Indy redevelopment leaders inspired by Singapore trip

Indy redevelopment leaders inspired by Singapore trip

What local leaders saw and learned overseas could help develop the White River into a central gathering spot in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS — We’re learning more about a tourism trip local leaders made to Singapore.

What they saw and learned overseas could help develop the White River into a central gathering spot here in Indianapolis. 

Indy is already a proven slam dunk for drawing visitors downtown.

But in planning tourism long-term, especially for the largely untapped natural asset of the White River, local leaders looked for inspiration worldwide.

They’ve traveled to San Antonio, Chicago, Nashville, Austin and Boise to study waterfronts in those communities.

And most recently, in November, they traveled halfway around the world.

“We landed on the map in Singapore,” said Visit Indy executive vice president Chris Gahl. “It’s a destination that has grown tourism, grown the quality of life and activated its waterfront in a very meaningful way.”

Indy redevelopment leaders inspired by Singapore trip

Twenty-five city and state leaders made the four-day trip. It’s Indy’s first international mission to get ideas for a Midwest waterfront.

“We know that in 5, 6, 7 years, we’ll look back and say, ‘Remember when we saw in Singapore and how that changed the course of our downtown, specifically along the White River?'” Gahl said.

Gahl said the $85,000 trip was paid for without taxpayer money.

It was a mix of a $35,000 grant from the IEDC, a $30,000 grant from the CICF and Visit Indy’s $20,000 investment, which came out of the organization’s private funds.

The main reason they chose Singapore is its Gardens by the Bay development. That’s Singapore’s top tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors. The country invested a billion dollars to clean the river and build up attractions around it.


Local leaders wanted to learn from and perhaps replicate Singapore’s success.

“We took riverboat cruises while the sun was sinking to see how it’s done. We kayaked. We canoed,” Gahl said. “We talked to businesses that relocated along the water because of projects like Garden by the Bay.”

Gahl said that could happen here, too.


They’re looking to add development in the area where White River State Park is expanding, where Elanco is building its new headquarters, where Indy Eleven will have its stadium.

“How you could have kayaks in the water, how you could have standup surfing in the water, how you could fish in the White River,” Gahl said. “Also how they look at usage of light, public art, activating the water, the meaningfulness of architecture.”

In Singapore, each day was devoted to specific goals: water quality, tourism, economic development and lessons learned where the group debriefed.

The day spent studying water quality and how to keep the river clean and safe is especially important, Gahl said.


Citizens Energy, which had a representative on the trip, is now cleaning the White River through the Dig Indy project. That’s a first step to more recreation and the project should be finished by 2026-2027.

Another takeaway by the team, that Gahl said really impressed them, was lighting.

Singapore has a comprehensive lighting strategy. 

Think Monument Circle’s “Shining A Light” display or the lighting of signage for big sporting events on the JW Marriott – expanded and taken to a whole new level.

“At night, Singapore comes alive with light and it’s eye-catching,” Gahl said. “It’s like a light show across the entire destination.”


We may soon see some of that innovation in Indy as our waterfront transforms, too.

13News also reached out to the IEDC about the Singapore trip. 

We received this statement from IEDC chief of staff Vincent Ash:  

“Over the last few years, Indiana has placed an increased focus on improving our communities and quality of life for Hoosiers. The trip to Singapore, led by Visit Indy, allowed central Indiana leaders to envision the future of Indianapolis, well beyond national best practices. This visionary component is key to developing assets that allow Indianapolis to compete for talent and investment, and directly aligns with the goals of the state’s Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI). Central Indiana has the opportunity for visionary concepts to become reality with the White River State Park expansion, Eleven Park, redevelopment of Circle Centre Mall and the former GM stamping plant. The IEDC is working collaboratively with central Indiana and communities in every corner of the state to think boldly about what is possible for Indiana’s short- and long-term quality of place strategy.”

What local leaders saw and learned overseas could help develop the White River into a central gathering spot in Indianapolis. INDIANAPOLIS — We’re learning more about a tourism trip local leaders made to Singapore. What they saw and learned overseas could help develop the White River into a central gathering spot here in Indianapolis.  Indy…

Leave a Reply