Yes, It’s Safe to Hang Out in Downtown Indy Right Now

Trust me, I live here.

It’s utterly cliche, but completely true, to continue saying that 2020 is one of the strangest and most anxiety-ridden years many of us have ever experienced. 

Every day seems to bring a new challenge to our country, our city, our families, our personal mental health. And there is much to be frustrated and angry about, frankly. I’m not sure a day goes by that I’m not angry and frustrated—and I’m one of the privileged ones. I have my job, my home, the health of my family…and on top of all that, I’m a straight, white woman in a world filled with way too many injustices. 

I’m also a proud citizen of downtown Indianapolis, where I moved a little over three years ago after spending much of my adult life after college in New York City, with a dash of Los Angeles. Of the myriad topics that can send me into a long-winded rant these days, the conversation around downtown is one, especially when so many of the people having it don’t seem to spend much time here. 

Like pretty much every city in America, Indianapolis looks different today than it did back in March when we started working from and sheltering at home. While some restrictions have been lifted, the streets are still much emptier than they would be on a pre-pandemic weekday—or a weekend, for that matter. On Sunday, the Colts will host their first game of the season, but only 2,500 fans will be in attendance. The tailgates, the bars teeming with fans in blue—all gone, for now. 

It’s a bummer, for sure, and especially so for all the businesses and workers affected. But this idea that downtown Indy is some scary urban nightmare is just outright false—and I’ve seen it spreading in conversations on social media and IRL. Nearly every day since we went on lockdown, I’ve taken to walking around downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods to both clear my head and get a little exercise. Never once—not a single time—have I felt threatened or scared. That goes for any time I’ve arrived back to my parking garage in the evenings, too. Now, I’m a city girl and I’m very aware of my surroundings at all times. Really, what woman isn’t? But that’s simple common sense in the world we live in. 

Does Indianapolis—like many other cities—have a situation with unhoused citizens in our community? We sure do. Is that situation perhaps a bit more clear now that there are fewer people commuting to the city center for work every day? I believe so. It’s an issue that must be discussed and as members of the community, we should pressure our leaders to work toward solutions. Given the state of the economy, it’s likely more people will find themselves in a precarious housing situation in the coming months. 

But what I cannot understand is the blind belief that downtown is suddenly scary. It’s just not. I’m here every day and night. Again, like many other cities, we saw important Black Lives Matter protests take place here—and for the most part, they were peaceful and powerful. There was some vandalism and that led to businesses boarding up some of their windows. Those are long since gone—but the things the protestors were fighting for are not. 

Not to be all Carrie Bradshaw, but I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the suburban voices shouting loudly about the “problems” downtown have some issues they’d rather not discuss around diversity, something I value about my neighborhood. 

Yes, we have problems to address in our city. But I promise you, you can still come downtown. In fact, if you’re concerned about the businesses down here—visit them and spend your money! Fall is lovely around these parts and there are plenty of places to safely eat outside or pick up some takeout. Maybe you just want to walk the Cultural Trail or meander the Circle when it’s not chaotic and filled with people. 

Hey, and it should go without saying—but vote. If you want to see change in our city, do your research and support candidates who can help make that vision a reality. 

Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s executive editor. 

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