The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis announced Friday that it will challenge the city’s designation of the Drake apartment building as a historic property, which—if successful—could allow it to tear down the Meridian Street structure to make room for future expansion.
The museum issued a statement saying that it has not been successful in its efforts to find a developer to renovate and operate the 94-year-old building and that it has done all it can to help the city find a reuse, to no avail.
The museum was not specific about how it planned to challenge the designation or whether it planned to file a lawsuit against the city.
“Given the current impact of the pandemic on the museum and its recent budget and staff reductions, the museum cannot afford additional short-term or long-term revenue losses, as the Drake has no direct or immediate mission-related nor revenue-related opportunities for the museum if it remains designated as historic,” the museum said.
The museum bought the eight-story building at 3060 N. Meridian St., just north of the museum’s existing complex, in 2012 for $1.25 million. At the time, the building was occupied and was not designated a historic property.
Tenants moved out in 2016 as the building’s condition continued to deteriorate.
Then in July 2019, the Children’s Museum announced it planned to raze the building, along with the former Salvation Army headquarters building nearby, to make way for new exhibits and parking.
Those plans were thwarted that September, when the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission approved measures to add the Drake building to the Marion County Register of Historic Places and create a historic area plan for the site.
The museum said in its statement Friday that the commission acted without “proper notice to and participation from” the museum.
At the time, however, Bill Browne, president of the IHPC, said that officials from the commission and the Department of Metropolitan Development had met with museum leaders in August, shortly after the museum announced its decision to demolish the Drake. But in the weeks after the meeting, he said, museum officials were unresponsive to efforts by the city and IHPC to ascertain whether the museum is willing to budge on its plans.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission approved the designation later in 2019.
The museum said the designation “will inhibit the museum’s ability to use this property to continue to grow its campus and expand its services to the community.”
In a statement, the museum touted its past efforts to expand its campus, adding the Riley Children’s Health Sports Legends Experience and Winona Green Space in the last few years, moves it says has helped it maintain its status as a top children’s museum that is among the 25 most-visited museums in North America.
“Imposing a historic area preservation plan for the Drake without a concomitant budget and plan for renovation would commit the museum to ongoing costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, with no benefit to the museum’s mission, our efforts to serve the community, or our visitors,” the statement said.