The city of Indianapolis has announced plans to change the framework for a major project in downtown Indy that has sparked controversy. The $120 million project, announced in October 2018, called for an expansion of the Indiana Convention Center and two new hotels at Pan Am Plaza, which would add about 1,400 rooms. The project has drawn criticism from a group of hoteliers, who have expressed concern of a potential oversaturation in downtown Indy.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett issued a letter to the group Friday detailing a new framework for the project in collaboration with the Capital Improvement Board and Indianapolis-based developer Kite Realty Group Trust (NYSE: KRG). As part of the new arrangement, the city plans to build the hotels sequentially, rather than simultaneously.
The new development schedule calls first for the expansion of the convention center, followed by Kite building the 800-room Signia Hilton hotel, which is the larger of the two planned hotels. The city says that plan would match the original bid specifications, while also allowing the city to ensure construction of the second, 600-room hotel matches market demands.
Hogsett adds the 800-room hotel would also have more meeting space than the 975-room Signia Hilton hotel which will be connected to the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, a major convention competitor. The amount of adequate meeting space was a major point of contention for the hoteliers opposing the project.
Additionally, the mayor says the project will continue to be funded by downtown tax increment financing.
"This new framework represents real change from the original proposal, without affecting the benefits of the overall project," Hogsett said in the letter. "It also addresses your core concerns about the initial parameters, and we are thankful for the willingness of major stakeholders to come together to seek the kind of compromise and unity that has characterized fifty years of public-private partnership in Indianapolis."
Hogsett says the change is the result of feedback not only from the hotelier group, but also from groups such as the NFL, National FFA Organization, NCAA, Gen Con, Fire Department Instructors’ Conference and Performance Racing Industry. The day after the project was announced, Gen Con announced it was extending its stay in Indy through 2023, which Visit Indy says was largely due to the proposed expansion.
The mayor says project agreement negotiations among Kite, the city and the CIB are continuing with the revised framework. An estimated time frame for construction has not yet been announced.