City officials are taking initial steps to acquire the Drake apartment building from The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis as part of an ongoing effort to preserve the structure.
According to city filings, the Department of Metropolitan Development this week plans to ask the Metropolitan Development Commission for permission to purchase the 0.8-acre property at 3060 N. Meridian St. A purchase price and timeline have not yet been finalized.
The Drake has been a often-discussed property since the museum said in mid-2019 that it planned to raze the 95-year-old building as part of a larger real estate effort to make space for additional exhibits and parking.
The move eventually led to what’s now been a two-year legal battle between the museum and city development officials after the city in September 2020 had the building added to the Marion County Register of Historic Places to prevent it from being demolished without an extensive approval process.
The museum sued the city for the move, claiming it was denied due process in the city’s decision to abruptly add the matter to its docket for a hearing.
Despite the lawsuit—now stalled in federal court—the city and the museum have continued to discuss behind closed doors ways to salvage the building, whether through a new development partnership or the city potentially buying the Drake outright.
According to the resolution that the MDC is considering, the city has already gone through a due diligence process that included determining the land’s value and “negotiation of other issues to facilitate a settlement for voluntary disposition” of the Drake to the city. The city confirmed plans to buy the Drake, but declined further comment.
The MDC’s authorization, which could come as early as its meeting on Wednesday, would allow the city to move forward with its efforts.
“We are encouraged by our ongoing conversations with the city, and this is a necessary step in continuing our forward progress in this area,” Audra Blasdel, vice president of operations for the museum, said in written comments. “There are still several steps left to complete, but again, we continue to be encouraged by the progress we are making together.”
Blasdel did not elaborate on what additional steps would be required to close a sale or what the museum was looking for in terms of asking price.
The eight-story Drake has been vacant since 2016, when the last of its tenants left the property due to its deteriorating condition. The museum has said it’s sought to find a developer to renovate and operate the Drake since acquiring it in 2012 for $1.25 million, but has been unsuccessful in multiple attempts.
The most recent effort came in September 2021, when the museum selected Van Rooy Properties as a potential partner on a redevelopment following a request for inquiries process, but those plans failed to move forward.
If the city were to acquire the apartment building, it would have to go through its own processes to find a potential development partner, much as it has for prominent properties in the downtown area over the past year, including City Market East and the former Jail II site on the near-east side.
It’s likely the city would be able to incorporate incentives into any deal that retains the Drake’s historic character—particularly projects focused on affordable apartments. Even so, it’s not yet clear how long the process of acquiring the property and putting such a project out to bid might take.