Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Indy: Help Keep the Historic “Georgia St.” Name

The city of Indianapolis has a fantastic project under way downtown to take several lanes of Georgia St. away from cars and give them to people between the convention center and Conseco Fieldhouse. I hope to profile this prominently when complete because I think it’s another great leading edge public space example from the city – one that would be getting a lot more airplay if it were in a city that were more on the urbanist radar.

But there’s one aspect of this that’s not so great – a plan to rename Georgia St. Oddly, the backers of this don’t actually have a name in mind. They just want to chuck the existing one and are doing a design by committee on a new name. The one suggestion I’ve seen floated publicly, Hospitality Way, it utterly cringe-worthy and shows that while improving on a solid, historic name like Georgia St. would be difficult, picking something far worse will be depressingly easy. It would be a shame to have such a fantastic multi-million dollar public space project marred by having the city become a laughingstock to the nation by picking a goofy name.

You can help, however. There’s a survey out you can take in which you can give your opinion. I strongly encourage you to visit this survey and say that Georgia St. should stay. Here’s a link: Georgia St. Renaming Survey. Of course, if you don’t legitimately believe this, I would tell you to say what you really think. But it doesn’t take much to imagine how this renaming might go very badly.

There is also a Facebook page to “Keep Historic Georgia St.” you can join. They have news and additional suggestions for how you can take action. Lest you wonder, this is indeed a historic name, dating back to the original Ralston Plan plat of the city. And back in July the Indianapolis Business Journal ran a story on this planned change in which Yours Truly was quoted.

Of course, not all is lost from this renaming. It has spawned plenty of interesting suggestions. My favorite so far was someone who said, “They could call it Peyton Manning Way, then shut it down for construction the rest of the season….”

Topics: Urban Culture
Cities: Indianapolis

21 Responses to “Indy: Help Keep the Historic “Georgia St.” Name”

  1. thundermutt says:

    It is apparently possible to take the survey once per device. :-)

  2. Attrill says:

    If they’re going to name it something as vacuous as “Hospitality Way” they might as well make some money and sell the naming rights – Steak n Shake or CTI Group Way would be better than Hospitality.

  3. NPJacques says:

    After filling in the surveymonkey, I got to wondering: while everyone’s distracted with a street-naming controversy, what’s being done on the other side of the curtain that should be getting more attention?

  4. Jeff says:

    The best suggestion I heard was calling it “The Blocks at Georgia Street”. This names the place but keeps the historic street name in place. It’s references the physical layout and can could lead to a cool shorthand name. You could imagine someone saying, “I’ll meet you at the Blocks.” Plus, the local businesses can keep their letterhead intact.

  5. Jon Hendricks says:

    How about a name referencing sports, the Big Ten, or champions in some fashion?

  6. PeterW says:

    They should name it Tennessee St.


  7. Publicity for the “rebranding” leads people to believe that this is just a section of Georgia Street, which is technically true. However, that three block section is the *only* segment that remains of Ralston’s 1821 plat. We will no longer have a Georgia Street downtown if they succeed. Please see the FB page to learn how to protest this silly proposal!

  8. Brook says:

    It is interesting to me what really touches people. I appreciate history greatly and seek it out in every city I travel to. I am curious why, if there is so much value in the name Georgia Street AND so many who are devoted to it, why don’t they use their collective energy to advance the history and significance of Indianapolis’ street names and Ralston’s grid rather than oppose progress, an opportunity for Indianapolis to claim some pride and present itself as its own in the national spotlight?

  9. Brook: I don’t see that anyone is opposing progress and we’re not being adversarial. This is an amazing project that deserves everyone’s admiration. If Georgia was just a random name unconnected to the other names (thematically), I would probably not object. But we have a history of downtown streets named after states dating to the original plat, as you said. Many people *are* working to promote Ralston’s plat. We’ve suggested to the SB committee that they put his plat on downtown signage. Another person is currently writing a book about the history of our street names. I think the best way to present the city is a positive light is to create vibrant, public spaces. The catchiest of names will not make a bit of difference if the area/street/venue isn’t outstanding. How does this oppose progress?

  10. martin d says:

    I’m not getting why many millions are being spent on this project to start with. I’m a noon-hour walker, and that three-block stretch is one of the least trafficked sections of downtown.
    You can prettify it all you want, but it’s not located near the main employment centers and there are few reasons – restaurants, shops, greenery – for people to go out of there way to visit.
    Again, this project will cost MILLIONS. I thought ROI was supposed to mean something in austere times.

  11. IndyJrob says:

    Why spend millions on an area that you don’t feel is heavily trafficked or already dotted with shops and restaurants? If you ask that question you probably would have also asked “Why build the Hoosier Dome if you don’t have an NFL franchise?” Much like the Dome spurred downtown development it is hoped that the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and the Georgia Street projects will keep development rolling and expand it into areas that possess potential. If you look at the areas affected by these projects a decade from now I’m confident you’ll understand the vision and see the ROI.

  12. Chris Barnett says:

    Martin, this project is entirely related to the visitor, tourist, and sports infrastructure south of Washington St.: it connects Conseco Fieldhouse to the Convention Center/Hotels/Lucas Oil Stadium complex.

    When NCAA, Big 10, and NFL championships come to town, it will be the center of attention.

  13. Andrew ACG says:

    “Sixth Ave” in New York proved to be very resilient to the similarly booster-y “Avenue of the Americas,” but I think in that case the strength of the Manhattan street grid was too strong to make the name replacement stick. Fifth, Sixth, Seventh is way easier than Fifth, Ave of the Americas, Seventh, after all.

    But it looks like in this case that there isn’t quite as strong of a street grid — maybe if the street names were alphabetical it would stick better, but it seems less likely in this case.

  14. Ryan Puckett says:

    I appreciate the historical context of the George Street name and the desire not to mess with a perfectly good name and theme. If the name ends up being changed to something horribly cheesy like “Hospitality Way” or “Championship Way”, I will be incredibly disappointed.

    However, I do think there is some merit in considering a name change.

    From my understanding, the current Capitol and Senate avenues were also named after states; so there is a precedent for making a change if it makes sense. Since the capitol building is on Capitol, it makes sense to me.

    Also, as Aaron points out, “it’s another great leading edge public space example from the city.” In my opinion, the street is changing – perhaps the name should too.

    This area will be a gathering place and point of reference for thousands of visitors (and residents). To keep the name as Georgia Street wastes an opportunity to share a part of our city’s more recent history and why Indy’s downtown is one of the few downtown success stories in the United States. Indy’s vibrant and evolving downtown didn’t happen by accident. This was part of a vision and perhaps that vision should be acknowledged.

    With that in mind, I think the street should be named after former Indianapolis Mayor Bill Hudnut. He was the one who framed the idea of making downtown Indy a destination, a place for business, a place for events, a place for a university, a place for commerce, etc. Many others played a role in making that happen, but he’s the name that our civic leaders consistently reference as the inspiration for what has happened downtown from the 1980s to present day. (Upon a quick look at Google Maps, I realized my idea of “Hudnut Place” is already in existence on the SW side of town near Troy Ave & Harding St.)

  15. Chris Barnett says:

    Hudnut Blvd. is the access road from South Harding St. to the Belmont Sewage Treatment Plant.

    The route does go past Pan American Plaza. “Pan American Place” might be appropriate. Brazilian ipe wood is being used on the boardwalk. Emerson Fittipaldi, Helio Castroneves, Gil De Ferran, Jacques Villeneuve and JP Montoya (8 Indy 500 wins among that Pan American cast over the past 25 years) could help christen the renamed street. :)

  16. Jon Hendricks says:

    How about “Game Winning Drive”?

  17. KurtL says:

    Th elocation of Hudnut Blvd. I wonder if former Mayor Hudnut’s successor had anything to do with that? It would seem petty enough.

  18. John says:

    The survey appears to be closed now.

  19. As a resident of Indianapolis, I have had yet to hear any reason to make a name change, let alone a compelling one. I am a firm believer in the maxim that if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. If the name Georgia Street was good enough during the construction of the Hoosier Dome, Pan Am Plaza and Conseco Fieldhouse, it is certainly good enough for its own project.

  20. Travis says:

    I really don’t mind if they do change the name. Why would you want a one of a kind place that will be shown on TV to the world time and time again to be named after another state. Indy can still play off of its history and creatively name the space. Maybe we can have the street keep its old name for historic reasons, but the central plaza area cary another name. This is not a black and white issue. I do, however this that Indy should explore using “Victory Lane” each race track across the country has one, but Indianapolis could use that name to share its history to the world this winter and use the space for all sporting and racing events. (something like Peyton Manning Way would not be that exciting for 500 festival, big 10 championships and the Pacers)

  21. Ruth says:

    What about Georgia Parkway or Georgia Blvd?

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