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Monument Circle experiment may be harbinger for banning vehicles

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Motorists may want to get one last drive around the Circle this month.

The city government has told News 8 that next month’s restriction of traffic on a portion of Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis will be an experiment that could lead to a ban on vehicles going around the Soldiers & Sailors Monument.

Rusty Carr, the director of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development, said that “closing this portion of the Circle is a pilot, this is an experiment” and if it is successful the city may consider closing the circle completely to traffic.

A representative of the mayor’s office told I-Team 8 that the cost to close and transform the Circle will be $750,000. “Road closed” signs should going up right after July 4.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said, “From July 8 to Nov. 2, the southwest quarter of Monument Circle will transform into a pedestrian-only parkway.”

The part of the Circle includes Hilbert Circle Theatre, AES Indiana offices, a bank, a candy store, and a sandwich restaurant.

An artist’s rendering of what the the Democratic mayor says Monument Circle will look like showed the bricks covered with an artificial turf and a temporary sidewalk or path meandering through the middle of the road. The mayor calls this project a “spark festival” on the Circle.

The mayor said that the change “allows any visitor to enjoy art, live music, shade, food, drink and more.”

Hogsett hopes that closing a portion of the Circle will bring larger crowds back downtown at a time when the area has seen its fair share of trouble.

The Metropolitan Development director said, “We are bringing positive activity, positive day and night activity here that will really deter some of that negative activity.”

This past weekend. a worker at the Rocket Fizz candy store was assaulted by a 13-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. As a result, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department was called to this store for the fifth time since February to investigate reports of burglary and theft.

Hogsett said the candy store incident was unfortunate but that IMPD will have an officer on the Circle at all times during the experiment. He also cited a partnership with the nonprofit Downtown Indy Inc. “The truth is downtown is extraordinarily safe, and we continue in conjunction with IMPD and Downtown Indy to make investments: our public safety outreach, the presence of IMPD, our public safety ambassadors, safety cleanliness, and accessibility.”

The city is using what is called “the visitor tax” and a portion of the food and beverage tax collected in the downtown Mile Square to pay for the closing of the southwest portion of Monument Circle.

The city government also is planning to redevelop Georgia Street, which was initially developed for visitors in advance of the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012. The plan calls for permanently closing the first block of the street just east of the Convention Center. Places along that street include Pan Am Plaza and the St. John the Evangelist Church.

On Monday, the Indianapolis City-County Council agreed to purchase $625 million in bonds to build a giant hotel to replace Pan Am Plaza.