INDIANAPOLIS — For the last week, Sherry Sewiert, president of Downtown Indy Inc. (DII), has tried to get a handle on the cost two nights of rioting did to businesses, buildings and residences in the core of Indianapolis.
When she wouldn’t hazard a prediction on even a low-ball figure, I asked, “Is it well into the seven figures?”
“That’s a fair guess,” Seiwert said.
Surveys conducted by DII and FOX59 News indicate building losses from at least $10,000 at Dick’s Bodacious Barbeque at the corner of Pennsylvania and Market Streets where IMPD fired tear gas to disperse a crowd on the night of May 30th to $500,000 at the Block Building at 110 West Market Street, and Seiwert said her survey of damages likely won’t be complete for another week.
DII listed at least 112 businesses and buildings impacted by the rioting, fires and looting that followed often peaceful protests that began on Monument Circle against racial inequality and police action shootings.
Mayor Joe Hogsett said he is awaiting DII’s report before he can speculate on the total financial loss to downtown Indianapolis.
“We’re continuing to work with the community partners and downtown businesses to make a line-by-line accurate assessment of the damages that took place in terms of once those figures are largely assessed and agreed to on a go forward basis,” said the mayor when questioned by FOX59 News during a virtual press briefing Monday. “Obviously we’ve spent a lot of money through DPW in just simply boarding up and trying to protect those businesses from any further damage.
“I would assume that most of the damages that have occurred, the individual private business owners would have insurance claims that would in no small measure help reimburse them for those damages.”
Not so much, said George Stergiopoulis, owner of Giorgio’s Pizza just off Monument Circle.
“We’re still getting some estimates but we’re thinking it’s between two and three thousand bucks,” said Stergiopoulis as he stood cleaning off tables in the shadow of plywood covering the broken window on his restaurant. “Our deductible is way higher than what the cost is so insurance won’t cover it.”
Giorgio’s sales have bounced back to only 25% of what they were before the coronavirus pandemic shut down in March, and Stergiopoulis said the riots were a second gut punch to struggling downtown businesses.
“A lot of people got hit worse than we did and we’re one of the lucky ones in the situation,” he said. “I’ve heard on the grapevine that some businesses with the pandemic and then this happening, they’re not gonna survive.’
Stergiopoulis has owned the Greek Island restaurant south of downtown for decades where he said business is only 20% of what it was before the pandemic.
“We spent years and years rebuilding downtown and making it a great place to come,” he said. “We’ve been down here since November and I re-fell in love with downtown Indianapolis, downtown Indy again, and I love it down here, and we’re not gonna be able to showcase it. It’s gonna be a while before people start coming down again.”
Stergiopoulis said he expects the plywood to stay up over his broken window for another two weeks.
“We haven’t heard anything on relief for the businesses yet. I know DII is trying to help out,” he said. “We did get a call from some people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that they want to come out and help some small business, mom and pops, and we’re working on that. Things that they were planning to do before the pandemic kind of put on the back burner so we’re hoping that that all works out. We’re hoping that DII can come through. They’ve been a real active member about what’s been going on down here the last few weeks.”
Seiwert said DII has raised $7000 so far through its Small Business Recovery Fund.
“Some of this is going to be determined by what insurance companies cover and don’t cover,” said Chief Deputy Mayor Thomas Cook. “I think there’s obviously going to be a concerted effort beyond that to continue to make investments in our downtown and bring people back to it as we especially see these COVID-19 restrictions lifted in the coming weeks, and that’s the thing we’ve been engaging with with Downtown Indy with the Indy Chamber and the merchants associations downtown on what that looks like.
“I think this is going to be something that frankly extends beyond the actual cleanup of downtown in the repair of those windows and facilities. I think this will be something where you will see a lot of community partnerships and civic partnerships, and the one thing I would observe is, we have the benefit in Indianapolis of not just having corporate residents that occupy our downtown, but we have corporate citizens that have without exception been reaching out to our administration to not just want to lead recovery efforts as it relates to the physical damage that was done but, frankly, lead the recovery efforts as it relates to the community conversation that’s ongoing. We’re thankful for that and I think that public/private partnership model that helped build our downtown will ultimately be what allows us to rebuild our downtown in the coming months.”
“Well said,” added the mayor.
The human cost in unemployment of downtown workers displaced by the riots and damage has yet to be determined.