State eyes downtown site for $17M archives project

State officials are investigating creating a $17 million headquarters for the state archives on downtown’s American Legion Mall as part of Indiana’s bicentennial celebration.

In a “request for information,” the Indiana Department of Administration has asked real estate developers to submit plans for the project. It would include renovating an existing four-story landmark at 777 N. Meridian St. and building a similar structure to the south that would serve as state-of-the-art storage space.

The Neoclassical limestone building at 777 N. Meridian St. was vacated earlier this year by its main occupant, the Indiana office of the American Legion. State officials have identified it and adjacent land as the primary option to house the archives, said State Archivist Jim Corridan.

The state’s archives—including thousands of priceless documents from Indiana’s founding and before—currently are stored in a dilapidated building at 6440 E. 30th St. They were moved there in 2001 as a temporary measure while the state library was being remodeled, but ended up remaining at the site.

“It’s really not geared to be an archival facility,” Corridan said. “For example, there is no climate control.”

In project parameters outlined for developers, the state has estimated construction costs of $17.3 million. That would include renovating the existing, 36,000-square-foot building and creating a 36,000-square-foot addition to the south.

The addition would house the archives. They include the original 1816 and 1851 state constitutions, and all the laws passed by the Legislature, as well as court decisions, business incorporations, and records of inmates and mental health patients. The total number of documents number more than 300 million pages.

The existing building would serve as office space, including administrative functions for the archives. The “to do” list for shoring up the building includes upgrades to its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, installation of a security system, and exterior restoration.

A prospective construction schedule in the state’s request ballparks July 2015 as the start of renovations, as well as the addition. Work on the existing building would be finished by October 2016, and the addition would be completed by December 2017.

Submissions from developers are due Aug. 29. The Department of Administration is waiting to see what developers suggest before deciding how next to proceed with the project, said State Architect Jason Larrison.

“The request for information provides us with the most amount of flexibility,” Larrison said. “The strength of the submittals we receive will help determine the direction we head in.”

Gov. Mike Pence’s administration envisions the creation of the archive center as part of the state’s 2016 bicentennial celebration, Corridan said.

The Indiana Bicentennial Commission is in the process of fundraising for projects related to the celebration, including the archives, Larrison said.

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