Real Estate & Retail

Stadium's pathway not clear: CIB must make land deals with Comfort Inn, Hurst Co.

January 17, 2005

It's up to legislators to approve whether and how the city's proposed $900 million Indiana Convention Center expansion and stadium complex would be funded, but a handful of property owners that have title to land in the planned stadium's path will also play a role in determining the project's fate.

The Marion County Capital Improvement Board is working with owners of the few pieces of property it still needs for the construction project and associated parking lots. CIB owns about 85 percent of the land needed, and won't hesitate to pursue eminent domain cases for the remaining land if owners refuse to sell, CIB President Fred Glass said.

Before that happens, however, CIB is trying to avoid time-consuming court cases by working out deals with a half-dozen landowners who collectively own about eight of the more than 30 acres in the two-block-area where the stadium would be built.

Money for the land will come from $125 million the city has earmarked for land acquisition and soft costs for the project.

Almost all of the privately owned land is occupied by two businesses: the Comfort Inn and Suites at 530 S. Capitol Ave. and Hurst Co. Inc., a distributor of dried beans with its headquarters at 230 W. McCarty St.

A deal is in the works to relocate the hotel, but a Hurst representative said his company has no plans to move.

CIB hasn't made a formal offer to buy the 5-acre Hurst property and 50,000-square-foot building, said company President Rick Hurst, who added he'd consider any offer that comes along.

But the family-owned business has been in its present location since 1948 and Hurst has no desire to relocate its 60 employees, he said.

"It's a great place to be," Hurst said, noting the building's proximity to Interstate 70. "We like being downtown."

The footprint of the proposed stadium lies to the north of the Hurst property, but the city will need the land for parking, said Mary Solada, a local attorney and CIB member who is working with landowners.

The Comfort Inn relocation is more vital to the plan, as the hotel sits within the footprint of the retractable-roof stadium proposed for Indianapolis Colts games and other events.

CIB and the hotel's owner, Fishersbased Dora Brothers Hospitality Corp., have been in discussions about the roughly 2-acre parcel on which the hotel sits. No financial details have been worked out, but the deal will likely involve CIB buying the hotel and providing Dora with a comparable site to rebuild, said company principal Tim Dora. He said CIB had contacted him before the new stadium plans were unveiled. The 143-room hotel opened in 1996 and finished a 57-room addition in 2001.

Any new hotel site would need to be near the convention center, the largest driver of demand for the Comfort Inn's rooms, Dora said.

Dora Brothers also owns a nearby 108-room Best Western hotel completed in spring 2003. That hotel wouldn't be affected by the stadium plan, Dora said.

Dora said his company is willing to work with the city to help make the convention center expansion possible.

"We are pretty enthusiastic about it," Dora said. "I think it's a great move for the city. We have a positive attitude going in. We want to be treated fairly, but we also want to be a good citizen."

In the hotel's case, there may be considerable "pushing and pulling" about the value of the property Dora Brothers will give up compared with what they will receive, predicted Mark Eble, a locally based hotel real estate consultant with Philadelphia-based PKF Consulting.

Ultimately, however, all the owners of the land CIB needs "are going to get bounced off either way," Eble noted.

CIB has been accumulating land south of the RCA Dome for years, but stepped up purchases in the early 1990s, around the time it was finishing the most recent $45 million expansion of the convention center.

Between 1991 and 2002, CIB paid $7.6 million to buy almost 18 acres in the area, including a 6-acre lot on McCarty Street purchased in 2001 for $3 million. Most of the CIB-owned land is now used for parking.

The board has already closed on one deal since the Colts/convention center/stadium plan was announced Dec. 19, paying $437,000 for a 1/3-acre parcel of land and warehouse at 220 W. McCarty St. owned by local businessman Walter Corbin.

CIB hopes to have all the land it needs under ownership within the next couple of months so work can begin later this year if the General Assembly approves a funding plan for the expansion and stadium, Glass said. If it's approved, the city has already committed to having the 465,000-squarefoot Indiana Convention Center expansion finished by 2010, meaning the new stadium would have to be complete in 2008 so that the RCA Dome could be razed to make way for the expansion.

The city has a contingency plan for construction, however, to take into account those landowners who are "late coming to the party," Glass said. If funding is approved, the city will move forward with demolition, site work and infrastructure improvements on CIB-owned land while the acquisition process continues.

"We will not wait to wrap up every last piece of property to go forward if we are otherwise ready," Glass said.
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