New downtown development bringing local jobs to Indianapolis

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A change is coming to the Indianapolis skyline and the new project brings the prospect of jobs to the city.

A 28-story tower is proposed for the former Market Square Arena site, on the northeast corner of Alabama and Market Streets. It's been empty for 13 years, and is currently a parking lot.

The plan, which was approved by the City-County Council Monday night, comes with certain conditions. Developer Flaherty & Collins got $23 million from the city to help finance construction. But in return, they had to agree that at least 30 percent of their work force would be from Marion County.

The high-rise will include 300 apartments and a 40,000-square-foot grocery store. It will take two years to build and will employ several hundred construction workers.

For a private project like this, it normally wouldn't matter where the workers came from. But since the developer is receiving city funds, the City-County Council asked that 30 percent of the work force for the project come from Marion County.

Democrat Vop Osili pushed for that stipulation.

"The new building has good potential for appeal for our city, a new skyline. But the nuts and bolts of that have to do with local hires; local workforce. Will we have Marion County residents working on this project? That is to me I think the most important thing we could look at. When we're spending taxpayer dollars, we must have local residents working on these projects," said Osili.

David Flaherty, with Flaherty & Collins said they were fine with the hiring mandate.

"It's groundbreaking since it hasn't been done, so we'll set a precedent in how to do it and how to track it. It'll be a good thing for Marion County. It'll be a good thing for the Marion County workforce, as well. We think we'll actually exceed 30 percent, but we just had never done it before so we needed to be cautious in going forward," Flaherty said.

While it's the first time a local hiring mandate has been applied to a project in Marion County, the practice of requiring projects to hire a certain percentage of workers from the local work force has been growing in cities across the country. San Francisco, Atlanta and Baltimore are among the cities that have such policies.

Proponents say it not only ensures more local jobs, but also leads to more local spending and local tax dollars generated.

Mike Cawthron, who works in construction and lives in Marion County said he was glad to see the project go the go-ahead, especially given its two-year timetable.

"It's definitely a big job, so there's going to be a lot of money and a lot of time involved," he said. "That's quite a bit of money that people from Marion County can make."

Republican Councilor Jeff Miller said he suspected that future developments seeking public funding may be subject to a similar requirement on hiring.

Derron Kintner, executive director of the city's bond bank said it could "potentially" become a city ordinance, "but we need to make sure it works and is 30 percent the right number? I don't know if that's too low, too high or the right number...we have to make sure (any new rule) is rational and reasonable."

Flaherty & Collins plans to break ground on the new development early this summer. Flaherty said they're also close to announcing the new grocery store, which will be at the southwest corner of the site.