City, CIB break ground on $800M hotel, convention center expansion

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The planned Signia by Hilton, the tallest building in the rendering, is to be 40 stories tall with more than 800 rooms. (Rendering courtesy of Kite Realty Group Trust)

Indianapolis municipal and tourism leaders on Tuesday held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center on Pan Am Plaza, a milestone for a project that has been in the works for five years.

The development is expected to consist of two components: a $250 million expansion of the convention center, including a 50,000-square-foot ballroom, along with meeting and pre-function space; and a towering, 800-room Signia by Hilton-brand hotel with a current price tag of about $510 million.

The ceremony follows months of construction work beneath the plaza to stabilize certain structures, like Pan Am Tower, and prepare the site for a three-year buildout.

“Over the past decades, the Indiana Convention Center has hosted some of the most iconic large events in Indiana and America, while generating billions of dollars in economic impact and supporting a hospitality and service sector with over 80,000 jobs,” Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in written remarks. “This latest expansion and hotel addition will keep Indianapolis at the top of everyone’s list when it comes to the perfect host venue—and city.”

Hogsett spoke during the event, as did City-County Council President Vop Osili, Capital Improvement Board of Managers Executive Director Andy Mallon and Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops. More than a dozen leaders of major conventions that hold their events in Indianapolis attended the event.

The expansion—the first since 2011, when the JW Marriott was built—is necessary to make Indianapolis more competitive with other major convention cities, in addition to being needed to help the city hang on to existing events, city and tourism officials have said.

The city of Indianapolis announced earlier this year that it plans to finance the project itself through municipal hotel revenue bonds, after longtime partner and Indianapolis-based developer Kite Realty Group Trust—selected by the CIB to marshal the project in 2018—determined it could not secure financing on the private market at reasonable enough interest rates.

The Indianapolis City-County Council in June voted to permit the city to take out up to $625 million in bonds for the project, leveraged against revenue generated by the property, instead of existing or new tax revenue. The figure accounts for financing costs as well as multiple reserve accounts in the event of a shortfall.

Kite remains involved in the project as a development partner, but will not have an ownership stake once the project is completed. The general contractor is AECOM Hunt and Ratio Design is the architect.

More than 2,500 construction workers are expected to be involved in the project by the time it’s completed.

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13 thoughts on “City, CIB break ground on $800M hotel, convention center expansion

  1. Columbus, Ohio is spending $$$$ on their convention center and surrounding hotels – The Hilton Tower in Columbus is open and will pull in a lot of Trade Show events

    1. Downtown Columbus is still rather boring (and small), outside the Short North. And their convention center still doesn’t come close to what Indy has to offer, despite their recent investments.

    1. N’ville and C’bus and L’ville have been competing with Indy for years. Yawn. They should be worried about Indy. Indy has been punching above its weight class for years. Has been competing with Minneapolis and St Louis and Denver and Chicago and bigger cities, successfully, for a long time. But, Indy should not rest on its successes. Needs to be constantly improving the downtown product. The zoo expansion is a good start. Plus Indy needs to pursue more high-end restaurants downtown. Don’t screw up the opportunity in the Circle Center redevelopment. Never underestimate Indy. Many cities have done so at their peril over the years…

    2. I hate to break it to you all but Nashville is in the tier above Indianapolis when it comes to cities.

    3. Your opinion. Nashville one of the most over-rated cities in the country. And indy is bigger. Yawn.

    4. Indy is certainly more overrated than Nashville,, which is an opinion. But Nashville is a gamma city as classified by GaWC – which is fact. Indy is technically larger than NYC, but it is no NYC. Indy is an artificially large city due to UniGov, which itself is a driver of many of the citys inability to develop properly. As large as it may be, its density is laughable.

    5. Murray R. you do realize that a lot of cities use a unitive system right? Indy didn’t invent that. Indy is larger than ATL when you compare the two by population of their city limits. What makes ATL larger is when you add ATL’s suburbs. Nashville is definitely getting its fair share of attention but it’s not head and shoulders above Indy. If you think it is than most of that is subjective but a simple google to see that Indy has as many if not more Fortune 500 companies than Nashville, let alone Indiana has more as a state than Tennessee

  2. It’s difficult to compete with Indy with a connection to an NFL stadium. Finally another skyscraper after many years of no additions to the skyline.

  3. Great news! Indy must seek to not only be a competitive option to cities such as Columbus and Nashville, but should seek to be the best and premier locale for conventions. To be the prime convention city, at least among peer cities, Indy must conscienciously and continuously assess options for the future that render the city in a positive and attractive light.

    Nashville has a well know music scene and is broadly considered a growth magnet. Yes, it is indeed growing faster than Indy and is perceived as a welcoming and interesting location for younger professionals, businesses, and varied lifestyles.

    Columbus, being home to a major university, also capitalizes (no pun) on a younger population that give the city a open, welcoming and attractive atmosphere. And, much better investment in sidewalk, street lighting, roadway, parks and freeway unsightliness mitigation render it a more attractive city overall.

    Too much of Indy looks tired — despite the city respect gained through Good Bones. And, regressive statehouse legislation and nastiness by the AG do not go unnoticed nationally and paint an unpleasant face on Indiana.

    1. You make a valid point on your comparisons of Indy vs Nashville and Columbus but what you overlooked was Indys thriving northern suburbs that are on the list of top places to live in the nation. Carmel and Fishers both have lured companies to move their HQ’s to both cities and now both have tech parks built to lure tech companies. Noblesville has also jumped in the mix with building a tech park and a new staduim for the Indiana Pacers G league team to move from Ft Wayne to Noblesville. My point is, Indys suburbs helps to make the entire metro very strong economicalluy compared to Nashville and Columbus. So more seasoned professionals that want to raise a family and looking for good schools for their kids might choose Indy over its peers. Hamilton County alone has over 300k residents and growing. In the long run, Indys suburbs being successful is huge for Indy. Look at the tech park being built in Lebanon. Lets not forget Indy was on the top 20 finalist list of cities Amazon was considering to move its second HQ to.

    2. Some valid points, Derek. I’d like to offer some counterpoints:

      Whole Nashville has been growing rapidly, it is difficult sometimes to see how that growth sustains itself. Nashville, as a whole, has some of the worst infrastructure I’ve encountered in a major US city. You thought the sidewalk situation in Indy was mess? Nashville says “Hold my beer!”. And it’s not just the sidewalks (or lack of). I don’t know how much more growth the already lacking infrastructure can handle.

      As for Columbus, I don’t know that regressive statehouse legislation is any more a concern in Indy than it would be in Columbus. Ohio has shown in recent voting cycles that it is leaning more and more red. Downtown Columbus, outside of the Short North, still doesn’t even come close to matching Indy’s overall walkability and scope of attractions, IMO.

      As long as Indy keeps investing in it’s amenities, there are few peer cities that can match our suitability as a convention destination.

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