Revamped Pan Am Plaza on track for October debut

July 31, 2012

Workers have ripped out the old fountain and crumbling bricks of Pan Am Plaza and will install a waterproof membrane and new stone pavers in a Kite Realty Group Trust project to stabilize the plaza until the local company can orchestrate a redevelopment.

The project, set for completion in October, will spruce up the plaza and give it a more open feel. The fountain is gone for good, but Kite plans to display mementos from the 1987 Pan American games—including flagpoles, cauldrons and plaques—in a portion of the plaza off Georgia Street.

pan am The overhaul should stabilize the plaza until the pieces come together for a multi-million-dollar redevelopment. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Publicly traded Kite, which bought the property in 2008 from the Indiana Sports Corp., patched up the plaza in January so that ESPN could originate its Super Bowl broadcasts from the prime property at the southwest corner of Georgia and Illinois streets.

The improvements underway should last several years, at least until the pieces come together for a multi-million-dollar redevelopment.

Kite ultimately hopes to build a large mixed-use project that could include a high-rise hotel, restaurants, retail space and even residential. Such a project would also consume the two indoor ice skating rinks now used by the Indiana World Skating Academy.

“This is all just really getting the membrane down and making the plaza a better place for the city until a project is on the line,” said Ashley Bedell, Kite’s project manager for Pan Am Plaza.

No rendering showing the plaza's new look was available, she said, since the flat perspective would be difficult to capture. She said the plans call for gray and tan pavers that complement, rather than match, those used along the Super Bowl-revamped portion of Georgia Street.

A comprehensive redevelopment became more feasible shortly before the Super Bowl in February, when Kite and New York-based Dali Associates LP, which owns the parking garage under Pan Am Plaza, came to terms on a deal allowing Dali to maintain ownership of the garage while Kite builds a large-scale development on top of it.

Kite, which would need to access the garage to build supports for a larger project, won’t pay to use the space under the plaza but will compensate the parking garage operator for any lost revenue during the course of the project.

The owners of the struggling Pan Am Plaza office building are hoping the renovated plaza helps improve the building’s fortunes.

The 12-story, 138,800-square-foot structure is only about 64-percent occupied and showing signs of wear. Most of its first-floor retail space is vacant, its sidewalks are crumbling and the lobby could use an update.

The building was almost 100-percent occupied when a predecessor to Sacramento-based Coastal Partners LLC bought it for $8 million in 2003.

Coastal is planning renovations and improvements as the building leases up—and there are good prospects in the pipeline, said Bennett Williams, a Cassidy Turley office broker who leads the building’s leasing efforts.

The licensed-apparel retailer Lids, which already has a seasonal shop at the building’s east end, plans to add a second location in the former home of the hair salon Meridian Design Studio. And Williams is talking to a couple of potential café suitors for a restaurant space fronting Capitol Avenue across from the Indiana Convention Center.

Leasing interest for the building’s vacant office space also picked up after the Super Bowl, Williams said. His understanding is the plaza renovation will include the street-level outdoor space surrounding the office building.

“Obviously [the Kite project] is a great thing for us,” Williams said. “It’ll help the entire area.”

Jimmy Lee will be happy when Dali cleans up and repairs Pan Am's parking garage, where Lee has operated an auto-detailing business for almost 20 years.

The company has put off maintenance for years, declining to invest until the plaza is water-tight. That moment should arrive by October, putting the ball in Dali's court.

Lee said those who park in the garage often have to carry umbrellas to their cars because water and other substances leak from the ceilings. Rocks have been known to break off and dent cars. A thick layer of dirt and grime coats the garage floor.

Lee had to put up curtains to keep the dust clouds from settling on the cars he cleans.

"This garage is the dirtiest in the city," he said.

Developers have eyed Pan Am Plaza for years, and Browning Investments and a partner proposed an InterContinental convention headquarters hotel for the site in 2007. But the city opted instead to support development of the JW Marriott hotel four blocks west, near White River State Park.

Pan Am Plaza would be a natural site for a future convention hotel. It is adjacent to or within blocks of the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse.


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