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.