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Airport board cuts $57 million in costs on hotel redesign

Indianapolis International Airport. (WISH Photo)

(MIRROR INDY) — The Indianapolis Airport Authority’s dream of a “first-class, full-service” hotel experienced a reality check at a board meeting Friday, March 15.

The board announced it had ordered a redesign of initial plans for a Marriott Westin hotel on the west side of the airport’s parking garage. The redesign removed multiple amenities, reducing the estimated project cost by $57 million, from $262 million to $205 million.

The board is still looking into whether it will move forward with the project.

To begin construction, the airport would have to spend more than $40 million — which is about a third of its emergency reserves. The board will consider whether to fund the hotel after it completes a financial impact assessment in April.

[Read and Listen: Documenters coverage at an Indy Airport Authority board meeting.]

“There’s a lot of interest in ‘Let’s make this a really special hotel,’ and that can take you in a direction that lends itself to excess,” Jonathan Weinzapfel, general counsel for the Indianapolis Airport Authority, told the board Friday. “So we feel pretty confident in the number that we’ve come to, and it’s required some tough decisions, but I think that they’re all reasonable. I don’t think any of them detract from what I think is going to be a very special hotel in Indianapolis.”  

Removing some features

The redesign included the removal of a pool, a third-floor garage passageway that would cost $10 million, a water feature worth $1 million, a cistern at $825,000 and $600,000 worth of wooden beams for a canopy.

Board President Barbara Glass said she is at least partially responsible for including the features that had to be cut.

“I think as this started it was like: sky’s the limit, there’s no restrictions on what we’re going to have,” Glass told the board. “But there have to be some restrictions. I think the building is beautiful, and it is staying that way.”

The redesign required the board to amend pre-construction contracts with several companies involved in the project. 

The board approved a contract for up to $4.13 million to CSO Architects Inc., up to $1.14 million to Shiel Sexton Co., up to $320,000 to Wischermann Partners Inc. and up to $200,000 to Louderback Group LLC. 

Tapping into reserves

Beginning construction would require the authority to use $40 million of its $126 million in cash reserves. According to project estimates, it could take 28 years to recoup that investment.

Weinzapfel said approved funding for its capital improvement program would help replenish reserves in case of an emergency.

“During an emergency, during COVID, for example, we stopped the capital program so that became reserves automatically,” he told the board. 

The board’s Finance and Audit Committee will take a deeper look at how diverting the cash reserves would impact the airport’s finances in a meeting April 25. 

The board is expected to vote on the funding later this year.

Mirror Indy reporter Enrique Saenz covers west Indianapolis. Contact him at 317-983-4203 or Follow him on X @heyEnriqueSaenz