Downtown Indy shows signs of progress amid pandemic, leaders believe

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The latest annual report of Downtown Indianapolis was released Thursday.

Sherry Seiwert, Downtown Indy Inc. president, said her organization’s report shows plenty of signs of progress.

The meeting happened at the Hilbert Circle Theatre, which was somewhat of a momentous event considering it was the first large event at the Monument Circle venue since the coronavirus pandemic began, held 415 days after the previous one.

“The state of downtown is getting incrementally better,” Seiwert said.

Seiwert said the most important number in this year’s report is $413 million, the value of developments completed in 2020.

“I think we are on our way back; I know we are,” Seiwert said.

She said the success of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament during March and April along with the Indy 500 in May is no small thing. She said it’s already paid off with interest from other parties.

“Showing that we can continue to host events safely sends a message to the world that Indianapolis can get it done,” Seiwert said.

Leonard Hoops, president and chief executive officer of Visit Indy, and others believe those big sports events plus the other special events geared to a local audience — the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra or professional theater productions — will help move the needle, too.

“Downtown has really been in much better shape that I think most people realize for a long time, but it takes things like the NCAA even to get people back to see what’s happening,” Hoops said.

Hoops shared with the crowd an interesting tidbit: on Saturday night, Marion County and surrounding counties recorded the ninth-most hotel rooms sold ever. The only other nights to exceed that figure have surrounded big events such as the 2012 Super Bowl and the annual GenCon gaming convention.

But, that wasn’t the case Saturday; just a lot of smaller events added up.

“I think that’s a good sign of the pent-up demand; people just want to get out and do something,” Hoops said.

Discussion Thursday also looked ahead to the next challenge: how to thrive in a world that has permanently changed with more people than ever working from home either full-time or in a hybrid model. But, Seiwert said, compared to other cities, Indy is ahead of the curve.

“All of these small components add up to ‘We’re on our way back,’ but it’s going to take time,” she said.

Seiwert said she believes a real shift in downtown life as it used to be will happen this fall. She thinks more companies than ever will be bringing their employees back after Labor Day.