Downtown development can be a painstaking crawl, an uncoordinated process through piecemeal projects. But sometimes it moves ahead in sudden bounds.
In Indianapolis developer Buckingham Companies has embarked on a project that would essentially create a new neighborhood from 14 acres of vacant land near Lucas Oil Stadium, host to this year’s Super Bowl. CityWay includes 250 apartments, 60,000 square feet of retail and office space, a luxury hotel, YMCA and public green space.
The four blocks north of South Street between Delaware Street and Virginia Avenue were once a train yard and a drainage swale before they were a parking lot. “For the last 130 years,” said Buckingham Senior Development Executive Scott Travis, “It has been the most under-utilized parcel of land in Indianapolis.”
The city and state helped support the $155 million project. Leveraging its AAA credit rating, Indianapolis aggressively supported the development through the sale of municipal bonds. The project services that debt, allowing Indianapolis to act as a credit backstop with little financial risk. On top of that the city contributed $9 million for infrastructure improvements, while Indiana kicked in $5 million.
One of the first mixed-use projects in Indianapolis to consider more than just two uses, CityWay is designed to connect the city’s core to its somewhat overlooked Southeast Quadrant. The site is within walking distance of major employers like Eli Lilly, Rolls-Royce and WellPoint, as well as emerging cultural districts of Fountain Square and Fletcher Place.
Indianapolis’ Director of Metropolitan Development Maury Plambeck said an Eli Lilly executive and early tenant of recently built downtown condo space noticed the lot on his walk to work each morning. “He saw all the other pedestrian-oriented development going on in other parts of downtown,” Plambeck said, “and he approached Buckingham.”
The proximity to major employers should be a draw for potential employees seeking an urban lifestyle. Traditionally people from Indianapolis don’t consider the area part of downtown. But this project will change that, Plambeck said, by tying into urban institutions like the cultural trail.
“This connects four of our most important corporations in the urban core,” Travis said, “to the balance of the city.” Early signs suggest the formula is selling: All 100 apartments available for the project’s first phase have been leased.
But the area was not a natural choice for pedestrian-oriented development. Delaware Avenue, which borders the site to the west, was a one-way, five-lane thoroughfare that Travis called “almost not navigable” for pedestrians. In addition to taming Delaware, infrastructure improvements for the project include expanding better street lighting and adding parking along South Street. Two intersections will be raised to slow down motorists.
Gensler designed the hotel, which is set to open early next year, while Colorado-based OZ Architects tackled the residential component. Subtle touches in the material components, from balcony detailing to exposed brick, reference the industrial heritage of the nearby warehouse district. A public green in front of the hotel will host public events for up to 400 people.
In forging a new path for its downtown redevelopment, Indianapolis has not forgotten their past. The team reclaimed hunks of limestone found buried at the site, repurposing the former foundation for landscape elements. “It’s got some history, some authenticity,” said Buckingham President Brad Chambers, “We’re thrilled to be working on a project at this site and at this point in the city’s history.”