2 business owners demand action from mayor to save downtown

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Almost three weeks after rioters tore through downtown, the windows of many businesses are still boarded up.

Beyond the broken windows is a sense of anxiousness among some business owners. They are asking for Mayor Joe Hogsett’s plan to get the city rolling again.

Brian Shapiro owns Shapiro’s Delicatessen, 808 S. Meridian St. The deli was spared direct damage from the riots, but his clientele is staying away from downtown.

Shapiro has written a scathing letter to the city demanding action:

“We have not seen any movement since our discussion with you at last week’s Stadium Village Business Association (SVBA) meeting. We still have not seen any leadership from the mayor. He has had press conferences but where was the mayor during the riots? I understand he was not at IFD or Eastgate. I sent you articles where the Houston mayor was with the protestors and had a megaphone asking the citizens to report anyone trying to loot or destroy Houston. Hogsett said he would be taking notes. Has anyone found the Indianapolis handbook? What are the standard procedures for a crisis? Power outage, flood, tornado, civil unrest, computer security? Surely, there is a manual. There is nothing to do downtown. We do not have any amenities for the locals or to attract people from the surrounding counties. In fact, people are scared to go downtown. We spent millions of projects for the Pacers and Colts. The Pacers camps are at the JCC and the major one is at Grand Park in Westfield. A inner city kid has to go to Westfield for the Pacers? Does this sound correct? Westfield has Grand Park and hotels in Westfield are sold out for tournaments. Do we have any space downtown for baseball or softball? We used to known as the amateur sports capital of America. Where can kids play soccer or basketball downtown or the neighboring areas? We have asked about graffiti removal but the city has a COVID restriction or ‘we do not remove graffiti when it is cold.’ How about building a Top Golf for the downtown? More dog parks? Converting contaminated areas and brown fields to public parks?

“Why has Joe not asked for a full review of all the laws, rules, codes, and process for the city as they relate to civil rights and due process? Have we updated the codes with the recent Supreme Court cases? Do we have social economic discrimination when codes are so complicated or expensive that a person with a high school degree cannot get a permit or TIF funding or other funding?

“Honestly, we are tired of complaining and we want action. The suburbs are going to have our lunch and dinner. I find it mind boggling that someone that I have known for over 40 years and a career politician dropped the ball this bad. All of the work accomplished by Lugar, Hudnut, Goldsmith (maybe), Peterson, and Ballard has been destroyed by Joe’s lack of action which is an action. He went from a very popular mayor to the most unpopular. He has to dust himself off and let local people step in and help. Is he sick?

“Hopefully, you will have time to meet the owner of Jack’s doughnuts. Hopefully, you can get a timetable when the boards will be off the windows downtown. Maybe, we could have multiple street fairs and social distance like farmers markets. Maybe, we could have bike tours through the city. Maybe we could have runs. Maybe, we can have live music like Live Nation in Noblesville with live streaming in a drive in style. Maybe, we can do outside relaxation classes? Maybe, we could have soloist from the various churches do weekly block concerts from the street. Maybe a dog parade. How about historical tours and walks? Heritage walks in black neighborhoods. Heritage walks in old Jewish and Catholic neighborhoods. Heritage walks in redline areas and current zoning issues and graffiti (sorry I had to get that in). Food walks and tours of downtown and the neighborhoods. Beer walks. ALL CAN BE DONE WITH PROPER SOCIAL DISTANCING AND MASKS! We have to manage the virus and the virus does not need to manage us!

“I can assure you that the small business owners and the professionals at Lilly, Salesforce, Rolls, Anthem, Simon, Roche, Cummins, and Bruce White can dream up something. There are many creative people in Indianapolis that can also create ideas. The mayor needs to discover and reinvent our city.

“Good luck but we are wasting valuable time. What is going to happen in the winter? What plans do we have for January and February? We need to give our citizens some hope and cheer. Take a look at our and the second scroll down to see the some of the people of Old Southside that we have been providing food for since this Pandemic. I spend the majority of my life on the southside and we are tired, like other neighborhoods, of not having amenities. We cannot tax our way out of this mess. We are going to need local help and support. All hands on deck!

Brian Shapiro, president of Shapiro’s Delicatessen

Shaprio told News 8 on Thursday, “I don’t understand why we don’t have a proactive plan for the pandemic. I don’t understand why we don’t have a proactive plan for getting the city back on its feet, to get downtown safe for people to come back, to get the boards off.”

Shaprio believes the mayor should have intervened much earlier in the riots by providing a safe place for the demonstrators to gather.

“That didn’t happen … got two people killed, one a very affable Shapiro’s customer, six people injured, 120 businesses damaged, and millions of dollars wasted, companies not coming back, and the years we have spent to build a downtown viable residential community got scarred.”

Shapiro has been involved with community organizations for decades and wants someone from city hall to offer a revitalization plan before it’s too late.

“Because he is not out and about, Dancing Joe, Photo Joe, that I have known for 40 years, very social person is not out,” Shapiro said.

Meanwhile, just a few blocks west of Monument Circle, the windows at Jack’s Donuts, 135 W. Market St., were still covered with plywood on Thursday.

Chris Karnavas, owner of the Jack’s Donuts franchise, told News 8, “And we are not really in a big hurry to replace them as well because we just don’t know if the rioting has subsided.”

The Jack’s Donuts location had just reopened during the coronavirus pandemic prior to the riots. His store was the first one hit during the most violent riots.

“Extremely surprised that we have not heard from the mayor. Nothing about any of the rioting, nothing about how we are going to rebuild this city, how we are going to revitalize it, how we are going to bring people down, how we are going to be safe again, and how we are going to get the economy back and running downtown,” Karnavas said.

Mayor Hogsett’s office sent a statement to News 8:

“Over the last several weeks, Mayor Hogsett and administration leadership have been meeting with Indianapolis business owners to better understand the challenges they are currently facing. The effects of the pandemic, combined with costs to safely reopen and property damage from recent protests, have created hardships for so many of the small businesses that serve as the backbone of our neighborhoods and our local economy.

“We continue to work with the Indy Chamber, Downtown Indy, Visit Indy, and other organizations to create programming that supports impacted businesses and helps to address this difficult moment head-on.”

Statement from office of Mayor Joe Hogsett