By Mario Rodriguez, Executive Director, Indianapolis Airport Authority
In announcing the “Create Indy” cultural initiative in August, Mayor Joe Hogsett noted that “a city reveals itself through its art.” The Indy Chamber hosts the annual Monumental Awards because we also believe a region reveals itself through architecture, design and development. I’m proud to chair this celebration of the most innovative and impactful additions to our built environment.
We all know that in today’s economy, talent fuels growth: Employment and investment (especially in innovative, high-tech industries) follow skilled people to thriving communities. A strong business climate goes hand-in-hand with a vibrant quality of life – part of the impetus behind initiatives like Create Indy.
Successful cities offer diverse amenities to attract skilled and creative people: A crowded schedule of cool events, plenty of restaurants and recreation, opportunities for artistic expression and civic involvement, an active nightlife and music scene (another Chamber focus); place-making is also critical to lifestyle appeal.
Well-planned building projects promote livability: Creative redevelopment revives neighborhoods. Investments in trails and bike infrastructure pay off in walkability; parks and public spaces also add to our health and sense of community. Forward-looking companies are also turning away from “cookie cutter” office parks to design workspaces that inspire and engage employees.
The Monumental Awards recognize projects that have changed our skyline but also captured our imaginations and boosted our economy. A few notable examples of past winners of the top overall Monumental Award:
Near and dear to me, the Indianapolis International Airport (the 2009 overall winner) continues to wield far-reaching economic impact, serving as an iconic gateway for visitors, residents – and potential residents – while notching a sixth consecutive honor as North America’s Best Airport from Airports Council International. The airport recently marked Indiana’s first direct nonstop transatlantic flight, a Delta flight connecting the Circle City to the City of Lights.
The Indy airport’s focus on delivering public value through public art and long-term sustainability has also earned Monumental merit awards for the permanent art collection (also in 2009), Indy artist Jamie Pawlus’ “Happiness” installation (2014), and the real estate development of the IND Solar Farm (2015).
From global connectivity to local walkability, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail has earned two honors – for the stretch of trail known as the Glick Peace Walk (2010) and the Trail itself (2012). The Cultural Trail is a perfect example of how physical infrastructure can advance arts and livability, tying together all the cultural districts targeted by Create Indy (in the case of Broad Ripple, via a connection to the Monon Trail).
A recent study by the Brookings Institution of older industrial cities like Indianapolis noted that cities like ours should showcase our historic neighborhoods to younger workers who crave authenticity and the convenience of urban living. The redevelopment of St. Clair Place (2011) earned a Monumental Award for innovative redevelopment, and is emblematic of the rebirth of neighborhoods across the city.
The same Brookings report notes that housing construction in Indianapolis lags behind many peers, to the detriment of Millennials who tend to prefer walkable neighborhoods close to work and daily necessities and amenities. CityWay (2013) showed how government, private developers, and a major employer like Eli Lilly can collaboratively plan a mixed-use district to meet housing demand from a corporate workforce and other aspiring downtown dwellers while adding new dining and hospitality options.
The same kind of live/work/play development is now flourishing in the Market East district, thanks in part to the new Cummins global distribution headquarters anchoring the growing eastern edge of the Mile Square. The Cummins building (last year’s winner) isn’t just notable for the jobs and investment it represents, but as a dynamic new design enhancing the aesthetics of downtown.
Cummins’ founder, Clessie Cummins, was also a footnote in another part of Indianapolis history – he was part of a pit crew at the first Indy 500. One-hundred and fifteen years later, the revitalization of Speedway’s Main Street earned the top Monumental Award in 2016 by capitalizing on proximity to the iconic Brickyard to show that great walkable development isn’t just happening in and around downtown. The thriving stretch of restaurants, breweries and other retail is making Speedway a year-round destination beyond the Month of May.
Dozens of other Monumental Award winners and finalists have transformed Indianapolis over nearly three-and-half decades, growing a more vibrant region with physical places that welcome people and employers.
On October 17th, the Indy Chamber and our partners will announce a new class of Monumental Award winners in architecture, construction, engineering, innovative reuse, interior design, landscape architecture, neighborhood revitalization, public art and real estate development, from more than fifty submissions across the nine-county Indianapolis region.
These projects show that what we build shapes how we live and work – the Monumental Awards shine a well-deserved spotlight on the critical connections among our built environment, our quality of life and our economic vitality.