Museum-hotel chain plans location on old City Hall property


Louisville-based 21c Museum Hotels plans to build a hotel on a surface parking lot north of the old City Hall as part of a larger redevelopment of the property, real estate sources familiar with the deal said.

The small chain, which operates three boutique hotel-museum properties, is scheduled on Thursday afternoon to announce a deal with the city to develop the property on the city-owned lot.

Sherry Seiwert, president of promotional group Downtown Indy, declined to provide details for the project, but said the property is poised for redevelopment.

“There is a proposed reuse on the table for old City Hall that would involve new construction and redevelopment of the old City Hall,” Seiwert told reporters at a Wednesday morning press conference.

Downtown Indy held the event to provide an update on downtown development already under way or in the pipeline. All told, 58 projects represent nearly $1.4 billion in investment, the group said. A list of those projects is here.

Adam Thies, director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development, didn’t immediately return a phone call to IBJ seeking comment on the 21c project. Neither did a spokeswoman for 21c.

The 21c project would include a redevelopment of the old City Hall involving an art-related reuse, sources said. 21c brands itself as an operator of hotels and contemporary art museums. Its name pays homage to the 21st century.

The hotel’s eclectic vibe has gained notice since contemporary art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson opened the first 21c property in Louisville in 2006.

Readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine voted the 91-room 21c Louisville location among the top 10 hotels in the world in its 2009, 2010 and 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards.

Other 21c properties have since opened in Cincinnati and Bentonville, Arkansas. Another is scheduled to open in Durham, North Carolina, early this year. Others are in the works for Oklahoma City; Lexington, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; and Kansas City, Missouri. The company said it hopes to have about 15 properties in the next five to 10 years.

Indianapolis city leaders have considered converting the old City Hall property into a hotel for at least a few years.

In 2013, the Washington, D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation held its annual conference in Indianapolis and floated ideas on how to revive the old City Hall. An upscale hotel, brewery and event center were among the suggestions.

The building opened in 1910 and housed city offices until the arrival of the City-County Building in 1962. Then, the Indiana State Museum introduced two generations of schoolchildren to its gravitational pendulum, which swung from the 85-foot open rotunda. In 2002, the Indiana State Museum moved to White River State Park. The building then housed the interim Central Library until 2007.

The state since has handed ownership of the building to the city and, more recently, the adjacent parking lot as part of a land swap with the city. In return, the city handed the state a tract of land along the Central Canal.

Meanwhile, downtown Indianapolis has become an attractive market for smaller hotels.

The Hilton chain announced in September that it will open a 102-room hotel as part of the redevelopment of a historic building at 115 N. Pennsylvania St. The hotel, a Home2 Suites by Hilton, is scheduled to be built in what’s known as the annex of the Consolidated Building, which is at the rear of the vacant, 15-story structure.

TWG Development LLC and Ambrose Property Group are investing $16 million to transform most of the century-old, brick and terra cotta Consolidated Building, now known as Penn Street Tower, into 98 market-rate apartments, with first-floor retail or restaurant space.

The Home2 Suites by Hilton should open early next year.

Also, Hilton announced in October that a Canopy by Hilton is coming to the 10-story Illinois Building just off of Monument Circle. The hotel is part of a redevelopment of the 10-story building at Illinois and Market streets led by Keystone Realty Group.

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