used to transform Monument Circle into a more pedestrian friendly and flexible event space.
The project is not yet fully designed and is dependent upon a 20 percent match by the city, but a comprehensive study shows some of the biggest changes that could be in store.
Vehicle traffic flow is often one of the first things mentioned when discussing potential changes to the Circle.
"The traffic is always really crazy so I just kind of steer away from it unless I'm on my bike," said Jessica Sheets, who lives a few blocks north of the Circle.
Sheets was encouraged by the Monument Circle Scoping Report, which highly recommends decreasing vehicle traffic to a single lane. That would offer more space for pedestrians and cyclists.
"Give us space where we can ride our bikes,” said Jeff Nugent, who likes the recommendation. “That way we're not in the traffic's way and the pedestrian's way."
Though the city considered closing the Circle to traffic completely in the past, the most recent study found that wide driving area still had room to spare during peak hours. Now, the city is considering extending sidewalks by 15 feet, keeping a parking/drop-off lane, and reducing the driving area to a width of 18 feet.
"I think it's a really, really, really good idea," Sheets said.
The idea would also free up more space for café seating at area businesses.
"We can only put out so many chairs and tables and things like that,” said Mindy Crawford, Assistant Manager at The South Bend Chocolate Company. “So yeah it would have a lot more room."
The study also revealed that the grassy areas on each of the four quadrants around the Circle are seldom used, so the city is considering transforming them into terrace areas that would have additional seating and large planters.
"I would definitely use it more," said Ryan Shepherd, who works nearby and likes to eat lunch at the Circle. "As you can see I’m sitting down, so I think that people would utilize it."
The ideas also include more dramatic concepts like interactive water features like a pop-jet fountain and an ice skating rink during the winter months.
Each of the changes are designed with the hope of making the Circle a destination for more than just a photo.
"I'd come here a lot, a lot more often,” Sheets said.
Once the project is designed, it will be presented to the public for their input.