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(INDIANAPOLIS) — The pandemic’s devastation of downtown businesses could end up fueling a downtown revival.

Progressive Urban Management Associates president Brad Segal says the economic damage from the pandemic is actually an acceleration of trends already in motion. He calls it “euthanasia” for malls and department stores that were already struggling. He predicts a surge in community-based and community-focused startups in their place.

And Segal says it’s an opportunity for Indy and other cities to take risks, like Indy’s street closures to

expand outdoor dining. He says sidewalk dining downtown and on Mass Ave has been a hit, despite a

bare-bones backdrop of street department barricades. He says a more carefully designed approach with landscaping and canopies to provide shade could be an even bigger success.

Downtown Indy Inc. says a survey found 17 in 20 Hoosiers plan to eat out again by the end of the year — 15 in 20 say having outdoor options available is a major factor.

Segal says he’s optimistic downtowns can bounce back in one-to-three years. He predicts the younger demographics who have fueled downtown growth across the U.S. will resume old pre-pandemic habits quickly.

Downtown Indy Inc. has formed a recovery task force to look at issues including ways to make business space more affordable, and how to encourage more minority-owned businesses. City-County Council president Vop Osili says the rebuilding effort needs to take into account the divisions underlying the protests, and make sure African-American owners have a fair shot at startup capital and business space. And he says current business owners need to make themselves part of the solution, even as they work to rebuild their own storefronts.