SPARKing new pedestrian life on Monument Circle’s southwest quadrant

PHOTO ABOVE: Visitors to Monument Circle for the July 11 grand opening try their hand at ping-pong.

City leaders, community stakeholders, independent artists, project designers, and developers gathered on Monument Circle’s southwest quadrant Tuesday to take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for “SPARK on the Circle.” The park-like environment, implementing a transformational, pedestrian-friendly closure from July to November on the southwest quad, serves as a hub for Indianapolis arts and culture, free engagement opportunities, and community-building seven days a week from 11 a.m. to dark.

The space is open to everyone and features a range of free events throughout the summer and well into the fall season. Visitors can indulge in a variety of refreshments, play exciting games, and bask in the shade of beautiful trees. Every week, there will be unique free entertainment, including Live Music Tuesdays with a new local band. There are also adult beverages for sale.

Because of the SPARK initiative, Monument Circle can only be accessed via motor vehicle from the west on Market Street and from the south on Meridian Street.

The initiative to ‘spark’ Monument Circle with programming is composed of a partnership with Downtown Indy Inc., City of Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development, Big Car Collaborative, the Capital Improvement Board, and the Indiana War Memorials Commission.

The SPARK space is activated with synthetic grass, shade structures, tables and Adirondack chairs, public restrooms, and an Indiana-based food and beverage experience with local providers such as Tinker Coffee Co. and Just Pop In! SPARK will showcase multiple programming opportunities including a Wednesday Wake-Up with coffee and donuts for sale and an Aurora PhotoCenter workshop on Friday, free for attendees to experiment with “cyanotype” photographic printing.

The launch of SPARK acts as one element of Mayor Joe Hogsett’s South Downtown Connectivity Vision Plan, launched in 2021 to create a blueprint for public infrastructure investments and connectivity in the southern corridor of Downtown. This, combined with community input about the future of Monument Circle and previous seasons of SPARK on the southwest quadrant’s inner curb lane, ultimately lead to the informed decision for a fully pedestrian accommodating closure. SPARK is also made possible by urban designing firm Merritt Chase, artificial grass manufacturer SYNLawn, and landscaping company Engledow Group.

Youngsters work with oversized building blocks at SPARK on the Circle.

“SPARK on the Circle is Downtown resiliency in action and a testament to the power of vibrant public spaces,” said Scarlett Andrews, deputy mayor for economic development. “It ignites a sense of community, creativity, and connection, inviting residents and visitors to gather, engage, and be inspired by the power of public art and shared experiences. This is what happens when the city and its civic partners collaborate and dream big about how we take our downtown to the next level.”

“Building upon our trademark single-day events including Circle of Lights and Fourth Fest, we’re also cognizant that community engagement and social interaction flourishes with long-term programming opportunities,” said Downtown Indy Inc. President & CEO Taylor Schaffer. “Thus, expanding upon ‘SPARK on the Circle’ to include a full pedestrian space with games, entertainment, seating, food and drink, and even synthetic grass helps to encourage connection and cohesion while also marking a milestone in Monument Circle’s mixed-use trajectory. We have gone from vision to execution in presenting a free activation to the public unlike anything they’ve ever experienced on the Circle.”

“SPARK on the Circle is an incredible team effort to make a welcoming, comfortable, social, playful, and creative place that’s truly for everyone,” said Jim Walker, executive director of Big Car Collaborative. “This is a bold move that shows residents and visitors alike that our city really cares about them. SPARK is a place where you can spend time with family, make friends, and feel restored after taking a breather in this green oasis in the heart of our city.”