City Market infrastucture, improvements estimated at $30 million

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Downtown Indianapolis City Market

INDIANAPOLIS — A consultant’s assessment of the City Market infrastructure puts a multi-million price tag on fixing up and renovating the 135-year-old building that serves as a cultural anchor in the Market East District of downtown.

“The assessment obviously shows that there are some improvements and maintenance that needs to be done to the building,” said Metropolitan Development Director Scarlett Andrews Martin, “and specifically we’re gonna be, in partnership with the Market, announcing that we will be investing about five million dollars into the structural integrity and access into the building and improvements to the building itself.”

The City Market Board received the consultant’s report Thursday afternoon as it struggles to develop a strategy for the site.

“There are some major things that need to be done in terms of plumbing, electrical, some tuck pointing on the bricks, and some improvements around the windows, too,” said Andrews Martin. “The building is sound; it is actually in really good shape.”

The report also makes some broad suggestions about better utilizing the Market’s plazas and reimagining its core mission and operation at a cost of up to $25 million.

“The study shows a lot of great ideas about how to use the plazas, how to use the alley, some accompanying uses potentially, ideas about maybe the West Plaza being a beer garden, or the new Tomlinson Tap, or having restaurant space and having activation of that plaza and some ideas about the East Plaza like places where families can come, a child’s play space or rock-climbing wall and some ideas about private reuse of the East Plaza.”

Andrews Martin said the key to the Market’s success is an evolution from its recent history as a lunchtime location for downtown workers and visitors to a site focused on serving the needs of the residents city planners imagine will be moving into the Market East District in the years to come.

“There are still some things missing in terms of density, we have some opportunities as far as filling in some housing in this district, and then I think specifically for this property we’re looking at adjacent market uses, so, if you go to the City Market, what kind of adjacent uses would help you stay there longer or come for a reason that you’re not coming right now or, if you had kids and there was a play space, would you come with your kids and get a coffee or lunch at the Market.”

The future of the City Market is tied to yet-still-undefined plans for the immediate area surrounding the City County Building at Alabama and Washington Streets.

With the opening of the Community Justice Center in the Twin Aire neighborhood on the east side just weeks away, and the relocation of Marion County courts and the Sheriff’s Office and Jail, the eastern end of downtown is about to become more desolate as the few workers who have trickled back to the city’s core in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic slowdown are about to go away permanently.

The City has already requested ideas from developers on what they see as the future of the 25-story City County Building and its two wings, one hosting courts, the other housing IMPD headquarters and some courtrooms.

Several courts located in the CCB Center Tower will also be departing for the new CJC.

During a briefing with reporters Wednesday morning, City Controller Ken Clark, for the first time, indicated that low-income housing, as well as market-rate housing, could be located in the wings of the CCB under developer plans that will be sought after the first of the year.

Andrews Martin said more investment into reimagining the City Market, along with consideration of anticipated developer plans for not only the CCB complex but the soon-to-be abandoned Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Jail across Washington Street, and a recently announced assessment that puts the maximum price tag of a potential renovation of the Old City Hall two blocks north on Alabama Street at $54 million, indicating a significant City commitment to remaking a corner of downtown that has been previously dedicated to local government offices into a more resident-friendly environment with the Market at its center.

“It could be so much more, and I think that’s what we’re aiming for, and with all of these pieces, how do we get more people living in this area, shopping in this area, eating in this area, spending time, having fun enjoying downtown?” she said. “We think the investments now and putting the actual five million into the structural integrity of the building and putting investments into the plazas to come in a partnership with the Market to do strategic planning is a way forward to get to a point where we’re not gonna have to subsidize operationally but we’re activating uses of the entire site that actually directly and indirectly support revenues for the Market.”

The Market is expected to run a $100,000 deficit this year and, as it has for several years, intends to return to the City County Council for more funding to balance its books before the end of 2021.

During a briefing with reporters, Mayor Joe Hogsett said that the projected deficit, which is more than in past years but significantly less than the potential $250,000 in red ink the City Market Finance Committee estimated this spring, was a “good thing.”

The Market’s proposed budget is nearly $900,000 for 2022 with almost a third subsidized by the city along with $120,000 in annual maintenance.

Andrews Martin said the intention is to complete the initial round of infrastructure upgrades without closing the Market.

One longtime vendor, Brenda Barrett of Jack’s Barber Shop, told the Board that current tenants must do their part to remain open longer hours and on weekends to serve an already changing clientele.

“People need to get on board, or they won’t have a business in there,” she said.

Board President Michael Solari told CBS4 News that the consultant’s report now paves the way for the Board to undertake its own strategic planning which he hopes will identify priorities and direction within a year.

Presentation of the consultant’s assessment now provides the City Market Board the opportunity to move forward with raising funds to hire its own consultant to lead a stakeholders’ survey.

The Board meets again in late October.

Director of Public Works Dan Parker told Mayor Hogsett Wednesday that he expects the reconstruction of Market Street between the CCB and the Market, which has left the Market isolated and a challenge for patrons to visit, to be completed by the end of the year.

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