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Much of Pan Am block being demolished to make way for convention center expansion, 40-story hotel

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March 26, 2024


Demolition is underway on a pair of structures at downtown’s Pan Am Plaza as crews make way for a $250 million expansion of the Indiana Convention Center and construction of a 40-story, 800-room Signia by Hilton hotel.

The work is taking place over much of the block bordered by Illinois Street to the east, Georgia Street to the north, Capitol Avenue to the west, and West Louisiana Street to the south. The structures and public spaces being erased from the site include the former Pavilion at Pan Am event center at 201 S. Capitol Ave. and the Pan American Plaza, making way for vertical construction later this spring. A one-story, city-owned structure at 260 S. Illinois St. also is being demolished.

The structures are expected to be fully razed within the next few weeks, according to representatives with the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County, which operates the convention center, and AECOM Hunt, the construction manager for the project. The buildings are being torn down using four excavators.

“Over the course of the next couple of weeks, those structures will be demolished completely back down to the grade, and once that’s done, we’ll clear rubble and start excavation for foundations,” said Bill Sewall, vice president of AECOM Hunt. “In May, we will start to erect a tower crane and begin the foundations for the new Signia tower and convention center expansion. We’re close to that next major milestone.”

The entire sub-grade parking garage below the plaza already has been removed, leaving a gaping hole in the site with only the outer perimeter walls of the structure still in place. The garage will be rebuilt in order to serve the hotel.

The cost of redeveloping Pan Am Plaza is expected to cost more than $750 million, including the Signia by Hilton hotel and the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.

The latter component will add 143,500 square feet of space, including extensive pre-function space and a 50,000-square-foot ballroom. The project also calls for an enclosed skywalk connecting the addition to the existing convention center across Capitol Avenue.

The 12-story Pan Am Tower office building at the northwest corner of Georgia and Capitol will not be affected by the development.

“We’ve, of course, seen progress since this project got started, but most of that has been underground,” said Andy Mallon, executive director of the CIB. “This [step] is certainly visible from office buildings and hotel rooms throughout downtown, so it’s exciting to hear from people as they see tangible progress being made.”

New utility lines are expected to be run to the site as part of the project, which will involve the closure of Illinois Street’s northbound lanes from April 1 to July 1. That portion of the project will run new steam and chilled water lines, as well as new communication lines from AT&T.

Construction crews and the CIB are working closely with the Indianapolis Department of Public Works to ensure that businesses affected by the closure between Georgia and South streets will still be accessible.

The structure and exterior of the hotel are expected to be completed by the end of 2025.

Sewall said the project remains on track for an autumn 2026 opening. Of the $410 million allotted for subcontractors on the project, only $19.2 million has been awarded, with 41% of that going toward diverse companies. Several bid packages are set to go out in late April, focused on mechanical, plumbing, drywall, masonry and interior components. Additional bids for more specific interior components like ornamental metals and bathroom fixtures will be due in June.

“Success of those bidding rounds is pretty vital to the remaining success of the project,” Sewall said.

The city of Indianapolis could ultimately pay in excess of $1.6 billion for the redevelopment project, after taking into account the total debt service the city is expected to owe on hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds for the project.

In November, the city sold $581 million in bonds for the development through the Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank, consisting of $436.8 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for the hotel portion of the project, and another $155 million for the convention center expansion.

Including interest, the total cost for the project is now expected to be around $1.63 billion.

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