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Children's Museum holds key to Winona redevelopment

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The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis doesn’t intend to pay for the abandoned Winona Hospital site, but it is playing the role of lead developer.

With the city of Indianapolis about to spend $2.7 million in federal grant money on demolition and environmental cleanup, developers are showing interest in the property at 32nd and Meridian streets. The museum and city are working together to come up with a mixed-use plan that would include housing, some sort of commerce and an outdoor component involving the nearby museum.

“We’ve been very heartened by the city’s openness to the idea of a mixed-use plan,” CEO Jeff Patchen said.

The former hospital site is just north of the museum and has been vacant since 2004. The museum controls 19 acres in the neighborhood, including two parcels adjacent to Winona.

The museum’s interest in the property is no secret. At one time, it envisioned using the whole hospital site for an outdoor extension of its kid-friendly science and cultural experience, but the recession downsized those plans. The museum's endowment shrank by $100 million during the downturn, but it has since rebounded to about $270 million.

“These times call for a different response,” Patchen said.

The city took control of the hospital site last year and has written off about $1 million in tax bills. It requested proposals for redevelopment last February, but no one responded. That opened the door to a no-bid development process.

The Children’s Museum stepped forward more than a year ago, Deputy Mayor Michael Huber said. The city encouraged museum officials to talk to “community stakeholders,” he said, and ultimately agreed to work with the museum in a “leading role as developer.”

At that time, he said, the city was unsure how to pay for the environmental cleanup.

Now, the city and museum are fielding calls from interested developers. Maury Plambeck, the city's director of metropolitan development, said he’s telling developers to talk to the museum, which is also leading the effort to formulate a “quality of life” plan covering six neighborhoods.

Huber said the city and museum have not yet outlined a redevelopment proposal, and the city does not have a formal agreement with the museum.

“We are working with them as a partner,” Huber said. “As long as the property is still owned by the city, I’d like to think we have a significant amount of leverage on what the project’s like.”

In any case, a major redevelopment of the Winona site is likely to require the museum’s cooperation because it owns two key parcels. One is a grass lot north of 33rd Street, and the other has frontage on Meridian in front of the hospital, Patchen said.

For the museum’s own use, Patchen said he’s interested in parking and a sculpture garden, the size of which is up for discussion.

Although Patchen emphasized that the museum doesn’t have the money to buy or lease the Winona site, he said taking ownership is a possibility. “We’d want to focus on a positive use,” he said.

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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