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City backs string of high-profile real estate projects

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The administration of Mayor Greg Ballard found its stride in the final year of its first four-year term, at least when it comes to major publicly supported real estate projects.

The largest by far was CityWay, a $156 million mixed-use development now under construction at Delaware and South streets.

The complex, to be built primarily on Eli Lilly and Co.-owned parking lots, calls for a boutique 157-room Dolce hotel, a YMCA branch, 320 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail and office space, all developed by locally based Buckingham Cos.

Taxpayers are acting as the project’s bank, putting up nearly every dollar used to build it, chiefly by loaning $86 million raised from the sale of municipal bonds.

As IBJ reported in April, taxpayers are shouldering most of the risk in the no-bid deal, while the potential for a tangible profit rests squarely in private hands.

Buckingham stands to cash in every step of the way, earning fees for all three of its divisions—development, construction and property management. And Lilly gains a new amenity for its corporate campus while cashing out of a 20-year-old arrangement with the city that required the company to make periodic payments on infrastructure bonds.

Elsewhere in Indianapolis, the city agreed to kick in $6.3 million toward a new parking garage in Broad Ripple that also will feature first-level retail. The project would replace a long-vacant service station and help alleviate a parking crunch in the area.

But critics of the $15 million project, including members of the Broad Ripple Village Association, question the new retail space and the rationale behind such a rich city subsidy.

City officials refused to share financial projections for the construction and operation of the 350-space parking garage, describing the documents—which developer Keystone Construction filed as part of its bid—as a “trade secret” exempt from public disclosure.

In a 2007 study, Walker Parking had reported the selected site would be inappropriate for a parking garage and that such a structure should cost about $15,000 per space. The $6.35 million subsidy for Keystone works out to more than $18,000 per space.

Construction has begun on a project to convert the former Bush Stadium into 268 apartment units, whose rents will range from $480 to $1,400 per month. The stadium’s façade will be preserved.

The $23 million project, led by developer John Watson, is set to get a $5 million infusion from the city.

Finally, the city sought bids for the redevelopment of a 1.45-acre property at Massachusetts Avenue and New Jersey Street occupied by the Indianapolis Fire Department. The city had not yet picked from among five bidders. The project is expected to cost $30 million to $50 million.•

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.

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