Emmis lists Monument Circle HQ for $35M

  • Comments
  • Print
Emmis headquarters on Monument Circle (IBJ file photo)

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that an acquirer of the property would not receive ownership of the parking garage but would have rights to use 250 spaces.

Indianapolis-based Emmis Corp. on Tuesday listed for sale its Monument Circle headquarters, with hopes of securing a buyer that could continue using the building as office space.

The seven-story, 140,000-square-foot structure at 40 Monument Circle was built in 1998 as a dedicated home for Emmis, which was then a growing media company. But in a deal completed in late 2022, it offloaded all of its Indianapolis radio stations in a $25 million deal with Baltimore-based Urban One Inc.

The asking price for the building, which does not includes the adjacent parking garage, is $35 million, said Rebecca Wells, with the Indianapolis office of Cushman & Wakefield. Wells is marketing the property with brokers John Crisp and Spud Dick.

“Our asking price is roughly half the replacement cost for an owner-user to build Class A office with various amenities and attached structured parking,” Wells said in written comments. “Our pricing also reflects the scarcity of available land parcels for an owner-user to develop its own building within the square mile downtown. This is an irreplaceable site and incredibly unique opportunity for an owner-user to establish a presence in the downtown [Indianapolis] market.”

Emmis currently employs about 80 people, 38 of whom work in the Monument Circle building.

Jeff Smulyan, chairman, CEO and founder of Emmis, said he expects to find other space downtown for the company’s new headquarters, if it eventually vacates the property. Smulyan first floated the idea of selling the building in an interview with IBJ last August.

He said while he’s not in a rush to find a new home, he hopes to secure a new user within the next few months.

“We are committed to staying downtown, and personally I love the Circle,” he said. “But it can be today, it could be six months, or could be a couple of years” that the property is sold.

“We’ll take our time. We don’t have to do anything. We’re very, very fortunate and have ended up in wonderful shape … Emmis has no debt and has money in the bank.”

Smulyan said he expects the building will be better suited for continued use as office space, rather than be converted to apartments or entertainment uses. He noted the sale would include a right of first refusal to acquire air rights over the garage for a potential building expansion.

The acquirer would also receive perpetual rights to 250 spaces in the parking garage, but it would not own the garage.

“We think attracting a company that wants to come to Indianapolis or a company who is here but [wants more space], to make it their unique headquarters” would be the best solution, he said. “It’s a unique building and it just doesn’t comport with what we’re doing now at Emmis. But I love the building—I’d stay here forever if it made the most sense, but economically it really doesn’t.”

Early designs of the building, completed in 1998 for a cost of $40 million, called for its upper floors to include retail and have a direct connection to Circle Centre Mall, but the concept was abandoned after plans for The Conrad Indianapolis hotel were first proposed in the early 2000s. The Emmis property also was previously eyed for a third Circle Centre anchor store, but the company was approached to build there after those plans never materialized.

Wells agreed with Smulyan, but said Emmis would keep its options open.

“We will take a multi-faceted approach to marketing the building to all potential users/investors. We suspect that the highest and best use will be achieved by an office user, but we will ensure that developers, who may evaluate an adaptive re-use of the building with a tenant in hand, are aware of the opportunity, as well.”

The broker added the Emmis would be open to a lease-back arrangement with a buyer, and holding on to the seventh floor, if it were to fit with the buyer’s vision. Star Bank has a long-term lease for the building, which is not expected to be affected. Urban One is also operating in the building with a short-term lease of Emmis’ former radio space.

Some parts of the building, including those within the three-story atrium, could be used for restaurants or retailers, Smulyan said.

The Emmis building isn’t the only prime Monument Circle real estate in transition.

For the past six years, the former Anthem Inc. headquarters building at 120 Monument Circle has been mostly vacant, save for a few retail storefronts. In fact, the building is considered one of the most prominent pieces of office real estate available in the city, with four floors and nearly 214,000 square feet.

On the other side of the Circle, Circle Tower is facing potential foreclosure after its owner Expansive allegedly defaulted on its payments for the building.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

13 thoughts on “Emmis lists Monument Circle HQ for $35M

  1. I wonder how difficult this building would be to adapt to apartments/hotels. This part of Downtown has long needed more than just office space – it just took COVID for everybody to wake up and realize it. Nearby conversion projects are promising and should go a long way, but converting this property – which is actually on Monument Circle – would be huge.

    1. I don’t think that residential and / or a hotel should be ruled out for this space.
      The Anthem HQ has been empty since 2018 which shows the weakness of the high profile “corporate office” building in Downtown Indy. Downtown Indy currently has around a 20% office vacancy rate already so I don’t know if the demand is there.
      In a good downtown housing market I think a developer would realize the substantial premium that could be placed living on the circle. This could also be an interesting hybrid development with residential, hotel and retail but I am thinking this sort of Corporate HQ is not the future of Downtown Indy.

    2. Apartments are great and all, but downtown needs office space more than it needs apartments/hotels.

      A central business district uses the word “business” for a reason. A downtown solely devoted to a place where trendy kids can extend childhood and dorm-living for a few more years just isn’t a sustainable model. And half of these buildings don’t convert easily to apartments/hotels anyway. Besides, given the deteriorating conditions (cleanliness, panhandling, safety), how much longer will the Millennials and Gen Zers remain convinced that downtowns are the place to be?

    3. Lauren apparently is unaware that a very large number of Downtown residents are empty-nester couples who moved there to be close to the symphony, IRT, Mass Ave/Bottleworks, etc. They are not all “trendy kids” by any stretch. The Downtown population continues to grow – quite a bit! She makes a good point, however, about whether each building can be turned into residential use. I suspect this one could, however. Parking is an issue, however, if they are to be owned condos (which would be preferred) instead of rented apartments. That said, “central business districts” are now changing across the country to be more residential in nature.

    4. My wife and I are one of those empty nesters that loves all the amenities that are now within walking distance.

    5. GB L–

      Lauren is very aware that more than just “trendy kids” lease units–or buy them as condos/townhomes–in these dwellings. This is certainly better than having a market overwhelmed by just one age group, especially if they tend to be fickle as young people often are.

      But if the Downtown population continues to grow “quite a bit”, shouldn’t we be seeing more of the vacancies left from the 2020 riots getting filled up? The reality is that a huge portion of the businesses downtown survive as spin-offs related to a large base of downtown workers: repro shops, sandwich places, courier services, dry cleaners, housekeeping. With that population of workers down at least 60%, they aren’t coming back. And it’s going to take many, many more permanent residents to move in to build demand once more.

      Without the presence of downtown workers, the feeling of higher-than-average emptiness is just way too much THERE. And with the emptiness getting filled by homeless squatters and criminally minded people, there’s only so many high-income folks who will demand to live downtown for its cultural amenities if the experience is still dirty or unsafe. And, to be frank, the “empty nesters” tend to be more sensitive to that stuff than the trendy kids.

      Sorry to rain on the parade, by I don’t think a downtown with a 60% reduction in office workers is going to feel very vibrant at 1pm on a Tuesday, which matters much more than Friday night at 10pm. If it were, then the little shops on Delaware Street would be opening back up. They aren’t, and neither is City Market.

    6. Obviously doesn’t live downtown and watches too much cable news.

      Our city is thriving. People who are actually a part of our community know it.

      You can’t be a little strip mall suburb of nowhere…

  2. The city should work with Emmis to keep the radio stations operating on
    Monument Circle. Their live broadcasting is an added plus to the atmosphere
    of the Circle experience.

    It’s a visual and should be maintained.

    1. A lot of the shows are syndicated and some of the Indy hosts just broadcast out of their home. If this building gets developed into something people could actually use for entertainment or dining it could lead to a revitalization of the Circle as a place to visit.