Beginning in the 1950s, a building boom transformed the skyline of Indianapolis. The city took advantage of existing features -- like Monument Circle and the War Memorial -- as anchors for a growing metropolis. New buildings -- including the Hoosier Dome, Convention Center, and Circle Center Mall, as well as housing developments throughout the metropolitan area -- reshaped daily life in Indianapolis and furthered the city's claim as a hub of Midwestern commerce. While mayors took center stage at the groundbreaking ceremonies, these new edifices often relied upon joint efforts by city government, private investors, and community leaders.
Erected in 1902, the Soldiers' and Sailors; Monument in Monument Circle served as a central gathering place in the city. It has continued to serve as a hub for events and downtown development projects. Businesses and real estate developers have used the iconic locale to promote their endeavors, noting proximity to the Circle as evidence of their prime location and commitment to the city. In this model for the proposed Circle Centre Mall, it serves as the prominent landmark. The mall entrance eventually was constructed a few blocks away on Illinois Street.
The city's namesake track has been the site of automobile racing since 1909, and the host of the Indianapolis 500 race since 1911. The Speedway's enormous scale and seating capacity for nearly a quarter of a million people has allowed Indianapolis to accommodate major spectacles and sporting events, even beyond car racing. In 1987, the Speedway hosted the opening ceremonies and several events of the 1987 Pan American Games.
In the 1930s, the federal Public Works Administration funded construction of the Lockefield Gardens public housing community. Existing housing in the area along Indiana Avenue just northwest of downtown Indianapolis was demolished and replaced with 24 buildings, each 2 to 4 stories tall, with a total of 748 residential units. In 1980, the Hudnut administration faced criticism when it proposed a plan to demolish all but seven of the original buildings, renovate the remaining structures, and construct new housing on the site. Critics and preservationists sought to save what they identified as a historic landmark and community focal point for African Americans in Indianapolis. Others lauded the project as an effort to increase affordable housing alternatives in the city. The renovation plan proceeded, but with additional efforts to recognize the historic importance of the area. On April 24, 1989, Mayor Hudnut spoke at an opening ceremony for the new project. In addition to touring new apartments, he dedicated a sculpture designed to honor the jazz clubs, businesses, churches, and homes of the African-American community that had lined the Indiana Avenue corridor.
Although never described as a great architectural wonder, the glass and steel Indianapolis City-County Building stands as a recognizable city landmark. The building serves as a civic center and headquarters of UniGov, the consolidated government of the city and Marion County. Opened in 1962, the building replaced the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (1902) as the tallest structure in the city and it remained so until 1970, when it was eclipsed by One Indiana Square.
The Pyramids, a trio of 11-story glass and concrete office buildings on the city's far north side, served as an example of modern architecture in Indianapolis. The structures also reflected trends common in Indianapolis and other cities during the 1960s and 1970s to locate corporate offices on the outskirts of the metropolis.
In the 1970s, Mayor Richard G. Lugar took what many considered a radical approach toward promoting economic development in downtown Indianapolis. To balance the outward migration of office complexes, shopping, and housing to the outer edges of the city and suburbs, the Mayor proposed the construction of a sporting, shopping, and office complex in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. With a combination of public financing and private investment, Market Square complex opened in 1974 with the Arena as its centerpiece. Market Square Arena served as home to the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Racers hockey team, as well as to collegiate sporting championships and multiple concerts. Elvis Presley played his final concert in the Arena on June 26, 1977.
As a land owner in the city, Indiana state government joined the effort to invest in building Indianapolis. When White River State Park expanded its presence as a center for recreation and higher education near downtown Indianapolis, the project received nearly half of the $34 million in funding from the state, plus a key donation from the Lilly Endowment. This combination of state, city, philanthropic, and private financing proved to be a winning formula during a period of economic growth and development in Indianapolis.
Several key buildings and landmarks are visible in this aerial view of Indianapolis, circa 1982, including the Hyatt Regency and PNC Center (center), the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (just behind the Hyatt), One Indiana Square (just behind Monument Circle), and the Indiana State Capitol (left). The Market Square Arena Dome is visible toward the upper-right of the photo, with the skyscraper City-County Building rising in front of it. The Indiana Convention Centre is the large low building, stretching south of the Hyatt Regency, across the street from St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church. The two tallest residential buildings in the state, Riley Towers I and Riley Towers II, are barely visible in the background toward the upper left portion of the photo.
The opening of the Hoosier Dome (pictured here near the Washington Street Bridge across the White River) reflected ongoing efforts since the 1970s to promote development in downtown Indianapolis. Public and commercial buildings were at the core of this effort, with concentrations of cultural institutions, sports facilities, and a convention center clustered around the southern portion of downtown Indianapolis. Shortly after its opening in 1984, the Hoosier Dome became home to the recently arrived Indianapolis Colts. The stadium was renamed the RCA Dome in 1994 and demolished in 2008.
In addition to supporting and regulating cultural and business development, city officials also monitored residential construction in the city. Controversies arose over housing availability and quality, particularly in low-income neighborhoods with limited stock of affordable housing. Again, municipal leaders sought to address these problems through joint public-private endeavors. In 1989, business owner, NBA star, and former Indianapolis resident Oscar Robertson joined Mayor Hudnut, community leader Naomi Hyche, and others to break ground for the construction of Oxford Terrace, a residential development of single-family homes on the northeast side of Indianapolis. Robertson's company, Oscar Robertson & Associates, Inc., served as developers. Under the Oxford Terrace program, potential purchasers of each home would pay rent for two years, with a portion of the rent placed in an account for the resident to use as a down payment on the home. Robertson's company left the project in the late 1990s and in the 2000s disputes arose between renters and the company that then controlled the project.
In 1994, the Indianapolis Indians announced their campaign to "Take It Downtown with the construction of a new ballpark alongside White River State Park, blocks from the RCA Dome (formerly the Hoosier Dome) and Market Square Arena. Another example of public-private collaboration, the field was built on land owned by the state with constructions costs split between the Indians and the city's Capital Improvement Board, which owns the ballpark.
Initiated during William Hudnut's years as mayor, the Circle Centre Mall project became one of the signature achievements of the Stephen Goldsmith administration. Opened in 1995, the project emerged as a key effort to expand retail opportunities in downtown Indianapolis. During the 1970s and 1980s, shopping malls thrived in suburban settings, drawing dollars away from downtown businesses and diminishing tax revenue for the city. Municipal leaders sought to counter the trend by promoting retail development in city centers. In the late 1980s, the city of Indianapolis joined private developer Melvin Simon & Associates, Inc. (MSA) to construct a mixed-use (shopping, office, and hotel) space. The proposed project caused some controversy as construction required the demolition of several historic buildings. Advocates initially anticipated an economic impact of more than $2 billion to the city and state and so, when MSA faced financial difficulties, the city kept the project afloat with financing through city bonds. While the mall lost several anchor stores and confronted challenges similar to other urban shopping centers, Circle Centre continues to serve as a retail and dining hub in downtown Indianapolis. This video was released when the mall opened in 1995.