INDIANAPOLIS — Over the course of two years, the pandemic emptied out downtown Indianapolis of its workers, Market Street was closed in front of the City Market for reconstruction, and the courts moved out of the City-County Building, taking employees, judges, lawyers, defendants and families with them to the new Community Justice Center in Twin Aire.

Business inside the City Market was gutted, but this summer, the Farmers Market is back on the street outside.

“The business has been good. We have a lot of people coming, we’ve got a lot of repeat business, a lot of people coming down from City Market,” said Mark Rice, shaded from the sun by a tent in the middle of Market Street as he sold herbal energy shots.

Steps away, Mayor Joe Hogsett and developer Eric Gershman had just announced plans to spend $175 million to reimagine a large part of the downtown block that the City Market and its neighbors occupy.

“This project today will turn this into a transformative city block that the city doesn’t currently have or enjoy,” said the mayor. “It’s going to be a busy next couple of years.”

Gershman Partners and Citimark have already begun work on renovating office space at 251 E. Ohio St., currently the home of the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, while planning to fix up the garage next door and turn Indianapolis’ Gold Building at 151 N. Delaware St. into a residential property.

”The Gold Building, which is the largest piece of this puzzle, will be completely reimagined and redone,” said Gershman. “Everything in there will be completely new except for the structure. The glass will be completely renovated and turned into a Class A modern structure with 350 apartment homes.”

Gershman will also be building apartments on the east wing of the City Market.

“The property we are standing on today, the East Market, will be an 11-story, 60-65-apartment mixed use building anchored by retail and potentially office.”

Scarlett Andrews, director of Metropolitan Development, said the developer took the city’s original plan to reimagine part of the City Market’s footprint and instead sought to integrate the iconic downtown location into an overall project to enhance residential, office and public spaces.

“We want to activate the entire block and make City Market the anchor for the entire Market East District,” she said. “You’re gonna have more people living here than anywhere in the state of Indiana on this block. We’re gonna have 410 apartment units, as well as retail, that’s going to complement the City Market. There’s going to be these glass enclosure buildings that are going to expand the City Market facility and create more activity all day long and even into the evening hours.”

An engineer’s report estimated it would cost $25 million in renovations to bring the 135-year-old City Market up to 21st century standards.

The market is currently engaged with a consultant to develop a long-term strategy that would fit with the emphasis on attracting residents to the Market East District.

Meanwhile, the city is in various stages of developing plans for the futures of the former Marion County Jail II complex and the neighboring Arrestee Processing Center on East Washington Street, redevelopment of the abandoned Angie’s List campus in the Elevator Hill neighborhood and visions for the nearly shuttered Marion County Jail and sheriffs office south of the City-County Building and the CCB itself, which has scores of vacant offices due to the departure of court employees and other city workers.

“Not just this project but there’s going to be a lot happening in this area of our city over the next few years,” said Hogsett as he looked forward to the summer of 2025 when it’s expected many of the projects will be completed. ”I think it’s going to be packed with not only downtown workers but downtown residents. I think it’s going to be vibrant. I think it’s going to be very active whether that be on the workday or on weekends.”

Kenny Thompson looked up from Market Street and recalled how he helped set the windows in the Gold Building during construction decades ago and considered the changes that were announced.

”Oh, that would be great. Get people to come back downtown, especially seniors that remember what the old Indianapolis used to look like,” he said.

The developer plans to spend $4 million to create a pedestrian mall in the Wabash Alley that currently serves as a delivery zone for the City Market.

Thompson approves of the proposed change.

“For one thing, it would save on you having to use your vehicle for gas, so that would be great,” he said. “Everything you need would be right in your downtown.”