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City Market struggles financially; merchants’ leases extended only through 2023

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis City Market is having money problems and, until a strategic plan is in place, tenants can only sign leases through 2023.

Merchants in the longstanding building north of the Indianapolis City-County Building are still struggling to get more foot traffic without the city’s work force fully back downtown and customers having to navigate a major construction project. The multi-million dollar investment will widen sidewalks, add parking and a raised crosswalk between the City Market. When it’s done later this year, both Delaware and Market Streets will be rebuilt.

In a virtual meeting Thursday, the board discussed new ideas for the facility, including a plan to ask the city for a significant sum of money. However, when and how much hasn’t been determined.

The City Market’s full financial picture was also missing some pieces in the presentation. Executive Director Keisha Gray said she’s still working to figure out where city market stands. She shared that, so far this year, the City Market has taken in more than $775 ,000, but that figure includes a grant to cover merchants’ rent during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and a separate grant for elevator repairs.

Net income for the year is just over $366,000, but $200,000 of that will be used for the elevators.

All of the market merchants were offered rent relief associated with the coronavirus pandemic. They were expected to repay the relief when business picked back up. Some vendors told News 8 they opted out because they feel it would only put the market more at risk.

Several merchants left the market in 2020, and some who remain want lease extensions. However, the City Market now is only letting merchants sign through 2023. The board said anything longer wouldn’t be inappropriate until the strategic plan is complete; Gray couldn’t give an exact time frame for when that would be finished and what all it may include.

During public comment in the meeting, the owner of Grecian Gardens, John Marvikis asked Gray if she would have the strategic plan in place when she approached the city for money. Gray responded, “No.”

Marvikis then said, “I’m a little confused as far as the board and the City Market not wanting to keep restaurants in there for a long period of time, (restaurants) that have been there 19 years. Regardless of the strategic plan that you’re going to put in place, I am sure it’s going to include restaurants at the end of that plan.”

Some future plans were cut and dry. For starters, a mandatory extension of hours beginning in July. Some tenants had concerns about being unable to staff the added times, but Gray said, based on bad online reviews about that topic, consistency will be key.

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