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Downtown Indy groups change tactics to make it safe, cleaner, welcoming

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — “Back Downtown” is the name of the project.

New banners with the name line many downtown streetlight poles, and a group of people including some of considerable influence got down on their hands and knees Friday morning to pick up trash and pull weeds.

Deep scars remains from the riots three months ago. Many of the public spaces in downtown Indianapolis have been neglected during the coronavirus pandemic.

J. Stewart Goodwin, executive director of the Indiana War Memorial, said, “Hopefully, we can change some minds. I think if people have been paying attention at all there are a lot of people that are making a lot of efforts to bring the downtown area back to where it was.”

The public space along the downtown Indianapolis Cultural Trial on Washington Street was the target for Friday’s cleanup efforts. Picking up trash and pulling weeds to make room for new mulch may not seem like a big deal.

“The approach is to undertake different tactics to make downtown safer, to make down cleaner, and to welcome people downtown,” said Sherry Seiwert, president of Downtown Indy Inc., a nonprofit charged with developing, managing, activating and marketing the downtown.

Many of the people who volunteered Friday had not spent much time downtown since the riots in late May. They got to see firsthand the damage that was done and the work that still needs to be done.

Seiwert said, “We hear from a lot of folks that think downtown feels unsafe, that it doesn’t feel clean. There are just a handful of boarded properties still, and they are waiting on glass. I think it feels like it is clean. It certainly feels like it is safe.”

Getting people to come back town is going to be a challenge  The NBA and WNBA are playing games in Florida instead of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and the Colts are still awaiting approval to have fans in Lucas Oil Stadium this season. Fans of all sports play a huge part in the downtown economy. The Indy Eleven soccer team has been playing in the stadium.

Ryan Vaughn, president of Indiana Sports Corp, said, “Most of my conversations, whether with the professional league or major venues, they think full capacity somewhere in the second quarter of next year is where everyone is planning for.”

Events at downtown’s Indiana Convention Center are picking up, though. Limits were placed on how many people can attend those events.

Another downtown cleanup is planned for Sept. 11.

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