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Old Indianapolis City Hall to become temporary hub for long term planning

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INDIANAPOLIS – With its Indiana limestone classical facade, Indianapolis’ former city hall is hard to miss in downtown Indianapolis, but it has been used on a very limited basis in six years. City planners, determined to get people thinking about workable reuses, are pushing for renovations that would allow for a temporary urban planning hub that could come in handy.

“It has been a building that we have struggled to figure out what its future is and in the near term one of our goals is to start using it,” said Adam Thies, director of the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development.

Every seven to ten years, city planners, with the help of partnering non-profits, private interests, development groups and the public, rework Indianapolis and Marion County’s long-term comprehensive plan. This time it will speak to what the Circle City could look like in 20 or 30 years. The large, open space available to the interested parties is expected to improve the process.

“Transit planning, reconnecting to our waterways is a nonprofit initiative out there, a lot of housing and neighborhood development activities,” said Thies about the long-term strategy called the ‘2020 plan.’

The old City Hall, that also housed the Indiana State Museum and the interim Central Library, has been costing taxpayer money inefficiently. It is one of the driving forces behind the move to get people talking about change inside.

“The materials alone, and the craftsmanship, the marble, the tile, this grand, four-story elliptical atrium is unlike any other space we have in the entire state,” said Marsh Davis, Indiana Landmarks President.

Also top of mind is a permanent use for the building. A wide range of ideas have come out of the National Preservation Conference that Indianapolis is playing host to right now. The ideas include a boutique hotel, a racing history museum, another space for city government and a brewery.

“We’ve had ideas for years, but no one has taken it to the level of how are we going to pay for it, and if there is a funding gap, what are the sources, so we’re inching towards that right now,” said Davis.

The renovations could begin in December, but they will need full council approval. The planning process is expected to start a month or two later. It will include a series of meetings and hearing that the public will be able to attend.