INDIANAPOLIS – City leaders are reimagining a longstanding, lunchtime destination in downtown Indianapolis: they’re planning to temporarily close the City Market to renovate and redevelop the area.

If you walk around the City Market, you’ll notice it looks half empty. Some of the remaining vendors say the pandemic is to blame for the downturn in business. But only a few years ago, they say the historic building was thriving.

“It was crowded, vendors all over,” Atif Selwanes, owner of Cath Coffee & Tea House said. “People [were] in and out, businesses [were] going well. People [were] happy. Since Covid, a lot of change is happening.”

The absence of workers stopping by for lunch paired with nearby construction slowed foot traffic drastically. But the city is working on a mixed-use redevelopment plan they hope will strengthen the area as a place to live, work and play in Market East.

“This was a pretty popular spot back in the day,” customer Jeff Sedam said. “The way downtown has changed, I think some of the traffic has cut down a little bit, so hopefully this will revitalize it a bit.”

The city enlisted private partners to create more than 400 housing units, improve infrastructure and upgrade public spaces.

Hannah Thomas, chief communications officer for the Department of Metropolitan Development, said it’s set to become the densest city block in the state – and they studied similar markets in other cities to chart the best path forward.

While the owner of Cath Coffee says revitalization is a great idea, vendors are left wondering what their futures hold.

“Are they going to have us return back? How long will it take? We really need an answer for that,” Selwanes said.

Many rely on the customers who are left to remain in business.

“This is the only source of income that we have,” Selwanes said. “I’m feeding my kids out of this. If they tell me, ‘Alright, thank you for all the hard work, we are going to remodel.’ Okay, so what then?”

“We still don’t know where we’re going to be going and how it will affect us,” Tasha Claytor, owner of T Street Eatz, said.

Claytor said she invested everything she has into T Street Eatz.

“As a small business owner, as a Black woman owner of a restaurant – now this is even more of a struggle for us,” Claytor said.

Thomas said keeping local vendors will remain a priority, and that current tenants will receive a three-month notice ahead of any temporary closure. But some feel it’s not enough.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Selwanes said.

The city said more details on what the space will look like in coming years are expected later this fall.

Read the full statement below:

In 2022, we called for redevelopment of the east wing of the City Market – what was selected was a much more ambitious and complex project that will strengthen the City Market Campus as a live, work, and play district in Market East. In partnership with Gershman Partners and Citimark, we’ve embarked on a development that includes over 400 housing units, pedestrian- infrastructure, public space upgrades, and structural and operational improvements to the historic market house. To further catalyze the project, over the last two years, the Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) and Indianapolis City-County Council unanimously approved $5 million and $12 million, respectively, to energize the campus in addition to the $18.8 million in developer-backed TIF funding for the north campus. This allows us to think boldly with our partners at the City Market Corporation, to strengthen the City Market Campus and its operations into its next era for Indianapolis residents, neighbors, and visitors. Only after the recent decision to seek a build-operate-transfer (BOT) procurement partner in 2023 did a closure window become apparent. As construction and development timelines begin to formalize, we will share them with vendors and partners. As a part of any temporary shutdown, the current City Market merchants would receive notice of timing months in advance as well as an opportunity to share their specific needs relative to the future of the City Market Campus.

MDC Chief Communications Officer Hannah Thomas