INDIANAPOLIS — There have been days this year when downtown Indianapolis looked like a ghost town filled with unwelcome smells and public safety concerns.
"There was just this vacuum downtown of people. There's no workers, there's no normal visitors to downtown, so it started getting taken over by some of the seedier elements and they started to come down and take advantage of the homeless people," said Doug Stephenson.
Stephenson owns the comic bookstore on Monument Circle. He says in June and July there were days that he described the area as out of control. Illegal activity was never far away making customers feel unsafe. That on top of the smell from city streets being used as a restroom. But several weeks later, improvements are noticeable. Monument Circle feels and even smells different after a focused effort from Downtown Indy Inc to clean the heart of the city.
"The downtown recovery committee came together and said remember when we were called the cleanest downtown in the nation? Let's recommit to that," said Bob Schultz, Senior VP of Marketing, Communication and Events for Downtown Indy, Inc.
Thanks to Downtown Indy, Inc. safety ambassadors and additional police officers now patrol the areas of Monument Circle, Market Street and Georgia street. Roads and sidewalks are power washed regularly by the Indianapolis Department of Public Works. All of it arraigned or paid for by Downtown Indy, Inc.
"All of that was done and continues to be done to say downtown is clean, safe, and beautiful and we're working on the vibrancy as we try to come back in measured ways," Schultz said.
Both Downtown Indy, Inc. and business owners say homelessness was not the sole cause of the issues downtown. They believe there were other factors including mental health.
Stephenson hopes the effort being put into downtown encourages visitors to return.
"It's absolutely gotten better. Things started turning the corner at the end of July and now we've got cleanliness factor under control and safety is a million times better," Stephenson said.
The improvements made by Downtown Indy, Inc. were funded with $750,000 from the City of Indianapolis back in August. According to the organization's website, The $750,000 was approved by the Metropolitan Development Commission and administered by the Capital Improvement Board to Downtown Indy, Inc.