Ever notice how all the parts of town people really want to go to have the worst parking? Put another way: when’s the last time you said to yourself, “Hey, let’s go to New York Street and Illinois!” Or Delaware and 13th? They have all that parking, though.
I was thinking about this after seeing this sign in the front window of Taste of Havana cafe in Broad Ripple:
The guy who owns it is moving to Michigan Road and someplace you’ve never heard of. Next to a Big Lots with all that parking. Good luck with that.
His complaint, clearly, is that up in Colleen Fanning’s district everything’s gone to hell because of bars, the Red Line, and parking meters.
Taking a quick glance around Broad Ripple, there’s a lot of stuff that’s “not a bar”:
In fact, most of it is not a bar. The bars, unless we’re counting Petite Chou, are in blue. Taste of Havana is mostly surrounded by a Post Office, a bank, ice cream, cookies, and a tattoo parlor.
At any rate, this isn’t about Cuban sandwiches. It’s about culture and what brings people to an area. Back in Irvington, there’s been a lot of effort to get a bar — or someplace that can serve a lot of alcohol. Frankly, our culture likes that stuff, those people spend money, and they tend to buy other things (like sandwiches!) when they’re around. When Bonna Station opened, people thought that would liven up that back corner of Irvington. It failed, and it didn’t, and here we are.
Broad Ripple is one of those places where it’s hard to get to. It’s hard to park, it’s hard to leave. And like Fountain Square after it and Mass Ave before it, that’s what makes it a place people like to go to.
With the exception of huge destinations like IKEA or Top Golf, there’s very little people get excited about driving to across town. Broad Ripple succeeds because people near there can just walk down the street to get a sandwich. I’m guessing the fine people of Michigan Road and 83rd or wherever don’t and won’t do that.
Irvington and Little Flower succeed precisely because people can walk around and go get a coffee, a book, or an ice cream cone. And we’ve done well to grow slowly and organically, not in leaps and bounds with significant gentrification issues. Irvington’s leaders will still probably pursue a robust bar, and whether you like that culture or not, most neighborhoods in our history have lived and died by the quality of the bars and speakeasies that spring up. That growth is something some neighborhoods might reject, but most in Irvington have wished for (and a co-working space).
If free parking was the ticket to success for anything, Brownsburg would be the metro area’s premier go-to stop for every Saturday night. Nothing against Brownsburg, but that is not the case. The culture there is different.
In the case of Broad Ripple, the culture has and continues to shift quite a bit. What used to be one of Indy’s “vacation spots” since it was “so far” away from the rest of town in the 1800s, it’s not one big morass with the rest of town down College and Meridian.
Irvington is walking a line down the middle. It’s also compact, hard to get to all things considered, and doesn’t have a ton of parking. But we haven’t seen the same kind of growth in retail and nightlife (yet) as Broad Ripple because the neighborhood of residents is smaller. The best thing that could happen to Irvington and the whole east side is better connectivity with the rest of the core of the city. A doubling-down of the urbanism that marks what it means to be in a city. And that doesn’t include giant box stores and 200-spot parking lots.