Children’s Museum, Salvation Army reach ‘settlement in principle’ over property spat

Childrens Museum 2col
The Children's Museum of Indianapolis (File photo)

The Salvation Army has reached a preliminary settlement in its legal dispute with the neighboring Children’s Museum of Indianapolis over the museum's $35 million outdoor expansion project.

The Salvation Army sued against the museum in May, claiming the museum's planned sports-related attraction would interfere with its property rights and ability to conduct operations.

The Children’s Museum faced a Monday deadline to respond to the Salvation’s Army’s May 25 complaint. Instead, both parties asked Marion Superior Court Judge Thomas Carroll to stay the proceedings so that they could come to an agreement out of court. He granted the request.

“The parties recently reached a settlement in principle in this matter and are now working cooperatively to draft and finalize formal settlement documentation,” lawyers for the two wrote. “The parties, however, need additional time to finalize settlement documents and otherwise resolve remaining matters.”

A spokeswoman for the Children’s Museum acknowledged the settlement plans but declined further comment.

"The Salvation Army continues to work with The Children’s Museum toward an amicable solution, and we’re encouraged by the positive progress made thus far," the Salvation Army said Tuesday in an email to IBJ. "We look forward to providing additional updates at the appropriate time."

The Children’s Museum is building its attraction, called the Riley Children’s Health Legends Sports Experience, directly north of the museum. The project is bounded by North Illinois Street on the west and will wrap around the west and north sides of the Salvation Army’s Indiana divisional headquarters at 3100 N. Meridian St.

In its lawsuit, the Salvation Army says it has easement rights on the property owned by the museum that allow it access to Illinois Street and give it overflow parking rights.

The Salvation Army asserts in its suit that it acquired the easement rights through a 1993 land swap with the museum. The suit says those easement rights not only give the charity direct access to Illinois Street but allow it to use portions of the parking lots for overflow parking during special events hosted by the headquarters.

Construction of the museum’s project is preventing the Salvation Army from using the easements and, if the project is completed as planned, will permanently deprive the organization of its property rights, the Salvation Army says in its complaint.

The easements are west of the Salvation Army’s headquarters and run from the building’s parking lot directly to Illinois Street.

In its site plan for the project, the Children’s Museum provides the Salvation Army access to Illinois Street via an unpaved path that meanders through the outdoor sports experience, Maj. Robert Webster, commander of the Salvation Army’s Indiana division, told IBJ in May.

The Children’s Museum is building the sports park on 7.5 acres. The indoor/outdoor attraction will include activities from a variety of sports, including basketball, football, golf, running, tennis, soccer and motorsports.

IBJ reported the museum’s expansion plans in May 2016 and the museum formally announced the project the following month, as it neared its $35 million fundraising goal.

The sports park is set to open in the spring of 2018. Plans had been in the works since at least 2012, when the museum purchased both The Drake and The Whitestone apartment buildings to the north of the museum from Indianapolis-based Zender Family Limited Partnership for $1 million each. The Whitestone has been torn down to make way for the expansion.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis was created in 1925 and moved to its current location at 3000 N. Meridian St. in 1946. The facility, which is the nation’s largest children’s museum, encompasses 472,900 square feet under roof and houses 120,000 artifacts.

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