The city's oldest skyscraper will get a sleek new look starting this summer, when workers are scheduled to begin installing
a glass-covered curtain wall to replace a storm-scarred facade.
Renovation of One Indiana Square should begin in June and continue for two years. The project will give the 36-story building, completed in 1970, a more contemporary look.
"We're going to change the skyline," said Todd Maurer, president of Indianapolis-based Halakar Real Estate, which manages the tower. "We wanted a building that was classy looking and would stand the test of time "
New glass and steel will be installed about 18 inches from the existing curtain wall, which will be removed from the inside after each section is completed, Maurer said. He likened the process to changing shirts without showing skin.
Maurer would not disclose the cost, but an expert in curtain-wall construction estimated the tab would range from $25 million to $30 million. Bob Eastin, senior consultant with Curtain Wall Design and Consulting Inc. of Dallas, came up with his estimate after reviewing a rendering of the new facade and estimating costs to temporarily move tenants and remove and replace the old curtain wall.
The owners of One Indiana Square planned to announce their renovation plans April 2, one year to the day after a windstorm damaged 16 stories in the skyscraper. The storm blew out dozens of windows, forcing the city to close streets near the tower to protect motorists from falling debris.
No one was injured, but more than 1,000 employees working in the building were displaced. Many businesses spent the next few weeks scrambling to find temporary office space. Tenants have since returned.
"With every disaster there's an opportunity," Maurer said of the April storm. "Here was ours."
After city inspections determined the building was structurally sound, the owners began working on renovation plans that would improve the building's look while offering minimal interruption to tenants.
Above all, they sought a plan that would make the building safer. The process included building a model of the city and performing a wind-tunnel test.
Maurer said the owners are still negotiating with their insurance company to recover on their claim. Meanwhile, they've lined up financing to pay for the repairs. The building's insurance agent is Indianapolis-based Gregory & Appel Insurance Inc. and its policy is with Chubb Group of Warren, N.J.
Maurer and his father, Michael S. Maurer, co-own the tower with local businessman Robert Schloss and Pittsburgh-based McKnight Group. Michael Maurer and Schloss also own IBJ Media, publisher of the Indianapolis Business Journal.
Tenants are impressed with the building's new look and expect minimal interruption since work will be done in sections, mostly at night, said Bob Hicks, a managing partner at local law firm Sommer Barnard PC, which leases 85,000 square feet in One Indiana Square.
"It will give the building a whole new look that's sophisticated and professional," Hicks said.
The new facade will be "more interesting," said Scott Truex, director of Ball State University's College of Architecture and Planning in Indianapolis.
Truex said the top of the building will get a stronger presence, and he likes how the architect broke up the flat sides of the building with what looks like vertical columns. Breaking the flat plane "casts some shadows and creates more distinction," he said. He also likes the nonreflective glass, which creates visual interest instead of a blinding wall during daytime hours.
"It's going to be a much more handsome building than what is there," Truex said.
The project was designed by Gensler, a San Francisco-based architecture and design firm with offices in 28 cities, including Shanghai, Tokyo and London. Engineers are Cincinnati-based Facade Forensics and New York-based Thornton Tomasetti. Locally based contractor F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. Inc. will build the project.
Jason Shelley, executive director of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said he likes the look but wishes an Indiana firm would have had a chance to design it.
Maurer said the owners interviewed several firms and wanted to make sure the architect had experience with high-rise buildings and repairing curtain walls.
The building's outer structure has had its share of problems over the years. Building owners renovated the facade twice in the 1980s and once in the early 1990s to ensure stability. Storms have blown out windows before, shattering 29 windows in June 1978 and six windows two years later. The windows this time will be double-pane glass, which is more energy-efficient.
The current owners bought One Indiana Square in October 2001 for $25 million. Since the purchase, the building's occupancy rate has jumped from 33 percent to more than 70 percent.
The new owners spent millions upgrading amenities, which now include a 300-person conference facility, an 8,000-square-foot fitness center and a restaurant managed by locally based Crystal Catering.
They hope to raise lease rates once the renovation is completed. Space now goes for about $18.50 per square foot.