New apartments next to the Indianapolis City Market? Mixed-use development in Marion Jail II or maybe in the city’s Arrestee Processing Center?
The sky, mostly, is the limit, after the Department of Metropolitan Development on Thursday released two requests for proposals to developers covering the three structures.
“We don’t put out these kinds of RFPs often for these key, downtown, publicly accessible spaces, [so] I think it is a really rare opportunity for developers,” Department Director Scarlett Andrews told IBJ.
The City Market—which has struggled with the pandemic-induced loss of its office worker clientele, along with more than a year of construction outside its doors—is in the early stages of a major push for revitalization. The historic site’s transformation could cost $22 million to $35 million, according to a city-commissioned report released in September.
Meanwhile, the migration of Indianapolis’ public safety and justice system functions to the new Community Justice Campus three miles east of downtown will leave Jail II empty. The Arrestee Processing Center has already been fully vacant for a year, according to Andrews, after its tenant moved to the CJC’s Assessment and Intervention Center.
“Coming out of a rough couple of years of pandemic and really taking a hard look at our city, our downtown, our economic development needs right now: being able to activate and create more density in the downtown core is something that we feel really strongly about,” Andrews said.
City Market site’s “blank slate”
The main portion of the City Market is a historic structure dating to 1886, but the brick wings on either side were added in 1977. That means the campus’ east side is fair game for ground-up redevelopment.
“The City Market site, it’s pretty much a blank slate,” Andrews said.
The wings “do not fall within that historic character, so we have the ability to demolish anything that is there,” said Lourenzo Giple, DMD’s deputy director of planning, preservation and design. “It’s up for interpretation by the developer based on some of the parameters” DMD and the City Market have laid out.
Thursday’s request for proposal asks developers to present a multifamily-housing-focused vision for the spot that now houses the east wing, and suggests family-oriented and recreational uses for the first floor.
“We know that the city needs housing downtown, as we think about transitioning to a more resilient neighborhood centered on downtown, and start to move away from a really central office core,” said Rusty Carr, DMD’s deputy director for strategy and collaboration, particularly with the pandemic poking holes in the office space market.
The RFP also requires that the east plaza and an alley north of the site, however they end up looking, remain publicly accessible spaces.
Submissions also must also include a loading bay, short-term parking and storage space for market vendors, plus retain a spot for a bike shop that rents out part of the current east wing.
The development team would own whatever it builds, but Indianapolis will maintain ownership of the land itself, according to DMD. That means perks for both the Marion County Treasurer—the improvements will be taxable—and the City Market. Developers would pay “rent” for the land under a long-term ground lease, which would go to City Market.
“This not only helps the market [by] building a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week customer base in the residential tower, but it also includes financial support … to the City Market for operations and maintenance,” Carr said.
The plan would leave the City Market asymmetrical for the first time. Though a new building would likely be taller than the current east wing, the RFP asks developers to “mitigate the potential loss of visibility” through the building’s overall design, gateways and signage.
Proposal submissions for the City Market campus’ east side are due March 11.
Then: cars. Now: jail. Future: something else?
While the east wing and plaza is a new-build project, the future for Marion County Jail II and the Arrestee Processing Center is re-use. That’s because they’re historic structures key to Indianapolis’ car manufacturing history.
The buildings, respectively at 730 E. Washington St. and 752 E. Market St., were once part of the larger Cole Motor Car Company complex, built between 1911 and 1922. The company was the United States’ second-largest car manufacturer between 1918 and 1921, according to a National Register of Historic nomination form for what’s now Jail II.
But the advent of assembly-line production rendered Cole’s manufacturing process obsolete, and the company closed the plant in 1924.
For decades, the campus hosted an array of tenants, until Indianapolis-based Service Supply Corp. bought what was left in 1967 and moved in, according to the nomination form. Twenty years later, the fast-growing Service Supply left its cramped, split-up space and the city of Indianapolis moved in.
Jail II opened in 1997, and the Arrestee Processing Center opened in 2003. The city filled in the former factories’ floor-to-ceiling windows and installed security apparatuses. But now, both structures are or will be vacant, as those functions move to the Community Justice Campus in the Twin Aire Neighborhood.
“We really started planning in earnest knowing that a lot of our property would be vacated or underutilized,” the DMD’s Andrews said. “… The controller’s office, who really manages the leases and assets of the city-county, looked at these two sites and said, ‘These are not needed for government use and have such value in terms of private redevelopment, because of their location, that we’d like them to be privately redeveloped.’”
The request to developers is for a mixed-use vision, which could include housing, hotel, commercial, office and educational space. That means no “passive” uses that “minimize activity,” like self-storage, according to the RFP.
Despite being close to downtown, Fletcher Place, the near-east side, Elevator Hill and other hubs of activity, the area is “kind of a dead zone,” Andrews said.
“I think with both of these sites, you have the opportunity to further activate and create density, create reasons why people would want to be in the area,” she added.
The RFP asks developers to revive the buildings’ century-old facades and restore exterior features, like the windows, to their “original aesthetic.”
Both buildings are within 1,000 feet of the future Blue Line, according to MapIndy, so developers will also have to design to new transit-oriented zoning standards that deprioritize auto travel.
“Our push for multimodal transportation further adds that everything is connected within the downtown. We know the focus of pedestrians is going to be there, so this is a push to further cement that,” Giple said.
Proposal submissions for Jail II and the Arrestee Processing Center are due April 1, and at least one member of each development team is required to do a site walk-by, according to the RFP.