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Building owner at potential MLS stadium site refuses to sell

Building owner at potential MLS stadium site refuses to sell

LATEST: The Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday afternoon made the site on Pearl Street into a Professional Sports Development Area. The designation, as set by Indiana law, would allow taxpayers’ dollars to be captured in that area to help fund the stadium.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The owner of a building on a proposed Major League Soccer stadium site refused to sell when she was met with an offer.

Lena Hackett owns the building at 10 S. New Jersey St. and she says she will not sell her building after receiving an offer from Bo Leffel at Cushman & Wakefield. The global commercial real estate services firm for property owners and occupiers has 52,000 employees in nearly 400 offices and 60 countries, according to its website.

As the Indianapolis mayor announced Thursday, the proposed soccer stadium would be at 355 E. Pearl St. That site is east and northeast of the Virginia Avenue Parking Garage that is connected to Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. It’s also near the former Marion County jail and the City-County Building.

The Metropolitan Development Commission will meet at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Public Assembly Room at the City-County Building. During that meeting, the group will discuss making the site on Pearl Street into a Professional Sports Development Area. The designation, as set by Indiana law, would allow taxpayers’ dollars to be captured in that area to help fund the stadium.

Hackett’s building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1986.

Marsh Davis, president of Indiana Landmarks, describes the designation as “honorific” in nature, meaning protections are limited for places on the national register. Davis says Hackett would be allowed to demolish the building with her own money, but, if it was sold and demolished for a project using federal funds, that would trigger a review process.

The mayor has told News 8 an ownership group for an MLS expansion team is already in place. Public money would go toward the new soccer stadium, but the ownership group would pay the hefty expansion fee.

“We’re not building two soccer stadiums. We’re just going to build one,” Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett told News 8’s Scott Sander on Friday on “Daybreak.” “But where that goes is largely dependent on what MLS is going to expect, what the ownership group wants to involve itself with. We’re trying to give as many opportunities to MLS as we can possibly give them.

As for the future of the Eleven Park stadium, Hogsett put that back on Ersal Ozdemir, the owner of the team and the park.

“That’s entirely up to my friend Ersal Ozdemir (owner of Keystone Group and Indy Eleven). We’re committed to building a soccer stadium that is soccer-specific,” Hogsett said Friday on “Daybreak.” “What we’re doing is focusing on bringing a third major league franchise to the city of Indianapolis. We deserve and need an MLS franchise.”

The city already has created the Professional Sports Development Area created for Eleven Park, a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium under construction. Along the shore of the White River between West Washington Street and Kentucky Avenue, the Eleven Park project will create the stadium; over 600 apartments; 205,000 square feet of office space; over 197,000 square feet for retail space and restaurants; a hotel; public plazas with green space; and public parking garages.

Eleven Park construction is under way on land previously owned by The Diamond Chain Co. along the east shore of the White River between West Washington Street and Kentucky Avenue.

A map of the planned Eleven Park location in downtown Indianapolis. (Provided Image/Indy Eleven and Keystone Group)

Ozdemir sat down with News 8’s Phil Sanchez on Monday. He said he wants Eleven Park to work out.

“We have worked with the administration successfully, and I have a good relationship with the administration and the mayor, but I didn’t expect the announcement when it came, but again the mayor is a friend. I’m happy to get in a room today to figure out a way to get Eleven Park built,” Ozdemir said.

Members of the City-County Council have expressed concerns with the idea that Eleven Park may falter.

Councilor Kristin Jones is a Democrat who represents District 18, where the park will be located. She released a statement when the mayor announced the city would seek out a MLS team.

“Nearly one year ago, I stood alongside families from District 18, business and community leaders, and our city and state leadership as we broke ground for Indy Eleven Park. It was a great day filled with hope and opportunity for an underutilized portion of downtown on the White River. Knowing that the vision of a mixed-use space and a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium would be realized after ten years of investment, advocacy, and public input was a dream come true. 

Today, while on the one hand, I am pleased that Indianapolis remains a strong market for professional sports, I am disappointed that the decision was made to disregard the hard work, investment, and legislation that my council colleagues and state legislators, had already passed in a bi-partisan manner for the former Diamond Chain site on the river. I am hopeful that the original approved site will continue to be utilized for any soccer-specific stadium.”

Councilor Kristin Jones, a Democrat

Council Minority Leader Brian Mowery also released a statement on Thursday expressing concern.

“The news that the Hogsett administration is attempting to walk away from a deal to develop the Indy Eleven Park is concerning and came as a shock to our caucus. The administration never communicated to us that this deal was in danger. I want to be sure that Indianapolis is seen as a city that always operates and negotiates transparently and in good faith. We hope to learn more from the administration and stakeholders as my caucus and I work with council Democrats to do what is in the best interest for Marion County as a whole.”

Council Minority Leader Brian Mowery, a Republican

A spokesperson for Mayor Hogsett sent News 8 a statement on Tuesday night.

“Over recent weeks, City of Indianapolis officials were approached by a well-respected, experienced sports executive who expressed the potential for a group of investors to try to make Indianapolis the next Major League Soccer city. Mayor Hogsett met this opportunity with action by traveling to New York City to meet with the Commissioner of Major League Soccer, and filing a new PSDA map that will be voted on by the MDC tomorrow. While we are still in the early stages of this extensive process, we are excited about the prospect of bringing the major league of the world’s game to Indianapolis.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Joe Hogsett

The Democratic caucus also shared a statement with News 8 after Thursday’s announcement.

The Democratic Caucus of the Indianapolis City-County Council has and always will remain focused on thoughtful neighborhood development, particularly in those neighborhoods that have been underutilized for decades. District 18, represented by our colleague Councilor Kristin Jones, was on the brink of enhancing our city’s skyline by developing a mixed-use space and a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium. After ten years of investment, advocacy, and public input, we recently learned that these plans may not be realized. 

As the legislative branch of our city/county government, our responsibility is to make the tough decisions on what proposals are successful and which ones are not in the best interest of our constituents. Right now, our caucus has more questions than answers about the new stadium proposal. Going forward, we expect that the administration will provide all of the facts of the proposal, so that we can fully consider all merits of this opportunity.  

Pursuing a major league soccer team could strengthen our city’s reputation, enhance tourism, and boost our economy. Currently, we believe there is more work to do to understand the repercussions of this strategy.

With transparency and real collaboration, we will continue working alongside Chairwoman Jones and the full City-County Council by advocating for all districts and pursuing opportunities to create jobs and sound investments to enhance our city.” 

Indianapolis City-County Council Democratic Caucus