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Thursday, March 25, 2010

My View: Despite poor economy, Downtown thrives

by Denny Sponsel

The Indianapolis Downtown and I share a lengthy history. I’m a lifelong Hoosier. Ten years ago, I purchased a contract furniture and service business, then relocated it from the Northwestside suburbs to Downtown. Seven years ago, I wrote in these pages about why I moved RJE Business Interiors: the central location that cuts delivery costs and travel time for my employees and me; the nearness to restaurants, shopping and the energy of Downtown that helps us attract and retain the brightest employees; the proximity to customers and service organizations that allows us to grow our own revenue while boosting our community.

Thanks to a strong vision by civic leaders, public and private sector investment and a fierce community pride, our Downtown has been transformed into the lifeblood of our region.

Through the last decade, we’ve witnessed expansions in all sectors — from Clarian’s People Mover to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianpolis’ remarkable transformation; from diverse new hotels to the Cultural Trail and Central Library; from Lucas Oil Stadium to the small, locally owned businesses peppering the Massachusetts Avenue Cultural District.

From RJE’s windows on Ohio Street, we watched an explosion of growth, starting with the removal of the Market Street ramp to provide a stronger connection from the Eastside to the rest of Downtown. Angie’s List thrives around the corner, while Indianapolis’ first office building designed to be platinum-level LEED-certified, the Nature Conservancy of Indiana, goes up across the street. Harrison College started out in a historic church. Now it’s a state-of-the-art institution educating workers for the next 100 years.

RJE itself grew to $29 million in annual revenue, powered by 50 professionals glad to be Downtown. In fact, business Downtown proved so successful that we recently expanded to another downtown setting to serve the greater Cincinnati area.

Despite what’s happening in the rest of the world, Indianapolis’ Downtown hasn’t just survived, it’s triumphed. According to Indianapolis Downtown Inc., since 2003, 177 projects have been completed in Downtown with an investment of approximately $3.8 billion. Every day, 127,000 office workers bring energy to Downtown. For 20,000 people, it’s not enough to just come during the day; they chose to make their homes in the center of our city.

This April, I’ll move into the role of IDI chairman. Building on the legacy of leaders that include Mayors William Hudnut, Steve Goldsmith, Bart Peterson and Greg Ballard, IDI shares a commitment to raising Downtown to the next level. Just think about the Indiana Convention Center expansion, the 2012 Super Bowl and the towering Marriott Place complex.

Yes, we still have challenges to tackle. But as we break through the economic doom and gloom, let’s not forget what’s right in front of us: a vibrant, thriving Downtown to enjoy today. We’re all part of something special. I’m glad I moved RJE here. And I look forward to what we can add in the coming months and years to keep our Downtown among the gems of the region.

Source: The Indianapolis Star - My View, March 25, 2010

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