Nov 6, 2023 - News

Downtown Indy recovery looks healthier from new angle

Downtown foot traffic recovery, spring 2023
Data: University of Toronto; Note: Downtown defined as the central location with the highest concentration of employment in each metro area; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Indianapolis now ranks 21st out of more than 50 major U.S. cities in terms of post-pandemic downtown recovery, with a 79.4% recovery rate.

  • That's based on the number of downtown visitors in March through mid-June 2023, as compared to the same period in 2019.

The big picture: Indianapolis' rank changed from 48th following a methodology shift by University of Toronto researchers tracking how cities are emerging from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Most crucially, the researchers changed their definition of "downtown." They used to define it by ZIP codes with the highest job density, but now do so by broader areas with a high concentration of jobs.
  • The Indianapolis data previously used only the 46204 ZIP code, excluding areas such as the Indiana Convention Center, which are part of the downtown core and serve as key indicators of traffic.

Of note: Researchers also shifted from using two location data sources to one and looked at a slightly more current time frame as compared to their last update. (These analyses are based on anonymized mobile device location data.)

What they're saying: School of Cities director and project leader Karen Chapple says the decision to change the definition of "downtown" came after pushback from some cities and business associations.

  • "We've looked at cities' own definitions of downtown, but those boundaries are historic and don't reflect where the current buildings are, or they're political, or they've been drawn to match census boundaries," Chapple tells Axios. "So they have the same flaws as using ZIP codes."
  • "We decided to go with job densities ... figuring that's what people really care about — these are the hearts of our regions and of our cities."

What's next: Chapple's team is about to roll out a new widget allowing users to choose from different versions of "downtown," to illustrate how any given city's numbers might change depending on the chosen area.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Indianapolis.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Indianapolis stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Indianapolis.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more