Planned 800-room convention center hotel would carry ritzy, new Hilton flag

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An 800-room downtown hotel slated for construction in Pan Am Plaza across from the Indiana Convention Center would carry the flag of a new Hilton brand focused on conventions and events, the hotelier announced Friday.

Hilton said Indianapolis is one of three markets where it plans to launch the Signia Hilton brand. Atlanta and Orlando are the others.

The Signia is one of two hotels planned alongside a $120 million expansion of the convention center. The hotel would include 80,000 square feet of its own meeting space. (See a rendering of the Signia hotel below; click for larger image.)

signia hilton aerial 258pxDanny Hughes, executive vice president and president, Americas, for Hilton, told IBJ in an email the Signia brand will “offer everything that’s necessary to host great events,” including high-end technology and ritzy cuisine.

“The addition of Signia Hilton will help the city compete for the next level of meetings and conventions, bringing more business into Indianapolis,” he said.

The 38-story Signia project is one of two Hilton-brand hotels planned by Indianapolis-based developer Kite Realty Group Trust for the Pan Am Plaza site on the southeast corner of Capitol Avenue and Georgia Street, directly across from the Indiana Convention Center. The neighboring second hotel, which would feature 600 rooms, has not yet been given a brand designation.

Last fall, Kite President Tom McGowan declined to release the cost of the hotels, saying “the numbers will continue to evolve” as it negotiates with CIB on a final deal. Hospitality-industry observers say convention-center hotels almost always receive government subsidies to make them financial viable, and they expect that will be the case with the Pan Am Plaza hotels.

Projected completion dates also have not been made public, although it is unlikely—given the need to finalize financing for the project and the normal construction timeline of two years for massive hotel projects—that the hotels will be completed in time for the 2022 College Football Playoff Championship.

The Signia would be the city's second-largest hotel, behind only the 1,005-room JW Marriott that opened in 2011.

It's considered a key component of plans to expand the city's capacity for hosting large conventions. The $120 million convention center expansion on the same block as the Signia would include a 50,000-square-foot ballroom—the largest in the state—plus additional meeting space and a skybridge.

The Indiana Legislature is considering a bill that would make available tax funds to pay for the expansion.

In a news release, Hilton trumpeted the Signia brand as giving “business and leisure travelers elevated experiences from arrival to departure.”

Among its offerings will be digital room entry keys, infinity pools, a high-end bar and a signature restaurant.

The hotelier said the Signia brand was developed from feedback by developers, hotel owners, and top meeting professionals.

Hilton has 36 hotels in the Indianapolis market, including the luxury Conrad Indianapolis and the Hilton Indianapolis Hotel & Suites downtown.

Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy, called Hilton’s decision to open a Signia-branded hotel in Indianapolis “a big win for the city,” and noted it could play a role in raising the city’s profile with event planners.

“Adding a new Hilton brand to the Indianapolis skyline will help sophisticate the city as a whole,” he said. “It will help attract new convention business and interest to the convention center expansion.”

The promise of new rooms connected to the convention center already helped Indianapolis in recent months win long-term commitments from two major events with longstanding ties to the city: GenCon and the FFA convention.

Indianapolis-based Ratio Architects is the designer on the hotels and convention center expansion.

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