2021 Year in Review: Top headlines by the month

As the pandemic settled in for a second year, companies rethought their offices and invested more in technology. Workers gained power as fewer of them returned to their jobs, leaving employers little choice but to adopt more flexible schedules and boost pay. And restaurants and retailers began to rebound but struggled with supply chain and workforce shortages.

JANUARY

Downtown’s Salesforce Tower sold for $192.5M

An Oklahoma City-based real estate investor announced on Jan. 8 that it had acquired the 48-story Salesforce Tower—the tallest building in the state—for $192.5 million.

It was the second major purchase downtown for Square Deal Investment Management, which bought the 32-story Market Tower building in 2017. It acquired the 30-year-old Salesforce Tower from California-based Hertz Investment Group in a deal that closed at the beginning of the year.

As of late September 2020, theh 1.1-million-square-foot tower at 111 Monument Circle was 82% occupied and featured solid tenants such as Salesforce, Chase Bank and the law firm Bose McKinney & Evans.

Turner Woodard sells majority stake in historic Stutz property

Turner Woodard, the longtime local owner of the historic Stutz factory complex just north of downtown, sold a majority of his ownership in the 400,000-square-foot property he rescued in the 1990s to real estate investment firm SomeraRoad Inc.

The deal, which closed Jan. 28, included both the Stutz Business and Arts Center at the corner of 10th Street and Capitol Avenue, and the property known as Stutz II, which sits just south.

Both Woodard and New York City-based SomeraRoad declined to discuss financial details of the transaction, including the sales price and the percentage of ownership that Woodard and his son Turner John “T.J.” Woodard retain.

In August, SomeraRoad announced it would spend at least $60 million to revitalize and reposition the property as a retail, office and event hub.

FEBRUARY

IPL rebrands to AES Indiana

For 94 years, it was known simply as Indianapolis Power & Light Co., a name that summed up its purpose and location. But starting Feb. 21, the electric utility that serves 490,000 customers in central Indiana started going by AES Indiana.

The utility dropped the name of its headquarters city and took on the name of its parent company, AES Corp., based in Arlington, Virginia. The familiar IPL was retired.

The name change came 20 years after AES Corp. bought IPL for $2.2 billion.

Review: Police unpreparedfor 2020 downtown protests

An independent review of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s response to downtown protests—and subsequent riots—in May 2020 determined law enforcement was not adequately prepared or trained to respond to the events, contributing to a situation that resulted in significant property damage.

The review released Feb. 26 said IMPD’s initial response to the unrest likely “escalated tensions” of the crowds.

The 44-page report examined the events of May 29 through June 1, when social-justice protests took over the streets of downtown following the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. It was compiled after dozens of interviews with IMPD officers and leadership, protesters and other witnesses, along with viewing hours of video footage from throughout the three days.

In a summary, the review found “that the size of the crowds and IMPD’s lack of preparation for the type of demonstration that occurred” made for a challenging situation, along with training-driven efforts by police to handle the situation as a crowd-control situation rather than as a peaceful protest.

Keystone plans to add school, apartments in Broad Ripple

Keystone Corp. said in February that it planned to further develop the site of the Broad Ripple parking garage on College Avenue with the addition of nearly 70 apartments and a new home for Purdue Polytechnic High School North.

The project would replace the former Chase Bank branch in the 6200 block of College Avenue with a five-story building. The first three stories would be used by Purdue Polytechnic, and the top two—which also would extend over the adjacent 348-space parking structure—would contain 69 apartments.

The land was acquired by Keystone from Chase in 2017 for about $300,000. The developer declined to disclose a projected cost for the project.

Owned by Keystone, the $15 million public parking garage opened in 2013 as part of a public-private partnership that included a contribution of more than $6 million from the city of Indianapolis.

MARCH

Greenwood approves$83M redevelopment projectat former school

Greenwood officials moved forward with an $83 million redevelopment project that will include hundreds of residential units, along with commercial development and a 500-space parking garage, in the city’s downtown.

On March 4, the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission approved an agreement among the city, Carmel-based developer CRG Residential and South Bend-based real estate investment firm Great Lakes Capital.

The project, which has been in the works for several years, is on a 19-acre site at 523 S. Madison Ave. that formerly housed Greenwood Middle School.

The agreement calls for $68 million in private investment, along with $15 million in public funding, according to an announcement from the city of Greenwood.

The privately funded part of the project will include at least 40 condos, 15 town houses and nearly 300 market-rate apartments, along with more than 18,000 square feet of commercial space for restaurants, retail shops and other businesses.

The city committed to spend $6.65 million to build a parking garage; $5.42 million in on-site improvements that include at least 450 surface parking spaces; and $3 million in street improvements.

Lawmakers give Indy Eleven more time to develop stadium

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation that will give the Indy Eleven more time to finalize plans for a permanent soccer stadium.

The Legislature voted to add two years to a 2019 law that had called for a new special tax district—known as a professional sports development area, or PSDA—to be established in Marion County by mid-2022. The bill extends that date to July 1, 2024.

The 2019 law allowed the state to use up to $9.5 million annually in tax revenue for 32 years to pay off bonds for an outdoor soccer stadium. The amended-law collections could start either once all requirements are met as part of a deal, or on June 30, 2023—whichever is sooner.

IBJ reported in January 2020 that the team had scaled back its initial plans for a 20,000-seat stadium. Instead, it planned to pursue a venue that has at least 12,000 seats and could be expanded as the fan base grows.

The team was expected to reveal its choice for a location for the stadium last spring. However, by mid-November, the Indy Eleven had not made an announcement.

Lawmakers pass police reform

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a police-reform bill approved by the House and Senate unanimously that largely bans the use of chokeholds, penalizes officers for intentionally turning off body and vehicle cameras, and makes it easier for the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board to decertify bad-acting officers.

The law, authored by Rep. Greg Steuerwald, had widespread support from police and minority groups. It was one of the top priorities for the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus. The caucus’s chair, Rep. Robin Shackleford, D-Indianapolis, co-authored the bill.

The law also requires law enforcement agencies to obtain previous employment information about potential hires. That includes complete employment files, details related to disciplinary actions and information on internal investigations from any agency that has employed the individual applying for a job.

APRIL

Legislature approvesbig bump in school funding

The Legislature approved a two-year, $37 billion state budget that was bolstered by the projection of an unexpected $2 billion jump in state tax receipts and $3 billion in federal coronavirus relief money.

Much of that federal aid was earmarked for the state’s unemployment insurance fund, economic grant programs, numerous construction projects and expanding broadband internet availability.

The budget increased base K-12 school funding by about 4.5% each year of the budget, which Republicans said should significantly boost Indiana’s lagging teacher pay. Also, the spending plan made more students eligible for the state’s private-school voucher program as the income limit for a family of four goes from the current roughly $96,000 a year to about $145,000 starting this fall.

Apple announces 500 jobs, distribution center in Clayton

Consumer electronics giant Apple Inc. announced on April 26 that it would spend $100 million to open a “state-of-the-art” distribution center in Hendricks County that could employ as many as 500 workers by the end of 2024.

The facility in Clayton, a town about seven miles west of Plainfield, is expected to accelerate delivery times for San Jose-based Apple customers in Indiana and the rest of the country.

Apple experts helped design the production lines at the facility, which will be operated by Greenwich, Connecticut-based XPO Logistics Inc. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered XPO up to $5 million in conditional tax credits based on the job-creation plans.

MAY

Children’s Museum CEO retires, replacement named

After 21 years as president and CEO of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Jeffrey Patchen announced on May 8 he would retire and hand the reins to Jennifer Pace Robinson, a 29-year veteran of the institution.

The museum’s board had been working with Patchen on the leadership transition for two years and unanimously selected Robinson, who had been executive vice president for the museum. The transition was effective immediately.

Robinson joined The Children’s Museum in 1992 and worked in various roles—including exhibit manager, educator and programmer, curator, and director of exhibits—before becoming vice president of experience development and family learning in 2006.

Over the next 15 years, she oversaw all aspects of exhibit development, design, production, family and school programs, gallery interpretation, and collections. Earlier this year, she was promoted to executive vice president as part of the museum’s leadership-succession plan to prepare her to take over the top spot.

Ascension St. Vincentunveils $325M in projectsfor 86th Street campus

Ascension St. Vincent announced May 10 that it was planning three major construction projects worth a total of $325 million at its flagship West 86th Street health care campus over the next three years, representing one of its largest capital investments in decades.

The projects will give a dramatic new skyline to the sprawling, 47-year-old campus that spans the better part of 20 square blocks between Ditch Road and Township Line Road.

The three new buildings are: a four-story brain and spine hospital that will be at the front of the campus; a six-story women’s hospital that will replace the existing women’s hospital on the south side of the campus; and a parking garage (plus additional surface parking).

The campus has already has seen more than $80 million in investments in recent years, including renovated operating rooms, a new training center for doctors, and expansions to its women’s and children’s hospitals.

Up to $250M investment planned for Angie’s List site

A team leading the redevelopment of the former Angie’s List campus on the near-east side said in May it plans to spend up to $250 million on the 18-acre site over the next several years.

Spearheaded by development startup 1820 Ventures, the initial plan calls for up to 375,000 square feet of office space, new retail amenities, up to 500 units of multifamily housing, single-family housing, up to 1,500 parking spaces and extensive street improvements paid through city tax bonds.

While the vision is expected to take several years to play out, 1820 has received approval to build a $16 million multifamily project in the 1100 block of East Market Street as part of the initiative.

The 103-unit project would occupy about 0.71 acre near the middle of the 18-acre plat now known as Elevator Hill. The plans call for a five-story building with 36 studios, 47 one-bedroom units and 20 two-bedroom units with a courtyard and parking on lower levels.

135K fans show up for Indy 500

After the Indianapolis 500 ran in 2020 without fans in the stands, about 135,000 people showed up on May 30 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to see Helio Castroneves—one of IndyCar’s most popular drivers—win for the fourth time.

Capacity for the race was capped at just 40%, a concession to the pandemic, but the crowd was still the largest to have attended a sports event in the United States since COVID-19 hit in March 2020.

And because the event sold out, the IMS allowed the race to air locally on WTHR-TV Channel 13. Typically, the TV broadcast is blacked out locally—unless the race is considered a sellout in advance. But that’s rare, given that the infield can hold tens of thousands of people in addition to the approximately 250,000 stadium seats.

JUNE

Indy ends mask mandate

The Indianapolis City-County Council voted June 7 to end the city’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents; the order had been in place since May 2020.

The council said unvaccinated residents would still be required to mask, but acknowledged the city would not be able to tell who’d gotten the shot and who hadn’t. Gov. Eric Holcomb had dropped the state’s mask mandate in April but let local officials impose their own rules.

16 Tech’s AMP food hall opens

16 Tech’s artisan food hall, The AMP, began a sort of rolling opening in June, with a dozen eateries opening their stalls over that month and others coming online through the summer.

The AMP’s 40,000-square-foot space is in the HqO building at 1220 Waterway Blvd. at the fledgling 16 Tech Innovation District, just north of IUPUI. 16 Tech leaders said the food hall and attached coworking space are key assets in attracting companies to the campus.

The HqO facility was built in 1959 to house the Indianapolis Water Co. Other HqO tenants include 1776, a coworking space; and Machyne, a maker space. Both opened in March.

The AMP features vendor spaces, including walk-up restaurant stalls and converted shipping containers, as well as a stage and seating area designed to host gatherings and special events.

Airport plans for heliport sale

The Indianapolis Airport Authority’s plan to sell the Indianapolis Downtown Heliport is expected to open nearly five acres in the city’s core for redevelopment—a move experts say could bring a wealth of opportunities to downtown’s southeastern quadrant.

The airport’s board on June 18 agreed to work with city officials to find a new use for the 4.9-acre property at 51 S. New Jersey St. Among the options on the table are selling the land to a developer or transferring it to the city to allow for a comprehensive redevelopment strategy.

First business opens in box factory transformation

A longtime industrial building and campus that has sat vacant just off Interstate 70 for more than two decades is being transformed into a $25 million mixed-use facility, starting with a fitness facility that opened on June 19.

North Mass Boulder, a 50,000-square-foot fitness center and restaurant at 1411 Roosevelt Ave., was the first tenant in the renovated 150,000-square-foot building constructed in 1920 for the U.S. Corrugated Box Co.

Locally based firms Stenz Construction Corp., Third Street Ventures and Pure Development have spent the past two years working on the development, which is one piece of an expansive redevelopment in what is called the Northern Mass Avenue Creative and Commercial Corridor, just northeast of the Bottleworks District on Massachusetts Avenue.

NFL seeks bid for Combine

Indianapolis has hosted the annual NFL Scouting Combine the past 34 years, a streak could end after next year.

On June 23, the NFL said it is accepting bids from franchises that would like to host the five-day event for each year from 2023 to 2028.

The event is slated to return to Indianapolis in 2021, the last year the city is guaranteed to host the event.

In 2019, local hospitality officials estimated the combine generated an economic impact of $8.4 million and provided up to $10 million in media exposure for the city. That included more than 100 hours of TV coverage on NFL Network, ESPN and ABC, and from at least 1,400 credentialed media.

JULY

Elanco’s $100M HQ gets final funding approval

Elanco Animal Health Inc. cleared a final oversight hurdle to secure $135 million in bonds for its new headquarters at the former General Motors stamping plant property west of downtown.

The project received unanimous approval on July 22 from the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission—the last step necessary to allow the city to request the funds from the Indianapolis Bond Bank.

The MDC also allowed the site to be turned into its own tax-increment-financing district, permitting the city to finance the debt over the 25-year maximum set out by state law. The votes followed similar approvals by the Indianapolis City-County Council on July 13.

About $64 million from the TIF package will go to Elanco via a project fund, with $51 million going toward public infrastructure improvements and another $20 million used for financing and debt.

Elanco, now based in Greenfield, announced in late 2020 it would move to the GM stamping plant site.

AUGUST

Eskenazi hit with cyberattack

Eskenazi Health was hit with a cyberattack on Aug. 4 that shut down its data network and required its hospital to divert ambulances.

Initially, the health care system called the situation an “attempted ransomware attack” and said no patient or employee data was compromised.

But on Aug. 25, Eskenazi warned its employees, providers, patients and vendors to closely monitor bank and credit card statements for suspicious activity, after determining “some data that we maintain was obtained by bad actors” during the attack and “released online.”

Defendants convinctedin Banc-Serv fraud trial

A jury delivered guilty verdicts on Aug. 5 on all charges against the former officers and employees of a now-defunct financial services firm in Westfield.

Kerri Agee, 46, of Noblesville, co-founder and former president and CEO of Banc-Serv Partners LLC, was found guilty on four counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution and one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

Former Banc-Serv Chief Operating Officer Kelly Isley, 40, of Westfield and former relationship manager Nicole Smith, 44, of Indianapolis were both found guilty on two charges of wire fraud affecting a financial institution and one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

Banc-Serv co-founder Matthew Smith, 52, of Westfield was found guilty on one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and former Chief Marketing Officer Chad Griffin, 48, of Carmel was found guilty on one charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution.

Developer plans $150M project at 96th and Meridian

Landmark Properties Inc. in August said it plans to build a $150 million project at the southeast corner of North Meridian and 96th streets, to replace an aging shopping center there.

The Indianapolis firm will build up to 600 market-rate apartment units across two eight-story buildings, as well as 145,000 square feet of commercial space, more than 1,300 parking spaces and an 86-room hotel.

The existing shopping center has been anchored by a Life Time Fitness for more than 10 years, after being built in 1978 with Kroger as an anchor.

The redevelopment is intended to act as a “commercial gateway” for the north side of Indianapolis on a site adjacent to the Marion County-Hamilton County line.

Feds grant $81M for Purple Line

IndyGo announced Aug. 24 that it received an $81 million grant that could get construction moving on its long-awaited Purple Line as soon as February.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration Small Starts Capital Investment Grant and covers half of the line’s $162 million price tag.

IndyGo is planning to purchase a new set of electric buses that will run along the Purple Line, from downtown to Lawrence via East 38th Street. It’s the second of three planned bus rapid transit lines.

SEPTEMBER

Duke Indiana sells minority to Singapore government

The parent of Duke Energy Indiana said on Sept. 8 it had completed the first phase of a $2 billion deal to sell a minority interest in the Indiana utility to an arm of the Singapore government.

Duke Energy, headquartered in North Carolina, said it received just more than $1 billion from GIC Private Ltd., a fund established by the government of Singapore in 1981 to manage the country’s foreign reserves, in exchange for an 11.05% minority interest of Duke Indiana.

Ultimately, GIC plans to acquire a 19.9% minority interest in Duke Indiana for $2.05 billion.

The utility said proceeds will help fund the company’s $59 billion capital-expenditures plan and satisfy all equity-capital-raising needs through 2025.

The transaction received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Insurer Gainbridge buys naming rights to fieldhouse

Bankers Life Fieldhouse got a new name on Sept. 27—and it’s one with which many IndyCar fans are familiar.

The 18,000-seat venue downtown became Gainbridge Fieldhouse, thanks to a multiyear sponsorship deal between Pacers Sports & Entertainment and Indianapolis-based insurance holding firm Group One Thousand One LLC, the parent of Gainbridge Insurance Agency LLC.

Gainbridge, an online annuity and life insurance agency, also is the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 and various other sports properties.

Financial terms and the length of the deal were not disclosed.

NOVEMBER

NCAA streamlines, prepares to give power to schools

The NCAA on Nov. 8 set the stage for a dramatic restructuring of college sports that will give each of its three divisions the power to govern itself.

The nation’s biggest and most influential governing body in college athletics released a draft of an 18-1/2-page constitution, cut down from 43 pages over the last three months at the direction of President Mark Emmert.

The rewritten constitution focuses more on the NCAA’s broader goals of athlete welfare than the previous version, which took a more granular approach.

Most important, it would provide Division I—the highest level of college sports, which includes major college football and the 351 schools eligible for the lucrative men’s basketball tournament—the autonomy to reshape everything from how revenue is shared to how rules are made and enforced.

The NCAA said the goal is to have changes in place in less than a year.

Wilshaw gets new developer

More than two years after Indianapolis-based Loftus Robinson halted work on a hotel across the street from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to financial strains, a Georgia-based firm said it will take the reins of the project.

Hotel Equities Group of Atlanta suburb Alpharetta said on Nov. 8 that it hopes to complete construction on the Wilshaw hotel project by early 2023.

The company plans to assume the rights to the partially built, 127-room hotel at the southeast corner of 16th and Main streets as early as the first quarter of next year.

The town of Speedway had been considering legal action against Loftus Robinson, which signed an agreement in 2016 to develop the Wilshaw but stopped construction in mid-2019. The hotel was initially expected to open in 2020, but liens were placed on the property when Loftus Robinson failed to pay contractors in the summer of 2019.

Loftus Robinson and general contractor Indianapolis-based F.A. Wilhelm are expected to have a role in the project moving forward.•

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