Change of direction prompts City Market leader’s resignation

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Jim Reilly, executive director of the Indianapolis City Market, plans to step down Sept. 13, but says he made the decision somewhat reluctantly.

City Market directors said in a Tuesday news release that Reilly resigned after they notified him of their desire to focus more on marketing and retail management than building operations.

Reilly, 64, on Wednesday morning told IBJ that he would have rather stayed, but understands the decision.

“I think there’s a desire to focus more on the marketing and not the operations; that’s their choice,” Reilly said. “I’m an operations guy, so that tells me they want to go in a different direction. That’s fine.”

A committee, which will include a tenant representative, will be formed to examine staffing needs, said City Market Chairman Wayne Schmidt, who also is president of Indianapolis-based architecture firm Schmidt Associates. A decision could be made in the next 90 days, he said.

Reilly has been overseeing a $3.5 million renovation of the historic market that is nearly finished.

"While Jim has been there, he's done a great job. In my mind, the market's back," Schmidt said. "It's just the time to kind of rethink things a little bit."

This is Reilly’s second stint leading the market. He served as executive director from 1994 to 2000 and again beginning in 2008

He earned an annual salary of $80,000, but took a voluntary 10-percent pay cut two months ago and reduced his hours to help the market’s finances.

The building for decades has relied on annual city subsidies ranging from about $300,000 to $691,000 to cover operations. But because of tight finances, the city in recent years has tried to wean the facility off government support.

Stevi Stoesz, the City Market’s director of business development and public relations, will be named interim executive director and assume Reilly’s duties until directors make a permanent decision.

Before returning to City Market, Reilly had offered management services to small, family-owned businesses. He said he may re-launch his consulting firm or explore not-for-profit opportunities.

The City Market, which houses fresh- and prepared-food vendors, has struggled to attract enough visitors as just a lunch-time destination. Last year, it added a second-floor bar, the Tomlinson Tap Room, that serves Indiana craft beers to help it attract evening and weekend business.

Directors are hopeful that the renovation will help make the building into a true public market. New lighting, restrooms and vendor stands have been added in the main hall, and the market’s east wing has been converted into a YMCA where bicyclists can store bikes and take showers.

The bike hub, which includes a cycle shop operated by Bicycle Garage Indy, opened on Wednesday. The YMCA is set to open Sept. 14.

And once slated for demolition, the City Market’s west wing could house office tenants as soon as early next year.

The renovation of the wings has left only the building's 20,000-square-foot main hall to oversee—another reason to evaluate the management structure, Schmidt said.

The market is 87-percent occupied.

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