The Indianapolis Airport Authority expects to receive federal approval by the end of 2022 to decommission the Indianapolis Downtown Heliport—a crucial step in the ongoing effort to redevelop the property.
The authority and the city of Indianapolis on Wednesday confirmed the heliport—south of Washington Street between New Jersey and East streets—could be closed to air traffic later this year by the Federal Aviation Administration. The city and airport authority last year confirmed to IBJ their plans to make the facility available for redevelopment proposals that could include multifamily, retail or commercial uses.
“Our current understanding remains that the FAA will tentatively approve the decommissioning of the heliport by the end of 2022, which opens the door for a new use on the site,” Scarlett Andrews, director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development, said in written comments. “In the meantime, we are evaluating infrastructure connectivity that would support a dense mixed-use Heliport District. This redevelopment project is incredibly unique in location and scale as we envision the future of the Market East District and its connection to Gainbridge Fieldhouse and the Convention District.”
The heliport, which opened in 1969 as Beeline Heliport, sits on 4.9 acres at 51 S. New Jersey St. The property extends west to east from New Jersey Street to East Street, between Pearl Street to the north and an active set of railroad tracks to the south. It’s surrounded by a 5.3-acre parking lot, a few smaller surface lots and a Best Western Plus hotel.
Officials with the airport authority said in a statement that a relocation plan for the Indiana University Health Lifeline operations—its only tenant—must still be finalized.
“The IAA’s goal is to receive tentative approval from the FAA by the end of 2022,” the statement said. “Overall, we are committed to the spirit and terms of a memorandum of understanding executed with the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development in July of 2021 that will result in revitalization of the area surrounding the heliport.”
The agreement between the city and authority calls for the pair to collaborate on a sale of the property, either to the city directly or to a third party. In either case, the buyer will be required to pay fair market value for the property.
Once the property is decommissioned by the FAA, the city and airport authority will be able to put out a formal request for proposals on the property, but a specific timeline for that has not yet been finalized. The property cannot be marketed, put out for bid or sold until it is decommissioned for aviation uses.
Local real estate experts have told IBJ they expect there to be strong interest in the property, particularly for developers that can incorporate neighboring parcels or sites like the Marion County Jail, which sits a few blocks west, into their plans. The jail will no longer be used once inmates are transferred to the new Criminal Justice Campus southeast of downtown. City officials confirmed that a future heliport district could still include an aviation component, but didn’t offer specifics. Such an element would require further approval by the FAA.
Another potential development opportunity could arise from the recent sale of the Adult and Child Services building at 603 E. Washington St., to a Fort Wayne-based company. Sweet Real Estate quietly acquired the property for $8.2 million in late September according to Marion County property records.
But the company hasn’t yet said what it plans to do with the site, which consists of a 10-story building on a 2.45-acre lot adjacent to the heliport. Remaining tenants in the building are expected to vacate the property by late 2023.
Sweet Real Estate is one of several companies owned by Fort Wayne firm Surack Enterprises Inc. Its holdings include Sweetwater—the largest online retailer in the United States for musical instruments—as well as multiple aviation- and helicopter-related companies.
A representative for Sweet Real Estate did not return a call requesting comment for this story.