Members of the Metropolitan Development Commission Wednesday afternoon unanimously approved providing $600,000 in city funds to help build an enclosed pedestrian walkway connecting the downtown PNC Center with the Indianapolis Artsgarden.
The $1.2 million project would be half-financed by the Greater Indianapolis Bond Bank by using tax increment financing from the downtown district. Wednesday's approval was the final one needed for the project.
The building’s property manager, Reit Management & Research LLC, based in Massachusetts, intends to start construction early next year and finish by mid-2011.
Commission members supported the funding, despite objections from several opponents who spoke against using taxpayer money to support “wealthy corporations.”
The 16-story PNC Center, previously known as National City Center and Merchants Plaza, houses the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis, the city’s fourth-largest hotel based on number of rooms.
The Hyatt, along with other city hotels, has been targeted by a union group called Central Indiana Jobs with Justice, which is pressuring the hotels to improve their pay scales. About a dozen supporters of the group, armed with signs bearing such slogans as “Vote No on Ballard’s Bridge to Nowhere,” attended the MDC meeting.
City-County Councilor Brian Mahern also opposes the walkway and spoke out against the project.
“I’m most certainly disappointed, but frankly, I’m not surprised,” Mahern, a Democrat, said. “This is what the appointed, and non-elected, MDC has done time and again.”
But David Buchanan, the REIT Management executive who oversees the PNC Center, said the walkway, as part of the Artsgarden, will be owned by the Arts Council of Indianapolis Inc.
The PNC Center, which includes nearly 625,000 square feet of rentable office space, is owed by HRPT Properties Trust of Boston, which bought the building in 2005.
“The real issue here is the fourth connector anchor was never connected,” Buchanan said. “It’s an important piece for the city.”
Connecting all four corners of the Washington and Illinois streets intersection was the original plan when the Artsgarden was designed more than 15 years ago. No one currently associated with the project knows why the fourth connector has never been added.
The Artsgarden opened in September 1995, connecting Circle Centre mall on the southeast corner of the intersection with Claypool Court on the northwest corner.
Attention after the mall opened focused on attracting a retailer to open on the northeast corner of the intersection, where the Conrad Hotel now stands. When the hotel opened in 2006, it was connected to the Artsgarden.
Opponents at Wednesday's meeting argued that the money should be used to support public transportation or the city’s libraries, which are cutting hours due to a budget shortfall.
But Deron Kintner, executive director of the bond bank, reminded them that the TIF funds need to remain within the district and cannot be released into the city’s General Fund.