Ix fix: Downtown property gets a drive-through makeover

Ludwig Kuttner (right) and his son Fabian have no problem with drivers turning their Ix property into a shortcut. Photo: Mallory Benedict Ludwig Kuttner (right) and his son Fabian have no problem with drivers turning their Ix property into a shortcut. Photo: Mallory Benedict

That “dead end” sign posted at the Second Street SE entrance to the Ix building off Elliott Avenue? Ignore it and come on through!

The 17-acre commercial property two blocks south of the Downtown Mall, bordered by Elliott and Monticello avenues, is now an owner-sanctioned shortcut that can help Mall-bound Downtown drivers avoid rush hour and construction delays on Avon Street and on Ridge/McIntire, where a new project has led to recent lane closures.

“Second Street is a great little road,” said Fabian Kuttner, who’s developing the Ix property with his father, Ludwig, and turning it into what might someday be known as the “Second Street Connector.”

While most commercial property owners ban through traffic, the Kuttners see benefit both in time-saving for local drivers and in exposure for Ix tenants, which include two restaurants, two fitness businesses, a bike shop, and the newly relocated Portico Church. The family is well known for its outside-the-box development ideas, which include the multi-use Terraces on the Downtown Mall and an unusual four-star hotel/hostel in Prague.

In fact, the Kuttners are so eager to increase traffic at Ix, they’ve added official-looking green street signs guiding drivers across the property, and they’ll soon pave the gravel road that currently carries cars up to the northern segment of Second Street that intersects with Monticello Avenue.

There’s long been a need for a connector road between Elliott and Monticello, said Jared Buchanan, assistant traffic engineer for the city, who calls the Ix cut-through “interesting,” noting that he wasn’t aware of the Kuttners’ plans to attract traffic.

While the Kuttners are encouraging drivers to use the Ix property now, eventually, they envision Ix as a car-free piazza that would extend the Downtown Mall south by four blocks and serve as a public space where visitors could shop, picnic, and attend outdoor events.

“The dream is to expand what has been started successfully,” said Ludwig Kuttner, citing the absence of cars as significant to the Downtown Mall’s success.

But while the Kuttners imagine Ix as car-free at some point, Fabian says he and his father don’t foresee Americans giving up their rides anytime soon. They envision another creative traffic solution in the future: a tunnel under the property. That, of course, would be pricey, and Buchanan noted it would be complicated for the city to assume the maintenance of a public road under private property.

“I don’t know that that’s ever been done,” he said. “It’s an interesting idea.”

Cool as it sounds, a tunnel won’t likely happen any time soon, but the already existing cut-through may be especially appreciated by drivers over the next several months as the Courtyard Marriott goes up at the corner of West Main and Ridge streets. Kuttner also pointed out that the “Ix Fix” isn’t a Downtown bypass, and therefore won’t do anything for drivers suffering on Route 250 during construction of the McIntire/250 Interchange. It’s helpful only to those who wish to be funneled straight to Monticello Avenue and then beyond to Water Street, where plentiful Downtown parking—and shopping—awaits.

Or, as the Kuttners hope, drivers passing through Ix may stop and discover that there’s more to Downtown than the Mall.