City, hoteliers give cautious support of proposed Pan Am Plaza

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — City officials and hoteliers alike will admit it is prime downtown real estate.

A proposed redevelopment of the Pan American Plaza is said to be in the works, but officials with the realty group that owns the property won’t provide specific details.

“We don’t have any further comment, it’s too preliminary to discuss,” Sarah Kuester, the Executive Assistant to Thomas McGowan, told WISH-TV by phone Monday.

The site near Georgia and Capitol streets would provide prime access to the Indianapolis Convention Center, and is walking distance to both Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium. Robert Vane, with the city’s Capital Improvement Board which runs the convention center, said they expected to be “briefed on the plans” but had not yet and declined to comment further.

Indianapolis Sports Corp., which has its office inside the Pan Am Plaza tower, declined to comment given the early stages of the future development.

Chris Gahl with Visit Indy, the city’s tourism wing, said “we know when Pan Am Plaza gets developed, we hope that a hotel component is part of the mix. It could easily be connected to the convention center. We know there’s interest” in developing that property. Gahl added that Visit Indy would support the plan if it called for mixed use.

According to an Indianapolis Business Journal article, Pan Am Plaza could be developed into two new skyscrapers — one of them holding two hotels offering 700 rooms. According to the article, which cited sources familiar with the architectural plans , the proposal calls for a mix of retail space, hotels, condominiums and restaurants.

All things that would bode well for the city hoping to secure another Super Bowl.  But Phil Ray, the general manager of the Marriott Hotel, was more cautious in his opinion of any future development – saying the demand must be there for hotel rooms.

“In the long term, we know it’s probably the right thing to have hotels there, we just obviously want to make sure it’s not creating too much supply before the demand is there,” said Ray, who said his hotel has seen a steady occupancy rate of 70 percent, a figure he’d like to see grow before another hotel development is constructed.

“I think eventually and there is certainly pockets of that demand. But the question is can we have that demand throughout the whole year to have it make sense,” Ray added.

Smith Travel Research, a Tennessee-based company that tracks hotel occupancy, provided WISH-TV with an analysis of the Indianapolis market – including occupancy rates. Last year, occupancy rates fluctuated from the mid-40s to more than 71 percent, according to the STR data. Last month, of the more than 968,000 rooms available, occupancy rates were just over 51 percent, the numbers show.

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