INDIANAPOLIS — Sashia Hayes and Tamara Lyles exited the nearly deserted City Market Monday lunchtime, frustrated by the dark stalls they found inside.
“We’ve been trying to find somewhere to eat but everything is closed,” Lyles said. “Now we’re upset and we’ll wander around until we find something else.”
Since the onset of the pandemic almost two years ago and the abandonment of downtown and the City County building by office workers, City Market has resembled a ghost town even at lunchtime, when traditionally customers stood in long lines for food, searching for empty tables in the balcony seating area of the market.
The vain search for food continued today, but dozens of free tables were waiting for customers who were nowhere to be found.
The City of Indianapolis believes one solution could be to provide the market with a ready customer base right next door.
For the first time, the city has announced that it is seeking developer proposals for the construction of a high-rise apartment building on the market’s East Hall and East Plaza site.
“What we would like to see is housing,” said Scarlett Andrews, director of Metropolitan Development. “What we’d like to see would be a denser housing development, probably quite high, and a little more commercial use on the bottom, maybe a little more family-friendly stuff.”
The city has issued a call for proposals calling for affordable and market-leading housing, with a focus on three-bedroom apartments on the floor plan of the current east wing, where the Indy Bike Hub is located.
“It’s an incredible opportunity. We don’t often release these types of RFPs. This is a unique opportunity to invest downtown,” said Andrews, who expects any developer to preserve the bike hub along with commercial and public spaces on the ground floor and plaza. “We don’t want commercial uses, not even restaurants or whatever, to compete with the market, so we want something that drives the customer base.”
More shoppers strolling alongside the market would please Brenda Barratt, where her Jack’s Barber Shop was one of only three shops open Monday.
“We would have a built-in store right there. We’re going to have a lot of customers over there who want to come over and eat and get their hair cut and go shopping,” Barrett said as she trimmed a customer’s beard. “I like the idea that they think of something different because I think there are a lot of restaurants here and here. I think that’s a fabulous idea. Something a little different.”
The bid contains references to the city’s commitment to renovate not only the City Market but also Old City Hall, two blocks north of Alabama Street.
Also included in the city’s Market East plans is an RFP for the original Cole Motor Car Company on East Washington Street, which for 25 years has housed Marion County Jail II and the former Arrestee Processing Center directly behind on East Market Street.
“The interior of the building is a kind of blank slate because it has been used in so many different ways. You could rip out everything in it and start over, and I think what we’re looking for is more of a reuse,” Andrews said. “You could see apartments there. You could see offices. You might see other commercial uses. We’d like to see ground-level activation so you have a reason not to just drive past it if you’re driving, walking or cycling. Somehow these buildings could be used for educational purposes, so it’s really just an open book.”
Later this spring, the city also expects to issue a bid for the two wings of the City County building that will become vacant with the move of the criminal and civil courts to the new Community Justice Center in Twin Aire, east of Fountain Square.
“Living downtown is absolutely critical,” said Andrews, who anticipates the developers’ proposals for the CCB wings will include residential components, “and what we’re seeing now is that downtown occupancy rates are at over 90 percent, which is incredibly healthy for a downtown area. People want to live downtown and what we don’t have is enough housing.”
Heading to find lunch, Sashia Hayes said she doesn’t believe in the city’s vision of living downtown.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea because who wants to live across from the City County building?” she asked. “It’s not comfortable for me at all, especially at night.
“It just seems like more downtown gentrification to me,” Hayes continued. “There’s too much traffic. Everything is getting too expensive to get downtown. There is too much traffic, parking is a hassle and you cannot reach your destination because it is closed. It doesn’t make too much sense. So you open apartments and then what? We still have nothing to eat. Now there are apartments but no restaurants.”
With the market behind them practically empty, Hayes and Lyles went looking for a place to eat on the east side of downtown.
The city expects developers to submit their City Market East Housing and Plaza redevelopment plans by mid-March, with the Jail II and APC proposals following a month later.
Suggest a correction