INDIANAPOLIS — 13News has learned the city of Indianapolis is borrowing tens of millions of dollars from the state of Indiana for a redevelopment project downtown.
But details of the project are shrouded in secrecy.
So right now, it's a multi-million dollar mystery.
Your public dollars are earmarked to pay for some sort of big redevelopment project.
But exactly where downtown and for what? The city and state won't say.
The loan is big — $24.4 million, borrowed from the Indiana Economic Development Commission, to pay for what the city of Indianapolis calls "a transformative downtown project."
The Metropolitan Development Commission, which is the governing body for the city's Department of Metropolitan Development, approved the loan with a resolution last week.
But in the resolution itself — and after requests for further details from 13News — they've shared little, if any, specifics about how the money will be used.
The project is a secret so far.
"The partnership between the City and IEDC plays a critical role in downtown redevelopment efforts. The resolution approved by the Metropolitan Development Commission continues that long history of collaboration for the next transformative downtown project," a DMD spokesperson told 13News. "Due to the confidential nature of this project, we cannot offer more specificity at this time."
Greg LeRoy is the executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks government transparency in state and local economic development.
He calls the lack of public transparency with this large loan very concerning.
"In a big deal like this, there should be advanced disclosure: advanced notice, advanced comment periods for the public to look at the whole deal and decide if it's a prudent use of that much money," LeRoy said. "Reading the resolution, you don't learn much. You know there's $24M+ moving from the state privatized economic development agency to the local development commission. We know, thanks to great reporting in the past from WTHR, that the state entity has its own transparency problems recurring, but this to me looks like a loan off the books really. This looks like a Tax Increment Financing loan that's being done off the books. They should be saying what the project's going to be, what's the geography of the project, what exactly it's gonna be used for, how long the payment period's gonna be, all that good stuff. None of that is evident here."
Here's what we do know.
The $24.4 million loan will be used for "acquisition and improvement of real property in order to facilitate redevelopment of an area in need of redevelopment" in Indy's "Consolidated Allocation Area."
That area is a downtown TIF district, but includes a variety of properties and prospects, everything from the Heliport to Circle Centre Mall to Jail I on Alabama. Plus, there are parts of Monument Circle, parts of Bottleworks, along with the former GM Stamping Plant in that area.
But again, neither the city nor the state will share the who, what or the where of the project — just the cost of the loan.
"The public should know how many jobs are going to be created and who's going to be affected and whose land values are going to go up. All those things need to be aired out when there's public money involved," LeRoy said, "and this is the opposite of that."
13News also reached out to the IEDC, requesting details about the loan itself.
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A spokesperson responded, saying the loan agreement would be made public on its transparency portal when the deal is finalized.
The IEDC says that's targeted for early October.
The next regular meeting of the Metropolitan Development Commission is set for 1 p.m. on Sept. 20.