20 years: Thumbs up & down 

Thumbs up: Fixing a hole

If having a deep crater in the heart of Downtown wasnâ ™t bad enough, a lot of so-called experts said no one would want to shop there, especially when they could go to malls on the edge of town. But Circle Centre Mall, which opened in 1995, not only brought retail back to Downtown, it managed to create an architectural anchor that has supported a larger revitalization. It also continues to be the best downtown parking deal youâ ™ll find in any city this size.

Thumbs down: Worn out

Market Square Arena, home of the Indiana Pacers and site of Elvisâ ™ last concert, was demolished in July 2001. Now, almost ten years later, the site is still an unpaved parking lot, a nagging reminder that Indianapolis has yet to arrive as a city where people want to invest.

Thumbs down: The Paris of the Midwest

Thatâ ™s what Bart Peterson said his cultural initiative would do for Indianapolis. Even then the hyperbole was laughable. But Petersonâ ™s recognition, that to succeed, Indianapolis needed to raise its arts game, was inspired. Unfortunately, he failed to persuade the cityâ ™s political class to so much as create a line-item for culture in the cityâ ™s budget. Once Peterson was gone, so was political support for the arts.

Thumbs up: Take a hike

When the Monon Trail opened in 1999, it raised a question: could people in this car-crazy city take to the joys of rambling up and down the length of a former railroad line? The answerâ ™s been a resounding yes, as about 4,000 folks walk and bike the Trail every day. The Monon made a major statement, encompassing a new appreciation for green space, urban recreation, healthy living and repurposed design. It set the stage for green developments yet to come.

Thumbs up: Champs

People say Indy is a great sports town. Weâ ™re not sure about that (see all the empty seats at Pacers games these days). What is undisputed, however, is that Indy loves winners (see all those empty seats at Pacers games these days). In the â ~90s, it was basketball. The Pacers never quite conquered the NBA, but they came close and if it hadnâ ™t been for the Bulls, wellâ ¦Suffice it to say Reggie Miller and friends electrified the city. In those days, the empty seats were at Colts games. That changed when Peyton Manning arrived. The â ~00s belonged to the Colts, the decadeâ ™s winningest NFL team and Super Bowl champs in 2007. Now Indy feels like a football town. Provided the Colts keep winning, that is...

Thumbs down: Building bloopers

The city either rebuilt or retooled virtually all of its major cultural institutions â " the Indiana State Museum, the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Herron School of Fine Art & Design, the Eiteljorg and the Indianapolis Art Center. In every case (save one) a decision was made to go with local architects and in every case an opportunity to make a major architectural statement, make national news and put Indianapolis on the map in terms of architecture and design was wasted. The lone exception? The IAC, which went with native son Michael Graves. Bean counters told the IAC board they couldnâ ™t afford Graves. But they discovered it was easier to raise money with a star on board than without one.

Thumbs up: Super buildings

Indianapolis got it right with two major public projects â " the Central Library building and the International Airport. Designed by Indianapolis expat Evans Woollen, the Central Library was embroiled in financial difficulties and managerial bad blood. But these dark clouds have not dimmed the publicâ ™s enthusiasm for the buildingâ ™s dynamic design or the upgrade in services that have accompanied it. Central has been setting attendance and circulation records. As for the airport, its user-friendly traffic patterns, green-minded design elements and extraordinary use of public art are exemplary. Now: if we can just match it with a public transit system worthy of the name.

Thumbs down: Education reform

Everybody talks about it, even NUVO. But nothing really happens. For 20 years (or more) people who should know have been saying that what Indianapolis needs is a great/world class/state of the art/outtasite public school system. They've argued over vouchers, magnets, what constitutes middle school and learning styles. With a total student population during this stretch of less than 40,000, youâ ™d think a modicum of success could be within reach. Forget it. From this vantage point the last two decades look like a slow-mo glide path to oblivion.

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