Motto hotel project in King Cole building delayed but still kicking, developer says

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The street-level facade of the King Cole building at 1 N. Meridian St. has been cloaked in a wrap in an effort to reduce the appearance of empty storefronts downtown. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

Three years after the mostly vacant King Cole building was adorned with a stylized wrap ahead of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the ground floor of the tower located a block from Monument Circle has been cloaked once more.

The street-level façade of the 11-story building at 1 N. Meridian St. was wrapped last week with a colorful basketball-themed covering ahead of NBA All-Star Weekend on Feb. 16-18, as part of a beautification effort from the Indianapolis Arts Council focused on vacant downtown storefronts.

Chicago-based developer The Gettys Group said in September 2019 that it would convert the King Cole building into a Motto hotel—a flag under the Hilton family of hotel brands. The original timeline was three years, but the effort to convert the terra cotta-covered, 122-year-old building into a 116-room Motto has shown little if any progress for many months.

After several recent inquiries from IBJ, The Gettys Group and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. provided short statements in the last week indicating that the project is still alive.

A spokesperson for Gettys declined to answer specific questions about the status of the project and a timeline for its completion. However, he said work is still happening behind the scenes to get the project off the ground once financing has been secured.

“Design and other work continue, so that when financing is in place, the project will move quickly,” said Rob Hunden, president of Chicago-based Hunden Partners and a representative for Gettys.

A spokesperson for Hilton said in an emailed statement that the hotelier still considers the project to be in active development.

“The Motto by Hilton hotel in Indianapolis is still planned, and Hilton is working closely with the property’s owners on an opening date,” the spokesperson said, adding that the project is one of 10 across Indianapolis in the hotelier’s development pipeline.

Original estimates pegged the cost of the hotel renovation to be $21 million, but by late 2022 that figure had ballooned to $54 million.

The project was approved by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission in 2019, when Gettys said it planned to complete the project within three years.

Like many construction and renovation projects slated for downtown, the project ran into delays due to the pandemic. And tightening lending conditions have made financing for such deals harder to obtain.

The developer must close on private financing for the project before it can receive $9.2 million from tax-increment financing bonds that the city of Indianapolis pledged for construction of the project in 2022.

Aside from the City-County Council’s approval in June to increase the maximum interest rate for the bonds from 5% to 8%, no action has been taken to issue the bonds that would provide the funds to The Gettys Group.

“The project has yet to close, so it hasn’t received funds from the city,” a DMD spokesperson told IBJ.

Work to repair broken windows on the second and eighth floors of the building was set to start this week, according to a permit application with the city. It was unclear whether the work proceeded in Tuesday’s frigid temperatures.

Crews performed masonry restoration work last summer.

The facade wrap unfurled last week was reminiscent of coverings applied when Indianapolis hosted most of NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament in spring 2021. Several empty retail spaces took on murals and wraps created by local artists.

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13 thoughts on “Motto hotel project in King Cole building delayed but still kicking, developer says

  1. This corner is such an eyesore. Such a nasty corner at such a premier location. The facade first floor has deteriorated substantially, the sidewalks are crumbling and uneven. The developer should be required to clean up the site and facade with a permanent screen. It’s so sad that both of these historic hotel buildings on Washington Street has set idle for years.

    1. Not a very desirable downtown anymore. It’s pretty cheap and easy for a developer’s PR head to say “we’re still moving along!” to keep the local press from asking questions for another 6 months. Then rinse and repeat.

  2. What is the status of the 3 other stalled hotel projects downtown?…

    Inter Continental (Illinois and Market)
    Kimpton (Washington and Penn)
    __?__ (former People’s Bank Bldg)

  3. The Motto brand is a discount Hilton line…probably less than $150 a night in Indy. If occupied at 80% annually per room, 116 roooms, this project will take about 11 years to break even. That doesn’t count operating costs such as payroll and advertising. I don’t see this one going forward.

  4. While reporting on stalled projects, please tell us what the status is of the twice started and twice halted project on the canal at St. Clair Street beside Nine on the Canal. What’s the deal there, another eyesore on our vaulted canal.

    1. It looks like a construction site in the desert… makes no sense for the location and current housing shortage.

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