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Ballard announces $4 million City Market overhaul

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Mayor Greg Ballard is scheduled to announce nearly $4 million worth of improvements to the downtown Indianapolis City Market at a news conference Friday morning.

The bulk of the money—generated mostly by a downtown tax increment financing district—will underwrite $2.7 million in aesthetic upgrades to the City Market’s main hall, such as a redesign of vendor stand facades, improved lighting and colorful hanging pennants. The revamp also includes a regular schedule of musicians and performing artists to attract visitors to the venue, and the beginnings of a new strategic focus on fresh food.

Ballard will also announce a $400,000 city investment to transform the City Market’s east wing into a bicycle hub adjacent to the Cultural Trail. The remaining $800,000 will come from budget savings derived from efficiency gains the market found through an independent energy audit.

“With the Market makeover, we are extending development of our dynamic downtown area to the east side of the Circle and demonstrating that all of downtown has rich cultural, retail and recreational opportunities,” Ballard said in a news release.

In a telephone interview, Indianapolis City Market Corp. President Wayne Schmidt said stand owners were informed earlier this week about the details of the interior redesign project, which is expected to last nearly a year.

“This is coming to fruition. Is it easy? No. Will it all be in place in two months? No,” Schmidt said. “But come next April or May, when construction is finished and there’s music every day, it will be a destination where people want to go.”

Founded in 1886 and located just north of the City-County Building at Delaware and Alabama streets, City Market has long been a lunchtime institution. But its business has endured a slow, steady slide for decades as its customer base moved to the suburbs.

Indianapolis spent $2.7 million three years ago to renovate the guts of the City Market’s historic Main Hall, but the overhaul did little to boost business. The infrastructure work, which closed the market for months, ran over budget and took longer than expected, causing some vendors to lose business or close. The venue is now plagued with vacancies.

Schmidt pledged that City Market will handle the upgrade project differently this time. Construction crews will work around vendor schedules, he said, doing no noisy or smelly work during peak lunch-traffic hours.

City Market has about a $1 million annual budget, a third of which is subsidized by the city. Ballard’s priority has been to make the market self-sustaining. Attracting a vibrant mix of small businesses is one key to that goal. And the market is starting to make inroads.

Joining Ballard and Schmidt at the news conference will be Cindy Hawkins, owner of baked treats-maker Circle City Sweets. Hawkins opened her stand in the market about a month ago. She reports business is already going well, and she expects it to boom once all the upgrades are complete next year.

“So many people know about the [City] Market,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting people over here, back into the market. When that happens, this will be an amazing location.”
 

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  • Spare Us!
    Trying to keep that white elephant alive is like advocating memorial horse troughs because there used to be horses downtown!
  • Construction Company?
    Does anyone know the name of the company who is planning on doing the work? Thanks!
  • Yes
    The City Market is a fine civic asset to our city and metropolitan area. We need to begin thinking about long-term solutions, instead of quick-fixes.

    (Hint to the City: The Market will NEVER be a destination until the MSA site is fully developed.)
  • This Could Be Huge
    Tie this race with a bicycle trade show at the new convention center and have the Mini-Marathon organizers lead the "Tour De Indy" using their contact lists since these runners would be the target market.

    Tap local National Institute for Fitness & Sport, NCAA, IHSAA, Finishline, bike shops, and manufacturers like Speedway's Zipp Speed Weaponry as partners.
  • Development
    I think the city would have been better off trying to develop the Market Square lots first. That area needs more foot traffic during the weekends and evenings. The only way that will happen will be to add more residents.
  • Parking, really?
    Angelo, do you really think there is a lack of nearby parking? There is two entire blocks of surface lots (the old market square arena) plus it's parking garage, right across the street. The problem seems to be this suburban mentality of "parking should be free", when it is actually never free, it's just subsidized by everyone else.
  • West Wing Demo?
    Are they still planning to tear down the west wing? Someone please tell me yes. I wish they were tearing down both. Those horribly designed additions repel people on their own.
  • Poor Timing
    In an already beleagured financial condition, why would the Indianapolis mayor pick this timing for a $4M spend? The timing is bad and Marion county taxpayers are already overburdened. Enough is enough!
  • Bike Race
    Why not create a national bike race as large as the mini marathon with the city market as the center of a "Tour De Indy Race" to promote the city and market.

    Open a "Bicycle Garage store" to sell custom bikes and repairs to drive business during the summer.
    • Just a suggestion
      More retail and events are great, but the lack of nearby parking and lack of enclosed walkways are part of the problem.

      Maybe turn part of it into a beer hall or wine garden with a local brewary/winery to complement the local markets and music/events.

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      1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

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