Groups eye once-doomed City Market west wing

A group of potential tenants is interested in occupying Indianapolis City Market’s west wing, which was slated for demolition as part of an overall renovation to the downtown historic building.

The local office of the Washington, D.C.-based Local Initiatives Support Corp., a not-for-profit, submitted a proposal to market directors to lease space in the wing. Other tenants would include the Indiana and Indianapolis chapters of the American Institute of Architects, as well as the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development.

The plan is to create a community design center and co-locate groups that support neighborhood development, LISC Executive Director Bill Taft said.

“Obviously there are a lot of details to be worked out,” he said, “but we hope to get a green light relatively soon.”

The proposal has been referred to the City Market board’s operations committee, and a recommendation could be made at the board’s next meeting later this month, Board President Wayne Schmidt said.

“We are very supportive of [leasing the space] instead of tearing it down,” he said, “if the financial pieces work.”

Plans approved last year called for demolishing the west wing, but the project was put on hold when bids for the overall renovation of City Market, set to be finished next month, came in over budget. The west wing was added in the 1970s.

A funding source for the $500,000 cost to raze the wing has not been identified.

The overall $3.5 million renovation project that began last year is adding new lighting, restrooms and vendor stands in the main hall and converting the market’s east wing into a YMCA facility where bicyclists can store bikes and shower.

Market leaders expect the project to come in about $300,000 under budget. Taft at LISC hopes any money the city might earmark for demolition of the west wing will instead be used to renovate the space. In turn, tenants would pay the utility costs and other expenses to operate the wing.

In addition, the west wing could provide a permanent home for the upstart Indy Winter Farmers’ Market, Taft said. And City Market executive offices, which have moved to the nearby Gold Building during renovations, could also move to the west wing. The offices had been in the upper level of the east wing but have been displaced by construction.

Leases are up for both LISC and the AIA chapters, which are located at 333 N. Pennsylvania St. and 50 S. Meridian St., respectively.

The groups’ interest in the west wing came to light Wednesday afternoon when the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission was updated on the progress of City Market renovations.   
One big drawback to destroying the west wing is that an elevator would need to be installed in the two-story main hall, adding more cost to the project. The only elevator at City Market—a freight elevator that is wheelchair accessible—is located in the west wing.

Renovations to the main hall should be finished by June 20, and vendors relocating from the west wing should be moved in by the end of July. Work on the east wing is set to be finished July 11, and the YMCA should be equipped and ready to open by the end of next month.

City Market is 60-percent occupied, but that number could rise to 90 percent by fall, said Jim Reilly, the building’s executive director.

Reilly said he’s had five “serious” inquiries about the space in the main hall that Enzo’s Pizza was to occupy. Enzo’s declined a move from the east wing to the main hall after getting into a lease dispute with City Market directors.

If every space within City Market is leased, Reilly still projects a $100,000 annual shortfall. The building receives annual subsidies from the city ranging from about $300,000 to $691,000 to cover operations.

Staging more events at City Market could help close the budget gap, Reilly said.

“Our goal is to somehow shed our reputation as a food court,” he said. “We need to be a public market.”

A produce stand that opened at City Market on Tuesday will help establish the market concept, Reilly said.

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 endured a slow, steady slide for decades as its customer base moved to the suburbs.


Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.