The International Marketplace is a place where immigrants from cultures across the world have come together to create an environment unique to Indianapolis and even within a broader Midwestern region. By coming together, they are transforming the District into a destination known for its ethnic retail and dining businesses. The International Marketplace Coalition and its partners will accelerate the pace of change and capture the opportunity the area has been presented. The District will be reinvented as a mixed use neighborhood, a destination for retail, dining, culture, education, and entertainment. Led initially by its many outstanding restaurants, this community can expand to capture a market of more than fifteen million people living within a three hour radius.
The International Marketplace District was once a vibrant regional shopping district, until changing market forces caused customer traffic to shift to other locations in the metropolitan area. At its low point, several of the District’s commercial centers had vacancy rates in excess of 50 percent. There is still a great deal of vacant or underutilized space in the District, but a new type of business has emerged to fill the voids left by national chains.
Affordability has been an important factor in attracting independent, ethnic businesses to the District’s commercial centers. In particular, the District has become noted for the number, diversity, and quality of its ethnic restaurants, but an increasing number of retail shops are adding to the area’s vitality. Not one, but many cultures are represented in the mix. This led to the area’s rebranding from Lafayette Square to the International Marketplace.
The International Marketplace will not recapture its role as a destination for traditional regional shopping, with department stores and national chain retail. It does a very good job of meeting many of the more basic shopping and service needs of the surrounding community, but with little population growth, there is insufficient demand to fill the vast quantity of vacant space remaining in the area. What the International Marketplace has the potential to do is to transform itself into a world-class destination district for multicultural dining, shopping, and entertainment. The District will also transform itself physically, becoming a mixed-use neighborhood with commercial, residential, and employment uses built in a high-quality, walkable pattern.