CityWay Phase Two: retail retreat and its impact on the street.

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My latest just went up at Urban Indy.  It focuses on the CityWay mixed-used development in downtown Indianapolis, which includes a few hundred apartments, multiple restaurants, a hotel, and a multi-level YMCA.That’s phase one, at least.  Now the developer is embarking on Phase Two, which will double the apartment units (to nearly 500), add some …Read more…

Unisex restrooms: a truce amidst the eternal battle.

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In an era when unisex facilities have escalated into a nationwide debate, it’s comforting to see that one family operation hasn’t forgotten what its like to be a little lighter on its feet.  This sign was quite the novelty when I saw it at a café in southern Mississippi several years ago; since then I think …Read more…

Petworth: where the development climate is anything but Frosty.

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In a district of rapidly escalating land values, the natural tendency is for extrusion. Buildings start to stretch upward, growing taller and taller to cram value into a patch of land that, even absent an edifice, is worth a lot. Despite the legal limitations to building heights, Washington DC still demonstrates this phenomenon perfectly. It is a …Read more…

The signs, sounds and flavahs of summah.

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Like the other three seasons, summer impels us to gravitate toward certain foods. To some extent, growing seasons and the availability of certain types of produce influence our choices. But in the globalized era, when pineapple is available twelve months a year, the “harvest” (what a quaint word!) has less and less to do with …Read more…

Drive-by wifi?

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If we’re seriously looking—and you know I am—rarely a day goes by where we can’t spot some new sign of desperation in the retail sector. We can visit the stores themselves, and witness not just the deep sales (“By one dress shirt! Get another for a Penney!”). In the most incorrigibly floundering businesses, the thin …Read more…

Steak ‘n Shake: nostalgia comes around full circle.

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The average Midwesterner will probably recognize the icon visible through this smudgy windshield. But he or she might not be so familiar with the aesthetic.As the white-and-black sign indicates, it’s a Steak ‘n Shake—a leading candidate for the most Midwestern restaurant out there…right up there along with Bob Evans. The chain, which survived numerous ups …Read more…