Indianapolis, USA Today’s #1 ranked convention city, is set to add a 50,000-sq.ft. convention center ballroom and two new hotel towers. The ballroom is set to be the largest in the state and the additional hotels will increase Indy’s number of hotel rooms connected by enclosed skywalks to more than 6,100.
The project was green lit after the Capital Improvement Board of Managers, a municipal corporation of Marion County empowered to finance and manage capital improvements, unanimously approved a recommendation from a bid review team to move forward with negotiations with a local development team to expand the convention center on the site of downtown Indy’s Pan Am Plaza. This will be the sixth expansion since the Indiana Convention Center opened in 1972.
While an existing commercial office building will remain on the site, the developer, Kite Realty Group Trust, also proposed adding two new hotels on the property. One is a 38-story tower with a reflective glass exterior that includes multiple levels of retail and a rooftop bar offering the only high-rise view from the southwest side of downtown. A second hotel tower would anchor the opposite corner of the block, across from Union Station on the west side of Illinois Street. The two hotels are expected to be Hilton-affiliated brands and will add approximately 1,400 rooms to Indianapolis’ hotel inventory.
“The combination of what will be the state’s largest ballroom and two additional hotel towers connected by enclosed skywalk will transform our ability to secure major new events that have never been held in Indy,” says Leonard Hoops, president and CEO of Visit Indy. “It also gives us the capacity to better host multiple citywide conventions at the same time and help us retain nearly $300 million in annual convention and event business.”
The Indiana Convention Center currently offers three ballrooms totaling about 61,000 sq.ft. of function space, with the largest ballroom at 33,335 sq.ft. Hoops notes that since 2010, Visit Indy has been unable to bid on more than 200 conventions and events interested in meeting in the city because of hotel room inventory and/or ballroom space requirements. This expansion allows Visit Indy to re-engage these groups, which collectively could generate up to $1.1 billion in future economic impact for the region and state.
The recommendation came after two years of research, including customer focus groups and surveys, and convention center and hotel demand analysis commissioned by Visit Indy and a 10-month bid process that began with the issuance of a Request for Information by the CIB to more than 40 developers. The CIB received three responses and conducted an extensive review period before selecting the Kite proposal.
“We received three extremely competitive proposals that all satisfied the requirements of the RFI,” says Melina Kennedy, CIB board president. “The proposal selected best activates the south side of the Indiana Convention Center given its high-profile location and direct connection across Capitol Avenue. We believe both of these components are crucial to our continued success as a convention and events destination.”
The budget for the expansion, estimated at $120 million, includes public infrastructure improvements and the construction of the new publicly-owned facility and connector.
“While we are still early in the process of discussing the operational impact of this exciting proposal with local and state leadership, the city believes this capital expenses for this project could be funded by the property tax increment generated from the new development site and the re-allocation of some portion of the existing Downtown TIF funds already dedicated for the CIB on an annual basis,” says Thomas Cook, chief of staff for Mayor Joe Hogsett.
Although the project timeline has not been finalized, the CIB will begin working with the city and Kite to obtain all the necessary agreements and legislative approvals sometime in 2019. Following the completion of that process, construction of a project of this scope is expected to take about three years.
The mission of Visit Indy is to increase Indianapolis economic growth by strategically selling the destination to conventions, meetings, events and leisure travelers. According to Rockport Analytics, 28.6 million visitors provide $5.2 billion in total economic impact annually to the Indianapolis region, generating 80,600 full-time equivalent jobs in Central Indiana, and providing $1.2 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues. For more info, visit visitindy.com.