Latest plan for natatorium includes IUPUI expansion

The city of Indianapolis, IUPUI and Lilly Endowment are close to unveiling a plan to renovate the Indiana University Natatorium that will include broader changes to give the campus a stronger downtown presence.

Mayor Greg Ballard's office plans to announce the deal soon, according to members of the Metropolitan Development Commission.

Director of Metropolitan Development Adam Thies briefly mentioned the pending announcement Wednesday to the commission during a regular meeting conducted before official proceedings. The pre-meeting, as it's known, is open to the public but not recorded.

The deal will likely involve the city's contributing money from the downtown tax-increment finance fund, a move that requires the Metropolitan Development Commission's approval.

Ballard's initial plan for the city to give IUPUI about $9.5 million to help renovate the aging natatorium in time for the 2016 Olympic diving trials hit a wall with the City-County Council, but the TIF money is controlled by the nine-member Metropolitan Development Commission, where the mayor's five appointees make up a majority.

The plan goes well beyond the natatorium, MDC member Adam Kirsch said, citing Thies' description. It would give IUPUI a presence east of West Street, which divides the college campus from the rest of downtown, and it would tie IUPUI into the Haughville neighborhood west of the White River.

Thies told the commission that Lilly Endowment would provide $10 million, but he did not mention how much IUPUI and the city would contribute, Kirsch said.

Kirsch said Thies promised commission members that they would be briefed on details of the plan before it's widely announced. A Democrat and appointee of the City-County Council, Kirsch said he's not sure how he would vote on it.

"Once you get into TIF funds, decisions get more complicated," he said.

Thies was not immediately available for comment.

MDC member Cassie Stockamp, a recent mayoral appointee, said Thies sounded enthusiastic about the plan, and she's waiting for the details.

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