INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The search for a solution to a difficult dilemma in downtown Indianapolis had historic preservationists from across the country working together Tuesday. The issue: what to do with the old city hall building.
It sits in the heart of east downtown at the corner of Alabama and Ohio streets. But it's been mostly empty since 2007.
The cornerstone of the old city hall was laid in 1909. One hundred four years later, it's the building's once-in-a-lifetime marble and limestone interior that has the city searching for a way to make it useful again. Some 90 historic preservation experts in town for their national convention spent the day inside the building, brainstorming for future affordable uses.
"Oh I'm awestruck by the beauty of the building. They simply don't design and build them like this anymore,” said Kathy Kottaridis, from Historic Boston Inc. "I wonder if there's a market for luxury condos here for people who want to be in the core of the city and take advantage of all that's right here.”
Originally a city hall, the building has also been home to the Indiana State Museum and the Marion County Public Library. Since 2007, it's been used only for special events, including an art exhibit during Super Bowl XLVI.
"So our goal here is to not only have a good idea, but an idea that is fundable and sustainable and could bring money to the table," said Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Historic Landmarks Foundation.
Until then, in January, Indianapolis will move the plan division of the Department of Metropolitan Development to the first floor of the building. It’s a move that will help showcase the city and the building.
Paul Smith, real estate manager for the city of Indianapolis, said it shows prospective companies what’s going on in Indianapolis and what the future may look like.
"All of that is going to be in one place, right here for the first time that I'm aware of, in the city's history," Smith said.
It will keep the building up and running, until its future can be figured out.
"Not a quick fix solution even if the money is there. But something that would be a sustainable use for years to come for the city," said Davis, of the Historic Landmarks Foundation.
The building is in relatively good shape. But said it would cost millions to do a complete renovation. Surveys have indicated people would like to see it become a government building again. But finding the money to do that, he said, would be difficult.
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