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Former City Hall could reopen for planning work

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Vacant for the past six years, Old City Hall could return to active life in 2014.

Department of Metropolitan Development Director Adam Thies hopes to launch a county-wide planning effort, and he wants it to take place on the first floor of the century-old Neoclassical building at 202 N. Alabama St.

“I’m eager to do planning in a space that’s inspirational,” Thies said.

The Metropolitan Development Commission will vote Oct. 16 whether to authorize spending $150,000 from the department’s redevelopment general fund to make the building inhabitable for offices and meeting space—in all about 9,000 square feet.

The $150,000 would cover a laundry list of repairs, including putting chillers in working order and opening three large windows blocked by drywall and masonry, plus a year of cleaning and maintenance.

Thies is still trying to line up a grant that would cover the cost of updating Marion County’s comprehensive plan, which dates to 2004. He anticipates that two or three city planners, plus graduate student assistants, would be stationed at Old City Hall, which would also receive “thousands” of involved citizens over the course of the year.

On Wednesday, Thies announced that he’d hired Brad Beaubien, director of the Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning Indianapolis Center, as the city’s new planning administrator. With the upcoming retirement of longtime administrator Mike Peoni, Thies is splitting the position in two. Former DMD chief Maury Plambeck will oversee zoning, while Beaubien focuses on planning.  

Historic preservation experts will gather in Old City Hall for a design charrette during the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference, to be held in Indianapolis Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. They plan to brainstorm new uses for the historic structure.

Thies said those efforts are welcome, but considering that it would take millions in upgrades to find a permanent reuse for the building, he thinks his is a good interim plan. He hopes that having the building open and occupied will help market it to a long-term user.

The building was designed by local architectural firm Rubush and Hunter, responsible for many landmark structures in downtown Indianapolis in the early 20th century. Its cornerstone was laid on July 27, 1909, according to "The Encyclopedia of Indianapolis." The building opened in December 1910.

City and county offices consolidated in 1962 in the new City-County Building at 200 E. Washington St. In 1966, the old City Hall began a decades-long stint as the Indiana State Museum.

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  • Great building, let's hope it goes to good use
    I walked by this building almost everyday on the way to work for about 2 years and it blows my mind the city, state, or somebody has not done something with it. It is a great building with great architecture and obviously great location.
  • War Monument
    Lord know we don't have enough of them.
  • Excellent News
    An open planning facility is an excellent interim use! Please don't allow the Building Authority and Homeland Security to screw it up with the security shake down! Hope the MDC gives Adam the money, sure better to have a clean and occupied landmark than a vacant unmaintained landmark.
  • Strip club
    I think this place would make for a really historic and unique strip club. Most of the windows are already boarded up, and the architecture is stunning. Plus, there are hardly any strip clubs in this neighborhood, so I really think it could be an economic boon for the area.
  • Museum
    We need more draws to the city that visitors can enjoy. Would like to see this as a modern museum of sorts to contrast the war museum that is across the street.
  • Make Notice
    Great building. A major component of Indianapolis' history. Even a temporary interim basis allows the City to showcase the facility. Still think it ought to house the Mayor's Office and serve as ceremonial inspiration to City-County government.
  • hate to see it vacant
    It is one of the first places I visited when I moved to Indy as a child. It is a beautiful place and needs to be utilized.
  • IMA
    I agree with Greg, I think that they should build a modern extension above the building and turn it into a branch of the IMA.
  • Just a Thought!
    Turn this into a 21c and make the existing structure into a modern museum along with some sort of eatery, then use the parking lot North of it to build the hotel portion of it. It would go perfect with Mass Ave just a couple of blocks up.

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