Three developers respond to call for downtown hotel plans

Three developers have submitted bids to build a large downtown hotel that would rival the 1,004-room JW Marriott and likely would include ballroom space integral to attracting more conventions to the city.

The city's Capital Improvement Board, which is spearheading the effort, received the proposals on March 1, CIB Executive Director Barney Levengood said at Friday morning’s meeting of the board. City and hospitality officials in January began laying the groundwork for development a new hotel.

The developers responded to a “request for information,” and CIB officials will have 45 days to follow up with the developers and request more information. An RFI is different than a “request for proposals” and encourages private entities to float proposals for projects without concern that the details would be made public.

Indeed, CIB officials did not share any details from the proposals or the identities of the developers during Friday's meeting.

Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops was encouraged by the level of interest.

“You never know if you’re going to get zero or five,” he said.

Hoops told CIB members that downtown currently has 800 hotel rooms in the pipeline. The projects include the 316-room dual-branded Hyatt Place and Hyatt House rising across Pennsylvania Street from Bankers Life Fieldhouse; the 146-room extended stay TownePlace Suites by Marriott hotel under construction two blocks east of Lucas Oil Stadium; and a 197-room dual Hampton Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton that’s planned on the site of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church at 414 W. Vermont St.

In addition, a 130-room Kimpton hotel is scheduled to open in early 2020 in the 16-story One North Penn building at the northeast corner of Washington and Pennsylvania streets.

A study conducted by Visit Indy indicated that downtown could absorb the 800 rooms, and more, if a 45,000- to 60,000-square-foot ballroom were built along with a large new hotel. The ballroom would accompany the hotel project but also could be attached to the Indiana Convention Center, Hoops said.

At the moment, the convention center’s largest event space, the Sagamore Ballroom, is 32,000 square feet.  

“It’s turned into a little bit of an arms race,” he said, referring to the pace by which certain cities are adding more ballroom space.

Downtown hotel occupancy has been hovering above 70 percent since the JW Marriott debuted in 2011. That bodes well for the chances of another large hotel being added to the downtown inventory, since downtown hotel occupancy before the JW Marriott opened was around 65 percent or slightly higher, Hoops said.

“No one expected us to absorb it that fast,” he said.

The new hotel could open as soon as 2021. The location of the hotel would depend on the individual proposal.

New Lucas Oil turf

Also at Friday’s meeting, the CIB approved spending $452,505 to have new turf installed at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The stadium is 10 years old, and, per the CIB’s lease agreement with the Indianapolis Colts, the group is obligated to replace the playing surface every 10 years, Levengood said.

Cincinnati-based The Motz Group has been hired to install the turf.

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