INDIANAPOLIS — There are approximately 744,000 square feet of office space inside the City-County Building.
Next year, after the courts and the sheriff’s office and some county clerk’s employees and essentially the entire criminal justice system moves out, nearly half of that space will be empty and the City is asking developers what they would do to fill it up.
“I think there’s an opportunity to redevelop the entire building and come up with a concept that is everything and we move out and find a new location for city-county government to remain,” said Controller Ken Clark, “or, there’s an option to look at a wing, a tower, both wings, whatever combination.”
The City has issued a Request for Information to developers to consider a wide range of options for the 60-year-old building that rises 27 stories above the Market East District downtown.
“I do expect there would be a fair amount of housing proposals, knowing that we need more residents downtown, knowing that this is a really critical part of the equation. We saw that in the pandemic, the loss of that for businesses downtown and not having residents here was really challenging for them,” said Clark. “At the ground level, there’s an entire block opportunity of actual ground-level retail and I think we’ll see a lot of options around that, too.”
Clark said the CCB is in need of $35 million in deferred maintenance, which the City may forego if it sells part of the site to developers.
Next year, most of the Marion County Criminal Justice and Courts system will be relocated to the $585 million Community Justice Center in Twin Aire.
When Mayor Joe Hogsett unveiled plans to construct the campus in 2016, he said there would be a net zero cost to taxpayers due to reduced budgets and expiring lease agreements for some city offices as municipal employees were then expected to move into newly vacated CCB office space.
“We could fill the entire tower really easily, backfill and get that filled, but we would still have at least two wings vacant,” said Clark.
The future of the CCB will determine whether the City maintains or renovates the Old City Hall two blocks north on Alabama Street.
Indianapolis’ former city hall was built in 1910 and has been vacant for two decades.
A just-released consultant’s report estimates the building needs a minimum of $3 million in maintenance work with a price tag of up to $54 million to make the site compatible with 21st century office needs.
“We need updates to the water pump system, repairs to the walls, updated windows to the building, new mechanical, electrical and plumbing,” said Scarlett Andrews-Martin, director of the Department of Metropolitan Development. “There is some deferred maintenance in the Old City Hall because nothing has been in there for a while. We know we have to do some of that not only to keep the historic preservation of the building but to maintain it as it is.”
Amid the building’s classic rotunda, artwork, marble, brass and plaster, there are broken windows, water damage and inoperable elevators that need to be fixed.
“You need to do all of these things, no matter what,” said Andrews-Martin, “and it opens up your options for arts and cultural space and offices. It could be for government. It could be for non-profit. It could be for business, some public event space potentially, that’s been something that’s been talked about before, but, of course, a hotel potentially is something that’s been talked about before.”
The CCB, Old City Hall and the City Market remain public lynchpins for redevelopment of the Market East District that began in the late 1990s with the destruction of Market Square Arena and the dismantling of an entry ramp to southbound I-65 from Market Street.
“Market East has seen a lot of investment over the last 10 years but there’s still a lot to be done,” said Andrews-Martin. “There’s a lot of opportunities for new construction in the area, new economic development, new housing, commercial retail and neighborhood-based retail here in the Market East District.”
The City intends to open up its process to ask developers for more detailed CCB proposals in December.
A consultant’s study on the structural needs and commercial potential of the City Market should be completed by mid-October.