Latest plan for natatorium includes IUPUI expansion

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The city of Indianapolis, IUPUI and Lilly Endowment are close to unveiling a plan to renovate the Indiana University Natatorium that will include broader changes to give the campus a stronger downtown presence.

Mayor Greg Ballard's office plans to announce the deal soon, according to members of the Metropolitan Development Commission.

Director of Metropolitan Development Adam Thies briefly mentioned the pending announcement Wednesday to the commission during a regular meeting conducted before official proceedings. The pre-meeting, as it's known, is open to the public but not recorded.

The deal will likely involve the city's contributing money from the downtown tax-increment finance fund, a move that requires the Metropolitan Development Commission's approval.

Ballard's initial plan for the city to give IUPUI about $9.5 million to help renovate the aging natatorium in time for the 2016 Olympic diving trials hit a wall with the City-County Council, but the TIF money is controlled by the nine-member Metropolitan Development Commission, where the mayor's five appointees make up a majority.

The plan goes well beyond the natatorium, MDC member Adam Kirsch said, citing Thies' description. It would give IUPUI a presence east of West Street, which divides the college campus from the rest of downtown, and it would tie IUPUI into the Haughville neighborhood west of the White River.

Thies told the commission that Lilly Endowment would provide $10 million, but he did not mention how much IUPUI and the city would contribute, Kirsch said.

Kirsch said Thies promised commission members that they would be briefed on details of the plan before it's widely announced. A Democrat and appointee of the City-County Council, Kirsch said he's not sure how he would vote on it.

"Once you get into TIF funds, decisions get more complicated," he said.

Thies was not immediately available for comment.

MDC member Cassie Stockamp, a recent mayoral appointee, said Thies sounded enthusiastic about the plan, and she's waiting for the details.


  • Fantastic News
    This is great news for the city. To the naysaying, know-nothing zombies who reflexively criticize every positive development, obtusely misunderstand every single issue involving TIF money: why do you bother to read a publication like IBJ? Wouldn't you be more at home with Weekly World News?
  • Emptysuit
    Just another day in Little Detroit, where taxpayers flee and Mayor Emptysuit gives millions to another one of his buddies. In spite of all the efforts to pump this city in the national press, we are a laughingstock and deservedly so. You can only squander so many resources. Eventually the scope and magnitude of the failure is obvious to anyone with eyes.
  • How to fix the roads
    I have a great new idea on how to fix the roads. Hold a street IndyCar race, a bicycle race, and any other race you can on the streets. That way you know the city will dump money into the streets since it will be for sports.
  • City Geography
    The area that is west of IUPUI is actually Stringtown, south of Michigan St., and Haughville north of Michigan St. In any event, this sounds like a great plan for investment in improving and expanding the city core.
  • $$$
    Great comments from Gary Welsh: "Mayor Greg Ballard has told Indianapolis taxpayers that they can pony up and start paying higher taxes if they want more police officers, better infrastructure and otherwise have money to pay for basic city services, but he's prepared to give nearly $10 million in TIF funds to IUPUI to make improvements to the Natatorium that the cash-rich university has deliberately permitted to fall into a state of disrepair while awaiting a handout from city taxpayers. If it's anything related to sports or downtown development projects, there's never any shortage of money. Whenever anyone mentions the idea of tapping the nearly $120 million in property tax revenues the City of Indianapolis diverts to the TIF slush funds annually to pay for anything other than projects advanced by the downtown mafia, the administration screams bloody murder and how it would be a violation of state law. Yet they dip into those same funds to finance whatever it takes to satisfy their latest itch regardless of how unrelated it is to the purpose for which TIF funds are supposed to be dedicated. This is so disgusting on so many levels. The university spends like a drunken sailor on new buildings non-stop but pleads poverty when it comes to maintaining a building that was donated to it from the beginning just so the City could host the Pan Am Games back in 1987. Of course, the MDC will go along with the plan. Nobody gets appointed to that commission unless they are financially beholden to the downtown mafia."
  • Not City Property
    What legal right does RINO Mayor Marine have to take our hard-earned tax dollars and give them to the state of Indiana for one of their buildings? The city is out of money now, yet he is giving away another $10 MILLION!

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  1. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

  2. If you only knew....

  3. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

  4. The facts contained in your post make your position so much more credible than those based on sheer emotion. Thanks for enlightening us.

  5. Please consider a couple of economic realities: First, retail is more consolidated now than it was when malls like this were built. There used to be many department stores. Now, in essence, there is one--Macy's. Right off, you've eliminated the need for multiple anchor stores in malls. And in-line retailers have consolidated or folded or have stopped building new stores because so much of their business is now online. The Limited, for example, Next, malls are closing all over the country, even some of the former gems are now derelict.Times change. And finally, as the income level of any particular area declines, so do the retail offerings. Sad, but true.