UPDATE: Commission approves City Market funding

The city’s Metropolitan Development Commission gave the green light Wednesday afternoon to nearly $4 million in funding to improve the Indianapolis City Market.

The MDC also approved $5 million in Tax Increment Finance funds relating to a major expansion announced by Dow AgroSciences in March.
Prior to the meeting, City Market Corp. President Wayne Schmidt said he foresaw little, if any, opposition to the funding for the historic downtown venue. The vote was the last hurdle for the funding.

“We’re certainly expecting a positive vote,” he said.

The latest upgrade to City Market has the backing of Mayor Greg Ballard, who announced the city’s intention to contribute the $4 million at a June 4 news conference.

The bulk of the money—generated mostly by a downtown tax increment financing district—will underwrite $2.7 million in aesthetic upgrades to the City Market’s main hall, such as a redesign of vendor stand facades, improved lighting and colorful hanging pennants. The revamp also will include a regular schedule of musicians and performing artists to attract visitors to the venue, and the beginnings of a new focus on fresh food.

Also part of the plan is a $400,000 city investment to transform the City Market’s east wing into a bicycle hub adjacent to the Cultural Trail. The remaining $800,000 would come from budget savings derived from efficiency gains the market found through an independent energy audit.

Founded in 1886 and located just north of the City-County Building at Delaware and Market streets, City Market has long been a lunchtime institution. But its business has endured a slow, steady slide for decades as its customer base moved to the suburbs.

Indianapolis spent $2.7 million three years ago to renovate the guts of the City Market’s historic Main Hall, but the overhaul did little to boost business. The infrastructure work, which closed the market for months, ran over budget and took longer than expected, causing some vendors to lose business or close. The venue is now plagued with vacancies.

Schmidt, a local architect, has pledged that City Market will handle the upgrade project differently this time. Construction crews will work around vendor schedules during peak lunch-traffic hours.

Bids will be let in mid-July, and work is expected to start the following month. The architect on the project, Indianapolis-based Woollen Molzan & Partners Inc., is nearly finished with the drawings, Schmidt said.

MDC also is slated to approve $5 million in TIF funds to help Dow AgroSciences defer $20 million in project costs related to a $340 million expansion expected to create 577 high-paying jobs over the next five years.

The huge investment will greatly expand the company’s research and development capacity and is a major win for Indiana’s life sciences industry. Most of the created positions will pay between $65,000 and $95,000 annually.

Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Midland, Mich.-based giant Dow Chemical Co., produces agricultural products, such as seeds and pesticides. In recent years, it has moved heavily into biotechnology, and plans to roll out five products by 2012 that could generate $800 million annually in new sales.

The first phase of Dow AgroSciences’ expansion will be the addition of a 14,000-square-foot greenhouse and a 175,000-square-foot research and development facility at its corporate campus on the city’s northwest side. The greenhouse should be finished by year’s end, according to the company, while the R&D facility is slated to open in early 2012.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. gave the company $12.5 million in performance-based tax credits and another $205,000 in training grants to encourage the expansion. The city of Indianapolis will kick in another $500,000 from its Industrial Development Grant Fund to help pay for road, sewer and water improvements related to the project.

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