Developer thinks big with Market Square Arena site proposal

Six proposals were submitted for the Market Square Arena site.
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At least one developer is thinking big when it comes to redeveloping the old Market Square Arena site. The proposal, one of six submitted to the city Monday, calls for a 52-story skyscraper.

While the mayor's office is not identifying the developers nor releasing proposals, spokesman Marc Lotter said they all contain some mix of residential and commercial development.

Lotter said the mayor was pleased with the proposals, saying, "The time is ready to move forward and the market agrees."

The land up for redevelopment is a nearly two-acre parcel at Alabama and Market Streets. It's been a parking lot since the arena was imploded in 2001. Previous plans to develop the site were pitched in 2004 and 2007, but never got off the ground.

Lotter said the mayor not only wants to see the site developed, but he hopes to "add to the architectural significance of the city, to have something so when you see a picture of the Indianapolis skyline. you immediately recognize it as being Indianapolis."

While Lotter said that doesn't have to mean a skyscraper, architect Wayne Schmidt hopes it does.

"Because it can't be mediocre, it has to be a strong design...look around downtown and we have some taller buildings, but nothing recently and I just think it changes the game," Schmidt said.

Chase Tower, the city (and state's) tallest building at 49 stories, was built in 1990. The One America building at 38 stories is the second tallest and was built in 1982. The third tallest is One Indiana Square at 36 stories and was built in the 1970s.

Again, the one proposed for the MSA site would top out at 52 stories, changing the city's skyline, which Schmidt says is important.

"We're creating a brand. Every building designed is a brand," he said. "Everyone says a building is not important, but that's what people talk about, that's where they get their picture taken in front of and when they leave, it leaves an impression."

Trevor Kelly, visiting from Chicago, where the tallest buildings are twice as high as Indy's, agrees.

Asked which building stands out here, he pointed to the Chase Tower.

"That one right there. I always see it when I come into town. That's the first one I notice," He said.

April Beck from New Castle said, "I think it would be great. It would bring a lot more attention downtown, just the publicity would be a good thing."

Billy Johnson of Indianapolis said, "What's the point in not progressing? Are you just going to stand here? If everyone else is going to progress, we might as well too."

But Bob Schultz with Indianapolis Downtown, Inc. cautioned there could be a downside to another high rise.

"We would be concerned if the tower was majority office space or multi-tenant, (because) we already have an oversupply in the market," he said.

He noted the vacancy rate for commercial space was 19 percent, whereas it was just 4 percent for residential.

"The mixed-use trend is producing well," he said.

Lotter agreed, whatever the project, it can't be all one or the other.

"Just because a building is big doesn't mean it all has to be office space," he said.

Schmidt too echoed that.

"The future of downtown is about occupancy and density. We need more people living downtown and as the president of the City Market Board, I'm excited, because that's where people are going to shop," he said.

Schmidt, the architect, also hopes the design isn't one everyone likes.

"We need more signature buildings people can dislike, because that causes a lot of discussion," he said. "If everyone likes them, they're pretty mediocre and we need more buildings that stir the emotions."

Lotter said a team lead by the city controller would begin reviewing the proposals to determine which is the best use of the site. He said it could be year's end before a project agreement is signed.


Indianapolis skyscrapers