Council committee to consider North of South bonds

A City-County Council committee is set to vote Tuesday to allow the city to issue $98 million in bonds to finance its portion of the $155 million North of South mixed-use project in downtown Indianapolis.

The Economic Development Committee will consider the proposal at 5:30 p.m. in Room 260 of the City-County Building.

Locally based Buckingham Cos. is leading the development, set to be built on 14 acres of land owned by Eli Lilly and Co.—now home to a parking lot north of South Street between Delaware Street and Virginia Avenue.

The city is offering to provide an $86 million loan and build $9 million in infrastructure to get the project off the ground. Plans call for a boutique hotel, retail space, a YMCA and 320 upscale apartments.

The price tag includes a $7 million contribution from Buckingham, a $6 million grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the $29 million in land Lilly is donating, and $18 million for the YMCA branch.

Instead of $86 million, however, the city actually will borrow $98 million to pay for administrative costs related to the bond sale and for interest payments while the project is under construction.

City officials say the additional $12 million adds flexibility to the bond issue because it’s often impossible to know how the bond markets will perform between the time of filing and issuing of debt. They also say bond issues involve “soft costs,” such as interest.

Following the committee’s vote, the proposal to issue the bonds will go before the City-County Council for consideration.

When the city officially unveiled the project in late September, Buckingham expected to begin construction by the end of the year and be finished within two years.

But developers have encountered resistance from a handful of business owners near the location of the project.

Members of the Metropolitan Development Commission voted unanimously in December to rezone the 14 acres of land to accommodate the project.

But the longtime area businesses, led by fabric wholesaler Mayer Paetz Inc. at 321 S. Alabama St., wants a commitment from developers that the project won’t disturb right-of-way and on-street parking configurations.

Those issues were to be addressed Jan. 13 by the city’s Regional Center Hearing Examiner. Because the site is within the Regional Center overlay district, its design needs to comply with Regional Center Urban Design guidelines.

A regional center meeting to consider the site plans has been rescheduled until Feb. 10, after the remonstrating businesses were granted their one automatic continuance in the city’s process to approve the project.

“One of the things we haven’t had the opportunity to do yet is to sit down and see if all the issues have been addressed, and appropriately so,” said Larry Whitham, an attorney for Mayer Paetz. “Hopefully we’ll all agree that the new plans will satisfy the concerns that we have raised.”

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