Hogsett explores shopping City-County Building, other downtown properties

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The City-County Building could be put on the market for private redevelopment after Indianapolis officials conduct a comprehensive, all-options-on-the-table review of major municipal buildings downtown and how they're used.

Mayor Joe Hogsett plans to discuss the initiative to rethink the city's space needs at his State of the City address Monday night. Other properties under the microscope include Old City Hall, the Marion County Jail and the 500-space East Market Street parking garage.

Hundreds of government workers will begin leaving the 28-story City-County Building at 200 E. Washington St. once the city's $572 million criminal justice center is finished in late 2021. Construction on the campus is set to begin this summer on the former Citizens Energy coke plant site on the southeast side.

City officials estimate that at least half of the 734,447-square-foot City-County Building will be vacant, leading them to assess the future of the structure and whether it might be attractive to private developers. The city has not received an estimate yet on how much the property might be worth on the open market, said Thomas Cook, Hogsett's chief of staff.

Bill Ehret, managing director of brokerage Avison Young’s local office, said a mix of office space and apartments would make the most sense, especially with the recent additions of the Cummins office building and 360 Market apartment tower just east.

“It’s a great building in a very good location with good surrounding amenities,” said Ehret, noting that city officials are “smart” to be re-evaluating the footprint of local government.

One option the city is considering is moving remaining employees at the City-County Building, once the justice center is built, to Old City Hall at 202 N. Alabama St.

City officials last year issued a “request for information” to relaunch the process of redeveloping the 107-year-old limestone building at the northwest corner of Ohio and Alabama streets, after the 21c hotel project fell apart.

The city in August received 11 responses, one of which recommended converting Old City Hall into a “new city hall,” Cook said. The future of the building, however, remains up in the air.

“We’re likely not making a decision on redevelopment of Old City Hall until we have a holistic idea of what the overall real estate recommendation will be,” he said.

The city has hired the Indianapolis-based firms Browning Investments and Core Planning Strategies as consultants to explore the best options for redeveloping city-owned property. The report should be ready next year, Cook said.

The long-term redevelopment plan also will explore how to incorporate the city-owned Marion County Jail at 40 S. Alabama St. and the East Market Street parking garage (on the northeast corner of Market and New Jersey streets) into the mix.

At the City-County Building, it’s also possible that either the smaller east or west wings, or both, could house city government, and the tower alone be redeveloped.

“Those floor plates don’t line up,” said Jeff Bennett, the city’s deputy mayor of community development. “It’s really three different buildings. There are lots of things that could be done when you think of the City-County Building as three separate buildings.”

But what could make the City-County Building particularly marketable for private development is its 600-space underground parking garage, Bennett said.

Despite any challenges that might exist, Jon Owens, an office broker at Cushman & Wakefield, predicted private developers will be very interested in the building.

“From a location perspective, that footprint of property is only going to increase in value going forward,” he said. “Clearly, there is an opportunity to redevelop the building.”

The property sits within the new Market East tax-increment-financing district established by the City-County Council in November 2016.

The City-County Building was completed in 1962 at a cost of $22 million and is no longer efficient in serving the public in a digital age, Cook said.

To put the age of the City-County Building in perspective, city government has been operating there longer than it did at Old City Hall, which opened in 1910.

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