Will Circle Truss become our Arch?
Proposed gateway landmark estimated to cost up to $10M
By Jennifer Whitson firstname.lastname@example.org
The Arch welcomes visitors to St. Louis. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge ushers in the masses. And soon the Circle Gateway Truss could greet travelers entering downtown Indianapolis. If organizers’ vision becomes reality, a 280-foot stainless steel monument will straddle West Street at 11th Street just south of Interstates 65 and 70. Its three circles, woven together with steel trusses, will be lit at night—their normal soft glow giving way to bright colors on special occasions. At least that’s the concept behind the design chosen to kick off a privately funded effort aimed at improving the city’s major entryways. The monument, which is expected to cost up to $10 million and likely will take years to complete, is intended to be a city landmark. And it could help enhance Indianapolis’ reputation for having a vibrant and artistic downtown. “It’s important to create a city that inspires people,” said Brian Payne, president of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, which isn’t directly involved with the gateway project. “It symbolizes that we are a creative city that cares about [having] a sense of place.” Plans call for the Circle Gateway to stand about as high as Indianapolis’ other icon, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Circle. And it would be more visible than the $12 million Artsgarden, a landmark public space suspended over Illinois and Washington streets and connected to Circle Centre mall.
A 15-member panel comprising business and community leaders chose the winning design last month. The proposal from Indianapolis-based Kevin K. Parsons & Associates Inc.—which got help from Greg Hull, associate professor of sculpture at the Herron School of Art & Design at IUPUI—topped four others. Even so, the design could still be tweaked as it moves from the drawing board to the construction site. One panelist suggested making the trusses resemble the double helix of a strand of DNA, all the better to highlight the area’s strength in the life sciences. “I hope it’s modified to reflect the fact that we really do have a very diverse neighborhood with strength in education, medicine and history,” said Dorothy Jones, president of BOS Community Development Corp., which works in the near-northwest side. How to pick an icon Rotary Club of Indianapolis has taken the lead on the project since 2004, when it joined forces with city leaders to find ways to improve Indianapolis’ entryways and corridors. In mid-2005, a mayoral work group identified 15 spots ripe for large gateway monuments or corridor projects. Project proponents set up a Web site to inspire neighborhoods to start their own gateway projects, but focused on 11th and West streets as the most feasible first step. The area seemed like a good fit for a large, attention-getting structure, said Carole Darst, chairwoman of the Rotary Gateways Partnership. And it didn’t hurt that much of the land at the site is city- or state-owned. Also, the neighborhood has an active base of interest groups and development momentum, in part due to Indiana Avenue’s emergence as a recognized cultural district and an early-2006 plan to rejuvenate the neighborhood. With a site selected, Rotary put out a call for proposals, drawing ideas from 15 groups. Five of the most promising received $7,500 this spring to flesh out their designs. Finalists’ proposals ranged from a horizontal, tunnel-like structure to a 120-foot statue of a person walking. Another featured twin skeletal steel towers lit with a blue hue. All five were posted on a Web site, featured at cultural events and the subject of public hearings. The winning design caught the feel of Indianapolis, panelists said. “It’s a direct symbolic tie to the Circle City,” said Jones, the BOS Community Development Corp. president. “A circle also symbolizes unity and a willingness to work together for the common good.” That’s the idea, said Kevin K. Parsons, president of Kevin K. Parsons & Associates. “Few cities in the world have a circle at the core,” he said. “This is truly the Circle City. Why not celebrate it?” And the shape of the monument, which Parsons said will be visible from most of downtown, also reminds him of another local claim to fame—the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “This will say: ‘This is Indianapolis. You’ve arrived,’” he said. What comes next Parsons & Associates’ pitch includes many phases of work to revamp the entire area around the monument. Plans even call for Clarian’s Peoplemover to dart through the monument’s base while making its rounds. Later phases would involve rerouting area traffic flow, including revamping the I-65/I-70 interchange, adding roundabouts at 12th and 16th streets and extending the canal by adding a pond that stretches up to 16th Street. New park areas, walking paths and an observation deck where pedestrians could view the monument also are planned. Of course, getting that far would require buy-in—not to mention funding—from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the city of Indianapolis. But for now, the priority is the circle. Plans call for the monument to be lined with LED lights that allow it to be lit–- subtly or brightly—in an array of colors. The designer hopes to link the lights to a public Web page to up the interactive ante. People could log on to change the colors and then watch it happen via a Web cam. There’s plenty of work to be done before any steel tubes or lights go up, though. Rotary’s Darst said she expects construction to begin no sooner than the end of this year. One task, she said, will be to take the design to the public and solicit input on any changes. Raising money to pay for the project is another priority. Organizers have talked with area entities like Clarian Health Partners, Veolia Water Indianapolis and Citizens Gas about the project. Now they must convince them and others that the project is worth investing in. Their pitch: the Circle Gateway could do wonders for the city’s national identity—think of the so-called “beauty” shots shown during National Football League games or the view travelers get as they pass through the Crossroads of America. St. Louis has certainly gotten mileage from its signature Gateway Arch. Finished in 1965 as a monument to western pioneers, the Arch cost $13 million and was funded almost entirely by city and federal government. No such luck for Indianapolis’ gateway. The circle project will be paid for without any public money, and Rotary also wants to raise funds to set up a not-for-profit trust that would manage the monument. So far, the service organization has raised and spent $58,000 on the design competition. Now it’s hoping to raise about $10 million more. Exact costs will vary depending on the final design, Darst said, and that amount could be enough to build the monument and a portion of the viewing platform. CICF’s Payne, who has helped raise money for the $50 million Indianapolis Cultural Trail project, said soliciting $10 million in one year is an aggressive but attainable goal. The cultural trail got a boost in its efforts when local philanthropists Gene and Marilyn Glick gave $15 million, a turning point Payne said spurred several other donors to jump in. “They would need to find one major donor who will put up $3 to $5 million to set the tone,” Payne said. “It shows other donors that this is going to happen and you could be part of something really exciting.” •
The original design for a monument on the city’s near-northwest side could still be altered.