Real Estate & Retail and Sports Business

National City Center to get $11 million facelift: Projects include new Starbucks and restaurant

April 3, 2006

National City Center and anchor tenant Hyatt Regency Indianapolis plan to pump more than $11 million into the aging, 16-story building to boost its competitiveness with other downtown towers.

The plans might grow to include connecting the building to the Artsgarden at the corner of Washington and Illinois streets.

The Hyatt Regency, which occupies a wing of the National City Center, plans an $8.5 million renovation that will include the addition of 10,000 square feet of meeting space, a Starbucks and a restaurant.

"The improvements that we're making are to shake the rust off a 28-year-old [building], which means we're going to upgrade it cosmetically," said Steve Schneider, who represents the building's owner, Massachusettsbased HRPT Properties Trust.

Schneider wouldn't disclose how much the building owner would spend on its renovation, but one tenant said it's around $3 million.

The Hyatt's renovation will allow it to compete for more convention business.

"At our current ballroom size, we need a junior ballroom to host a meet-and-feed convention," said David Jacobs, general manager.

The addition will double the meeting space in the 497-room hotel, giving it the second-largest amount in the city. Only the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, which has 21,000 square feet, would have more.

As part of Hyatt's plans, the small coffee shop in the atrium that serves Starbucks products will be replaced with a full-service, and much larger, Starbucks.

The bar on the hotel's second floor, Champs Sports Bar, will be removed to make room for the meeting space. A streetlevel restaurant will replace the sports bar.

Plans for the restaurant aren't complete, but Jacobs said it will be upscale and serve all three meals. Both the Starbucks and the restaurant will have seating on the property's north-side patio on Washington Street, which Schneider said will be dramatically improved as a result of the building's renovation.

The first three floors of the hotel, including the lobby, also will get touch-ups.

Whether the building will be connected to the Artsgarden has not been determined. Schneider has been discussing the idea with several interested parties.

"We're trying to plan it in conjunction with the other construction," Schneider said.

The group first needs to determine who would pay for the estimated $1 million addition.

Even bigger decisions loom.

This fall, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. will vacate 182,000 square feet of space it occupies in the building.

"When Simon goes out, we're going to have 28-percent vacancy after some 10 or 12 years of being almost 100-percent occupied," Schneider said.

Enough potential tenants have come forward to fill more than double that amount of space, he said, but no leases have been finalized.

"We have a great location," Schneider said. "It's probably second to none from an amenities viewpoint. We also have enough inventory that we can accommodate a large user better than any other of our competitors."

Whether one of the new tenants will be the Hyatt remains to be seen. The city is seeking proposals for adding 800 hotel rooms downtown. The Hyatt could add as many as 400 rooms in the space Simon will vacate. But Jacobs, the Hyatt's general manager, said there are no plans to do so.

Real estate sources say the building also might build a 12,000-square-foot deck for retail and office space above the loading dock on the building's south side.

Schneider said the work is not a "live discussion" and it's too early to say how much space the building owner could add there. "What I can say is that the ground back there has a lot of value for a development opportunity. And at some point in time it's likely that something can get done," Schneider said.
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