The Indianapolis Star is giddy today because your precious public assets are once again being gifted by our generous mayor to a private developer. This time it's our treasured former City Hall, one of the finest and best built buildings in the City of Indianapolis that is currently sitting vacant. Rather than use it for the governmental purpose as it was intended, Mayor Greg Ballard would rather just give it away to a private developer for use as a boutique hotel.
A sleek, new boutique hotel, rising eight to 10 stories with about 150 rooms, will be built on a parking lot north of the old City Hall on Alabama Street as part of a multimillion-dollar redevelopment.
The old City Hall will serve as hotel lobby and public art gallery, said Adam Thies, director of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development. It also could house several arts and community groups, although no agreements have been signed.
"We really are interested in this project becoming a symbol for Indianapolis as an arts and culture hub," Thies said.The most important information from the standpoint of taxpayers is missing from the story: How much will it cost us?
The city will continue to own the old City Hall and will provide the building under a long-term lease to the hotel developer, a small specialty chain called 21c Museum Hotels LLC, based in Louisville, Ky.
Thies declined to say Wednesday how much will be spent on the project. Nor did he say what kind of incentives the city, state and federal governments plan to give 21c, saying that information would be released Thursday.
Stephanie Greene, a spokeswoman for 21c, declined Wednesday to give details or even confirm the project, referring questions to city officials. "The mayor's office is handing this," she said.Yes, the mayor's office handles all development in the City of Indianapolis these days it seems. You can bet the terms of the deal aren't favorable to taxpayers; otherwise, why hold back the most important details--at least if you care about taxpayers?
UPDATE: The Star's John Russell has a new story online, "Big splash, big price tag for old City Hall project," It says half the $55 million cost will come from a mix of government support, including a $9 million loan from the city backstopped by the downtown TIF slush fund. The terms of the long-term lease of the old City Hall building aren't disclosed in the story, presumably because the developer will pay a nominal fee of like $1 a year. There's also no mention of the price tag for the extremely valuable city-owned surface lot on which the new hotel will be constructed at the corner of Alabama and New York Streets, presumably because the City will simply donate the land to the out-of-town developer. The feds are providing a loan of $9 million, while the project will qualify for $4 million in federal tax credits. The Central Indiana Community Foundation will kick in a donation to the project as well. Nice use of charitable contributions, eh? I'm in the wrong business. I need to get a gig where the government just passes out tens of millions of dollars to me to play real estate developer.
Our buffoon of a mayor believes landing this hotel by giving away the store again means our city is "prepared to compete on a global stage for talent."
This @21cHotels development will make it clear that Indy is prepared to compete on a global stage for talent.
— Mayor Greg Ballard (@MayorBallard) February 26, 2015