Sunday, February 25, 2007

Public Dollars, Private Profits

The city announced this past week that it is again opening up bidding on the old Market Square Arena site. The bidding is for right to redevelop the site where a gravel parking lot now sits. The old site of MSA has sat vacant since the demolition of the Pacers old home in 2001.

I walk by the now parking lot everyday as I go to work. It is hard not to wonder that with all the talk about how great our downtown is how many other cities would have had such a large parcel of land sit vacant for this long. I can't imagine such a large amount of land sitting un-developed in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, or a litany of other cities for five years.

The first proposed idea, One Market Square, had a wonderful design and would have added greatly to our skyline. However its financing structure did not mesh well with the market here. Buyers here (or the story goes) aren't used to paying for a structure not yet built. After several attempts to get the project off the ground, the city pulled the plug on its relationship with the proposed builder.

One Market Square was to be 31 stories tall. Now the city proposes a mixed use for the property combining residential, commercial, and retail. The city has said that the centerpiece of the property will be a tower of at least 14 stories. Fourteen stories? That doesn't really inspire the masses, at least not me.

A building of that size is more akin to suburban development. But if anything that the latest development downtown has shown--the Anthem building, Simon's corporate headquarters, and the new flagship convention hotel-- is that Indy doesn't have a problem blessing the bland and the generic. And worse yet, all have been built with a large subsidy from the city. Simon's new building also took away a downtown city park for its completion.

I really shook my head after hearing about the large subsidy Simon received for building its new building. We are not talking about a tax abatement but an actual cash payment to facilitate its construction. Does the largest mall owner in America really need a public handout?

You better believe that whatever does get built at the old MSA will be publicly subsidized as well. If that is the case why doesn't the city build something on the site that the general public would get to enjoy? I am not going to buy a 200 or 300 thousand dollar condo at the site, but I would enjoy a park partially built on the land. I would definitely enjoy a museum built on the site. I always thought the best use of the land would be to build a building for the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art as the centerpiece with residential and retail on either side. This would definitely give the City Market a need boost in foot traffic. Plus all the folks whose tax dollars helped develop the site could at least get some enjoyment from their investment. And it would give our visitors to the city a reason to venture to the East side of downtown--even if they are not in the market for a bail bond.

But hey why do that when they can see the 14 story masterpiece as they pass by on I-70?

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11 Comments:

Blogger torporindy said...

Good piece. I am frustrated by the lack of progress on the East side of downtown. It's a shame that everything goes on the west end.

February 25, 2007  
Blogger The_Kid_ said...

The East side of downtown could represent some of the local flair with the city and expose our visitors to Mass Ave. The center core of downtown really lacks the local feeling you wish it had.

February 25, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about an Verizon Wireless style outdoor amphitheater??

February 26, 2007  
Blogger Timmy said...

I totally agree with you, Kid.

Too bad Indy lacks your insight.

February 26, 2007  
Blogger Mike said...

Maybe they could build a new building for the displaced businesses they closed permanently with the stupid city market project, a project that most of the current market tenants didn't want to begin with.

I could really go for a Jumbo's roast beef right now.

February 26, 2007  
Blogger lemming said...

I share your frustration. Indianapolis will never recieve that recognition that I (humbly) believe it deserves until it decides what to do about downtown. There's more to this area than the Northside.

February 26, 2007  
Blogger torporindy said...

So is Jumbos gone forever.

February 26, 2007  
Blogger The_Kid_ said...

Mike:

You aren't kidding. Jumbo's was good stuff. What about Muggins? That was the best grease pit ever. The Market closed it down to put in a cooking school that never materialized. The fact that the Market hasn't let those businesses stay for free rent until the project is done is beyond me. They are going to lose their core group of restaurants.

I actually like the amphitheater idea. Verizon is a nightmare.

February 26, 2007  
Blogger Smartypants said...

I'm very frustrated by this as well! Outrageous! Dang city market project! Dang! Dang! Dang!

(OK. I've never been to Indianapolis but it seems like what I'm supposed to say here.)

February 26, 2007  
Blogger Smartypants said...

I'm very frustrated by this as well! Outrageous! Dang city market project! Dang! Dang! Dang!

(OK. I've never been to Indianapolis but it seems like what I'm supposed to say here.)

February 26, 2007  
Blogger Mike said...

Jumbo's is indeed gone forever. They were given the option to move from their 1000+ square foot main floor location to a 300 square foot booth on the upper floor of the east wing... any wonder why they decided to close up shop instead?

Of course they weren't the only place asked to move, and some of the other businesses decided to give it a shot. But if you've been reading the newspaper you probably know how well that's going.

February 27, 2007  

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