Herb Simon-backed group proposes $250M two-tower project across from fieldhouse

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The as-yet-unnamed hotel and apartment combo would be located on the southwest corner of Pennsylvania and Georgia streets, across from Gainbridge Fieldhouse. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Indianapolis)

An investment group led by the Herb Simon family has filed a preliminary plan to demolish the century-old CSX building across the street from Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis and replace it with two high-rise buildings containing a hotel, apartments and retail space. The development carries a estimated price tag of $250 million.

According to documents submitted to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission by Indianapolis-based Ratio Design—the architect of record for the project—the proposed development at 230 S. Pennsylvania St. would include a 26-story apartment tower and a 16-story hotel, and would feature an elevated walkway connecting to the fieldhouse.

Boxcar Development LLC, an investment group led by the Herb Simon family—which also owns Pacers Sports & Entertainment—is behind the project, according to Phil Bayt, an attorney for Ice Miller LLP who represents Boxcar.

The 16-story tower proposed for the southwest corner of Georgia and Pennsylvania streets would have 225 hotel rooms and nearly 18,000 square feet of retail space. The 26-story structure would be built directly south, along Pennsylvania Street, with 254 apartments, nearly 4,800 square feet of retail space and a 700-space parking garage.

“This project is going to activate a long-vacant building with a new complex consisting of housing and hospitality,” Bayt said. “It will complement and amplify the $125 million that’s already been invested by the Simon family in the Wholesale District, including at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.”

If built as planned, the apartment tower would be the tallest structure in terms of floors since the 28-story 360 Market Square tower was completed in 2018 on the former site of Market Square Arena.

The hotel would have a mezzanine style second-floor lobby and amenities on the third floor, along with an undisclosed rooftop amenity. The main entrance would be along Georgia Street and a drop-off area along Pennsylvania Street. At least 51 spaces in the garage would be for hotel guests, with another 21 for event parking.

Bayt said a hotel operator has not yet been designated for the project.

The building’s retail space would be split between three areas, including a 9,400-square-foot space along Georgia Street and a 4,600-square-foot space on the corner. A third space—about 3,840 square feet—would be connected to the hotel lobby on the second floor, although plans indicate it could be used by the first-floor retailer directly below. The hotel would also have a bar and two terrace spaces in the lobby area, along with the fieldhouse bridge.

The entrances to the apartment tower’s parking garage and lobby would each be along South Pennsylvania Street. A 4,600-square-foot market is proposed for part of the first floor retail space, along with a 1,060-square foot lounge. The amenities planned for the apartment tower include an outdoor pool and a rooftop deck area, along with multiple green spaces.

The new structures would utilize curtain wall systems, glazed brick masonry and granite in their design.

The CSX building, built in 1923, is also known as the Indiana Terminal warehouse building. The five-story, 231,400-square-foot building has been used as offices, shops and storage since its construction and was connected directly to the rail line that crosses over Pennsylvania Street. Designed by notable Indianapolis architectural firm Rubush and Hunter, it has a reinforced concrete frame and brick exterior walls.

The hotel-and-apartment combo would have 254 apartments and 225 hotel units. (Rendering courtesy of the city of Indianapolis)

The property is listed through the Indianapolis and Chicago offices of brokerage JLL for an undisclosed price. A sale of the property is expected to be contingent on necessary city approvals for its redevelopment, including demolition of the existing structure.

In its submittal for the project, Ratio said at least six redevelopment studies have been conducted on the property over the past 22 years—most of them since 2015. A 2019 study called for the building to be repurposed into self-storage, office uses and a hotel, including the addition of seven stories to part of the existing structure.

Others have considered co-working space, an extended-stay hotel development and a development similar to the current proposal that included apartments and a 14-story hotel.

But the firm said all past proposals have been hindered by the building itself, which has low ceiling heights, poor column spacing and a cacophony of other architectural issues that make repurposing the building a challenge.

Bayt said he did not know if the development group would pursue tax-increment financing or incentives to subsidize the effort. The site is located within a qualified Opportunity Zone, meaning the developers could receive substantial tax breaks by investing capital gains into the site.

The filing said a rehabilitation did not make financial sense.

The “acquisition cost, combined with anticipated rehabilitation costs to create a project that will be a substandard, non-competitive facility … does not provide for a reasonable return on investment even taking into account potential historic tax credits, tax increment financing and the benefits of the Opportunity Zone,” the filing said of a possible rehab project. “In fact, multiple scenarios of the rehabilitation of the building all yield a negative return on investment.”

“Having studied the rehabilitation of this building extensively, it is clear that the physical limitations of the building, coupled with the purchase price, render the building unusable from an economic standpoint.”

The proposed project would span over three parcels totaling about 1.8 acres. The entirety of the hotel portion of the development is within the city’s historic Wholesale District, while only part of the apartment tower site would carry that designation.

To move forward with the project, the IHPC must give its support for demolition of the existing building. It also must approve the portion of the proposed project that is within the district’s boundaries.

The site also would need to be rezoned to CBD-2, which allows for multifamily and hotel uses downtown. A variance might also be required for the sky exposure plane because of the height of the buildings.

The project is set for a preliminary review by the IHPC on Wednesday, May 4. The hearing will allow the development team to receive feedback on the project. The developer would be required to return for another meeting with the IHPC if it decides to move forward with the project.

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47 thoughts on “Herb Simon-backed group proposes $250M two-tower project across from fieldhouse

  1. Can we all agree to stop quoting people when they say “we’re not sure if we’re going to ask for a tax break”. Anyone building anything IS going to ask for a tax break. It’s just a question of how much.

    1. I’m glad they finally paid attention to all the comments you’ve made over the years. Indy really needs to step it up in developing a more dense downtown. Nashville Tn, has leapfrogged Indy. Their downtown has grown dramatically.

  2. Nice infill to add to density of downtown. But need more true skyscrapers. When is the Signia breaking ground. I worry that the actual building won’t at all live up yo the initial renderings. Seems like that’s what developers do all the time in indy. Show amazing renderings, get approval…then build a POS that looks nothing like original renderings. Elanco .

    1. Nice infill to add to density of downtown. But need more true skyscrapers. When is the Signia breaking ground. I worry that the actual building won’t at all live up yo the initial renderings. Seems like that’s what developers do all the time in indy. Show amazing renderings, get approval…then build a POS that looks nothing like original renderings. Elanco .

    2. Signia is set to break ground later this year. It’s still a go, but they’ve not released any final renderings. I too am a bit wary as to the final design, especially given substantial increases in construction costs. We could end up with a bit of a watered down version. Hope not.

    3. There was an IBJ article on Feb 9 about an NBA 2k league using the pan am pavilion through August with demolition of the pavilion to begin thereafter. So sounds like demo will happen second half 2022 and probably start seeing a building take shape sometime in 2023.

  3. I would suggest they just stack the buildings on top of each other. Make it a true mix use development. That would make it a 42 story building. Now that would be a bit more impressive but this is a moderate start.

  4. As Kevin P said, Nashville, TN has leapfrogged Indy. The rate Nashville is growing they may surpass Indy, in getting conventions. In order to maintain the convention status Indy has enjoyed, the current and future administrations must remain open to new ideas. Don’t be so “turtle” slow on making decisions when it comes to new construction and things to do downtown. Growing downtown Indy in all directions should continue, while adding stuff to do for families with children. Maybe the city administration should talk to a Nashville, Columbus, Ohio, Charlotte, NC or San Antonio, TX to get some ideas. Then move quickly on getting it done.

    1. Nashville is a big town compared to Indianapolis. It’s doing a lot! But it’s not a city like that… Indianapolis is gonna respond for years to come!! Enjoy the future!

    2. Nashville is a seedy, dirty city offering little more than honky tonk bars offering you country and western music and little else. The reason it is growing is due to the lack of a state income tax. But it has no class whatsoever. You couldn’t pay me to live there,

    3. Call Nashville names if you will, yet it still attracts conventions, growth, affluence, international flights and name recognition. Ask around the US and Nashville has a positive image of growth and affluence. Ask about Indianapolis and most think it’s a ‘town’ of a 200,000 or so, old, dirty, dangerous, regressive and conservative from the most negative aspects. This image retards growth and certainly is not attractive to attract the brightest and best from the fine institutions of higher learning in the state of Indiana.

      Nashville, Columbus, Louisville — are outpacing Indianapolis. It is time for the state legislature to stop punishing the city with vindictive and economically irresponsible legislation that renders the state and city a laughingstock. If Indianapolis is to continue to serve as an economic engine of the state and as an attractive locations for conventions, efforts must be made to make the city attractive — not just from the business and tax standpoint but also from that of perception. The city’s image is bleak in too many minds and this needs to change. Mentioning Indianapolis too often is met with groans of dismay and grunt of disapproval.

      Locals know of the beautiful neighborhoods and positives. Visitors will not notice this from key entryways of the city.

      The west Washington Street and I-70 west corridors from the airport are dreadful, uninviting, unattractive and embarrassing. The lack of sidewalks, trees, and paved alleys is shameful. Awful span wires rather than solid signal poles, a maze of overhead wires attached to decrepit wood poles, inconsistent and irregular street lighting from said hideous poles. Pleasant and attractive suburban neighborhoods linked by country roads with side ditches — not attractive. Basically, infrastructure is ugly and yes this keeps cost and taxes down.

      Nashville was once a much smaller city than Indianapolis. But upon becoming a co-extensive Nashville-Davidson County (their version of Uni-gov) that functions as a more integrated region, Nashville has ballooned in population and growth and attractiveness and reputation. Indianapolis has become stagnant in a balkanized structure with the Marion County line serving as a DMZ.

    4. Proof? Check statistics regarding growth, income, flight, visitors, gross revenues, housing starts, etc.

    5. Not going down that path with you. Quick Google search shows Nville gets 16.1 million visitors per year; indy gets 29.2. How many fortune 500 companies does Nashville have? Zippidy do dah. Nville definitely growing faster than Indy. But it is not an authentic city. It’s superficial and lacking a soul. People moving there are the fans of Dancing with the Stars and America’s Got Talent. It’s reflective of the stupidy of the broader American public. And that’s not a good reflection by any sense of the imagination.

    1. I understand your position but what skyscrapers do is bring attention to your city, in Indy’s case, attention that we haven’t had in the past. Indy gets looked over because it doesn’t look as attesting or exiting then cities with larger downtowns. Skyscrapers shows the wealth of a city and with all the conventions and spiting events, Indy should be showing casing more by building larger, modern looking buildings full of glass and stunning architecture

    2. Building cranes and tall buildings show a growing and progressive city.

  5. It’s time Indy stops bragging about how walkable downtown is. The cheap cost of living and walkable downtown hasn’t attracted new talent to the city or awarded another super bowl. Those talking points are played out and many cities have taken Indy’s playbook and made it even better. It’s time Indy takes a more aggressive approach and understand that people love cities that offer a variety of things to do outside of conventions and sporting events. Indy needs more live entertainment venues, a year around carnival with a large Ferris wheel and rides downtown on the canal. Water activities in the water river, like Oaklahoma city’s Riversport. It’s amazing and Indy could have the same downtown on the canal. Indy needs to think BIG ang out the box

    1. Nashville is a swell town. Haven’t hosted a Super Bowl…or A Final 4…Or or or…
      Nashville bashers…Vanderbilt? Belmont for higher education? Progressive public school and charter policies, uh…Music City? Really, they’re doing ok.

  6. Nice infill project for that site on Georgia Street. The next parcel that should be developed is the vacant lot in the next block north at Maryland. The surface parking lot is a waste.

  7. If a business can survive about 3 years it’s generally in safe waters. Downtown needs to explore rent subsidies for creative locals with brick and mortar ideas but limited capital. You need foot traffic and destination-worthy venues!

    The locals who give a city “personality” have traditionally been priced out of desirable areas. We do it for businesses, we do it for sports teams, do we not?

    Need RFP’s for the brightest and boldest of ideas. Give them help to get on their feet, learn the game, survive a few winters, and watch them fly!

    1. Agreed completely! I’ve been advocating that very thing for years.
      If the city can throw in subsidies for our sports teams, then let’s do it
      for bold creative individuals with solid creative ideas.

      The city has been saying forever that they want to attract smart artistic
      creative people to start businesses. So DO IT!!
      Pipe them in from our universities.

  8. Nashville is a swell town. Haven’t hosted a Super Bowl…or A Final 4…Or or or…
    Nashville bashers…Vanderbilt? Belmont for higher education? Progressive public school and charter policies, uh…Music City? Really, they’re doing ok.

    1. Swell, sure. Like a swollen boil waiting to be lanced. Seriously, Nville is okay. But it’s definitely not the super-wow-wow be-all-end-all city that blind fans seem to think it is. And yes, I’ve been there numerous times. If you’re not a honkey tonk fan…city doesn’t have much to offer. A big hillbilly cow-town.

  9. As someone who works in the real estate investment world and travels a fair amount there are a few things striking from the last few years.

    One is that cities like Columbus and Louisville have made investments in their downtown core and are continuing to invest. Indy has had a nice run and a lot going for it, but other cities recognized this and have started closing the gap. Columbus has made investments in downtown districts, soccer stadium, trails, etc. and it really shows. Visiting downtown Indy shortly after being in the Columbus market was striking. They feel like a city on the move, right now we do not.

    Nashville has made significant progress and I can assure all that leaders are not as dismissive of that city as others in this comment section are. It is a mid-South city that is extremely attractive to younger population movements, is considered a far more investable market than Indy right now, and continues to add quality of life to its downtown core. They stepped up and got an MLS team across the line (Indy really screwed this up) and will likely be awarded an MLB team as well.

    Indy will be fine, but investments need to continue to be made. Resting on laurels is not going to work. Yes, Indy gets Final Fours, high convention traffic, etc. now… but that is just now, to maintain that the city will need to take action. We have those events and conventions because of the vision of city leaders years ago, I don’t know if we have the same backbone we had then. I hope we find it.

  10. If I hear him say again, after some development or big thing is announced…”I think it speaks volumes that Indianapolis blah blah blah…” and then he says nothing of substance, I will scream. Yet he’s there for every photo op. He’s been awful. And if indy has slipped over the last few years…he’s at fault and the problem. And I’m a Democrat!

    Ryan Vaughn for Indy mayor! Or Allison Melangton. She’d be AWESOME. Even Susan Williams would be an improvement.

  11. Every single one of these high-powered developers wanting to do a multimillion mixed-use should be required to fix a previous failure of mixed use still lagging the downtown before getting the green light to build their pet. Simons, you have to fix and repurpose Union Station or Circle Centre first before you can start ground on this one. And when those are off the list, we put low & median income capped housing on the obstacle list. How do you like that, Milhaus? And, btw, not a single cent of TIF bs ever again to any company not publicly owned.

  12. A nice start would be actually repaving , not patching streets within 2 miles of the Monument. Try using 10th east of Eskanazi and Roudebush. Orange barrels have been in place for five years with no signs of work, …only constant reminders of the rough pavement and chuckholes. Not only a rough ride but embarrassing.