Indianapolis officials will finance most of the cost of a $155 million project to build a hotel, apartments, retail space and an office incubator building on land donated by Eli Lilly and Co. on the south edge of Downtown.Did it occur to anyone that private financing cannot be lined up because it may not be a viable economic development project absent huge public subsidies? Has any downtown project for that matter been undertaken in the past two decades that has not been heavily subsidized by Indianapolis taxpayers? And please, Mayor Ballard, what the hell is "innovative" about a private development project that is financed at the public's expense? Is it not forced slavery for those of us who have to work to pay the taxes to benefit these private developers? Welcome to Fantasyland, otherwise known as the City of Indianapolis. Tax the poor and give to the rich.
"This is a great project. It's an innovative project," Mayor Greg Ballard said today as he announced the project with developer Buckingham Cos. of Indianapolis and Lilly officials.
The Star reported in June that the Indianapolis developer was talking with the city and Eli Lilly and Co. about building a hotel and conference center with retail stores, apartments and a fitness center next to Lilly's headquarters campus Downtown.
The 10-building project, tentatively called North of South, will spread over 14 acres along South Street, bordered roughly by the rail tracks on the north, Virginia Avenue on the east and Delaware Street on the west. Groundbreaking is planned for late this year, with construction lasting about 2 years.
The 152-room hotel will be a high-end Dolce brand hotel that specializes in corporate bookings. It might open in time for the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Plans also call for about 320 apartments, 30,000 to 40,000 square feet of retail space and 10,000 square feet of office space that will be leased to life-science-oriented start-up companies . . .
The city will finance about $86 million of the cost by floating bonds guaranteed by revenues from the Downtown tax increment financing district, said Deron S. Kintner, executive director of the Indianapolis Bond Bank.
The property tax revenues from the project would be used to pay off the bonds over 25 years, he said.
The city got involved in financing the project because private banks and other commercial lenders have largely pulled out of the market for new commercial development, he said.
This comes after we just learned Mayor Greg Ballard approved the diversion of $8 million a year in property tax revenues derived from the downtown TIF to the CIB to help fund the ICVA's efforts at promoting business for the downtown convention business. Indianapolis taxpayers paid $60 million to finance the J.W. Marriott Hotel adjoining the convention center. We spent another $20 million to finance construction of the Conrad Hilton and gave $25 million to Simon Property Group to build their new corporate headquarters on a public park, along with a free parking garage to boot. We spent more than $700 million to build Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts to use rent-free. We spent close to another $200 million to build Conseco Fieldhouse for the Pacers to use rent-free, but we still have to subsidize their owners with another $33.5 million in public subsidies. Mayor Ballard now wants to turn over control of the City's parking meter business to the politically-connected ACS and more than double our parking rates in order to fund $35 million in downtown and Broad Ripple improvements prior to the 2012 Super Bowl. He already committed $10 million to a Georgia Street project using federal stimulus dollars for another Super Bowl project, on top of another $10 million used for an expanded downtown Cultural Trail.
Add it all up and you find the cost of hosting one Super Bowl game, which may or may not ever happen because of a collective bargaining dispute between NFL owners and players, will top $100 million. Yes, we have the worst public schools in the country. School closings and teacher layoffs are the norm. We have the worst public transportation system in the nation for a city our size. We are closing public pools. Our public parks are falling into desperate disrepair as the parks budget is slashed. We have entire neighborhoods without sewers or sidewalks. We are closing libraries and slashing other essential city services, but when it comes to finding money for the latest dreams of the downtown elites, there is no limit on what taxpayers will be asked to shoulder. The priorities of these people are so misplaced it is simply beyond belief. If the voters of this city don't rise up in revolt and throw every last one of the bums that run city hall out of office next year, they deserve the absolute worst of what government has to offer them.
And as a YMCA member let me add my further outrage. I will never donate another dime to your organization when you come asking for contributions for your capital campaign. You closed the Fall Creek YMCA rather than improving it. You refuse to expand the Athenaeum YMCA despite the parking lot adjacent to it that is for sale. And now you're building another downtown YMCA just a few blocks away from the current downtown facility. Obviously, the YMCA doesn't have a clue how to manage its resources economically so the organization isn't deserving of future support from their members. Doesn't Lilly and Wellpoint already offer on-site fitness centers to their employees, by the way, not to mention the new fitness center down the street at the Villaggio?
UPDATE: A reader sent an e-mail communication sent this past Friday by a city planner responding to an inquiry today's announcement. Here's is what the planner wrote:
Obviously the city planner is a bit out of the loop. The plan had already been greased for approval with taxpayer funding by Mayor Ballard before any renderings or drawings were even shown to the city planners at DMD.. . . [W]e do not have renderings or drawings of any sort of this project that Buckingham is putting together with Lilly. Apparently, there is a big announcement planned for Monday that will reveal the development proposal. Yesterday, a rezoning petition was filed to rezone the area to, I believe, CBD-2, which will be heard on October 20th by the MDC. They requested and were approved, a right to hear this at the MDC for its hearing rather than going through the Hearing Examiner step first. We did meet with Buckingham on two occasions recently where we were shown plans, but none were actually given to us. We gave feedback based on the Guidelines. We appreciated that we were involved in this project before plans were drawn in a more firm mode.