Upcoming construction at IUPUI will strengthen ties to community, renovate IU Natatorium

394504_w308Change is coming to the IUPUI campus, thanks to a partnership between IUPUI, the city of Indianapolis and Lilly Endowment.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced the joint $30 million deal Monday, along with IU President Michael A. McRobbie, representatives from Lilly Endowment and other organizations involved in the project. The partnership is designed to strengthen IUPUI’s ties to the surrounding neighborhoods and make critical renovations to the IU Natatorium.

The IU Natatorium will be undergoing significant renovations.

Under terms of the agreement, the city will turn Michigan and New York streets into two-way roads from West Street, through the campus and across the bridges into the Haughville neighborhood. Part of that project will include improvements to pedestrian crossings, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, medians and other features.

The work will require rerouted traffic patterns beginning in 2015, officials said.

During Monday’s announcement, Ballard cited numerous advantages to the IUPUI campus, the city and its residents.

“Thousands of people enter and exit IUPUI for work, class and access to medical care every day,” the mayor said. “These streets improvements will make it safer and easier for people to access campus and encourage investment and development in Haughville, Hawthorne and Stringtown from companies seeking to be near IUPUI and the growing IU Health complex.”

Funding will include support from the downtown tax increment financing district, plus support from IUPUI and the endowment for upgrades to the natatorium.

“Just as the IUPUI campus has been an integral part of downtown Indianapolis for decades, the IU Natatorium has become one of the city’s signature sports venues of the last 30 years,” said McRobbie. “Indiana University’s investment in the future of the natatorium is emblematic of our commitment to the city of Indianapolis. The planned improvements will allow the natatorium to provide swimmers and divers of all levels — as well as fans of the sports — with a world-class facility for years to come, further strengthening the strong partnership between IU and the city.”

The natatorium is scheduled to host the 2016 U.S. Olympic Diving Trials.

“This project involves several partners coming together to benefit the city of Indianapolis and the IUPUI campus,” IUPUI Director of Athletics Mike Moore said. “The natatorium is a special place in our community and these improvements will impact swimmers and divers of all ages, including our student-athletes.”

The infrastructure changes are expected to attract new development and increase the number of residents interested in the opportunities that will be available on the Near Westside. That could include a growing number of students interested in living in apartments and rental units in the affected neighborhoods.

City leaders are hopeful that the growth will help the Westside neighborhoods follow the path of other communities (like Fountain Square and the Old Northside) as “hot spots” in the center of Indianapolis.

The changes will help IUPUI become more a part of the city neighborhoods that surround the campus. City officials also hope that increasingly attractive housing options will help continue recent trends of college graduates deciding to stay in Indianapolis, both as residents and employees.

by Ric Burrous