INDIANAPOLIS — Downtown Indy Inc.’s “State of Downtown 2022” report, coming two years after the pandemic spring of 2020 virtually shut down downtown Indianapolis just before civil unrest rioters ruined what was left behind, finds the city’s core is bouncing back and is poised to make its next great leap forward.
“We’re a very resilient city and I think we’ve always proven that,” said Sherry Seiwert, outgoing President and CEO of DII. “I think that we have turned the corner and it does seem the appropriate time to bring in new vision, new leadership and I’m excited about the future.”
In a report released this afternoon, DII finds that post-pandemic-and-riot investment in downtown Indianapolis remains strong.
“We have $3.6 billion of projects in the pipeline,” said interim DII President Bob Schultz, “and that is incredible at a time when we’re starting to see this resurgence of people kind of revisiting and reengaging with downtown. Our residential population, our demand for that continues to grow.”
As multiple new apartment and condominium developments are ready to open their doors downtown, rental property occupancy is at nearly 97 percent, an all-time high, according to CBRE Group.
More single-family and condominium units changed hands last year than at any time in the last four years, and while single-family median sales prices went up, condo sales prices dipped a bit.
“Indianapolis… can anticipate a more robust downtown housing market over the next 20 years than at any point since World War II,” said David Dixon, Urban Places Fellow at Stantec, an urban design and consulting company. “Those are exactly the things that should be happening downtown now and aren’t happening in other downtowns.”
Indianapolis political, business and social leaders are currently engaged in talks and requests for information regarding the redevelopment of several downtown properties including the City-County Building, the City Market, the Old City Hall, Circle Centre and the entire Market East District which includes the former Jail II site and beyond to the abandoned Angie’s List campus off East Washington Street.
Many of those discussions have additional housing at their core.
“All those things that you talk about are what attracts the talent to Indianapolis,” said Dixon, “and they’re gonna come downtown first and they’re gonna come to Indianapolis because of what’s downtown and then jobs and investment will follow.”
Dixon said 90 percent of the next generation jobs yet to be created in the United States will require a college education and those workers want to live in downtown urban settings.
Some 25,000 people live in the downtown region from 16th Street on the north to I-70 on the south and the average age is 36.
“It’s a young downtown and so we’re going to see demands that a younger downtown wants from their community and that is social cohesion, it is increase at home narrative so they’re working from home but they’re also wanting a job that allows them to come into the office,” said Schultz. “This is a national success story and this is what a younger demographic is requiring, that it’s not just a place for commerce, it’s a place for social cohesion, it’s a place for neighborhood growth.”
Visit Indy said this week, with the return of the FDIC firefighters conference and its approximately 30,000 attendees, that the city’s visitor business has bounced back to its pre-pandemic levels driven by conventions and sporting events.
“The report talks about a 250% increase in sports attendance obviously in 2021 versus 2020,” said Schultz, “so you start to see this desire to reengage and come back downtown.”
The report also shows that Indianapolis’ downtown office vacancy rate is 18.1 percent, the highest its been since at least 2017.
“I would say that 65 percent of our workforce is back downtown in a hybrid situation,” said Seiwert. “It won’t be what it was 10 years ago, or even two years ago, but I do think it’s an opportunity now to think about what’s next.”
Seiwert wouldn’t say what’s next as she leaves DII after 10 years at the helm, though she said coming up with a solution to the number of persons without shelter living on downtown streets may be the most vexing issue for her successor.
Whether he is filling the role temporarily or set to be named DII’s next leader, Bob Schultz said that Indianapolis is on the cusp of its next downtown evolution.
“We’re at a critical crossroads again as a community, an opportunity that is demonstrating great transformational growth at a time coming out of a pandemic where people are questioning their engagement with street level retail and want more and more of that at a time also when the demand for downtown living is still at a record pace and so we need to take advantage of it.”