21c seeking public dollars to revamp former Indy City Hall into new hotel

The Old Indianapolis City Hall | National Park Service

The Old Indianapolis City Hall | National Park Service

It wasn’t part of the original plan, but then again, that plan seems to keep expanding: 21c Museum Hotels is seeking public funding to convert the abandoned Old Indianapolis City Hall into its latest boutique hotel.

The Louisville-based art-hotel chain is asking for a $9.1 million city loan from Indy and an $11.3 million federal loan to build the 150-room hotel. It would finance $29 million of the $55 million project itself, through equity and debt.

As in Louisville, the Indy 21c would be home to a free public contemporary art museum. The company is proposing to start construction by the end of this year, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The old City Hall is a pretty interesting place. It was built in the early 1900s and intended to symbolize the stability of the city. According to the National Parks Service:

Four-stories high, with a veneer of Indiana limestone, the new city hall reflected City Beautiful Classicism. Engaged 2-story high Roman Doric columns gave the exterior its monumental character. The interior has a grand rotunda with stained glass dome. Gently knock on the columns; some are real marble. Others are scagliola, a kind of imitation marble made on plaster with special painting techniques. The circular rotunda extends upward three levels.

The building has been vacant since 2008.

Outside of River City, 21c has locations in Cincinnati and Bentonville, Ark. Its hotel in Durham, N.C., is expected to open this quarter, and it has others under construction in Lexington and Oklahoma City. The company is also developing new projects in Nashville and Kansas City, Mo.

True to form, every one of them is a rehab of a historic building in need of some love.

Mission-driven startups share WaterStep’s space

waterstepThere’s so much going on at WaterStep these days. Mark Hogg continues to diversify his philanthropic brainchild in order to find the most holistic ways to help people in need.

First of all, there are only four water well repair schools in the world, and one of them is at the WaterStep World Headquarters on Myrtle St. in Louisville. That’s California, Iowa, Mozambique and here.

In the 1970s and ’80s, UNESCO and other aid organizations were focussed on drilling water wells in Africa. A key part of every well is two leather gaskets. Now, more than half of those wells are broken because the gaskets are worn out. New gaskets cost only $37, but a lot of the wells remain inactive because no one knows how to fix them.

Enter WaterStep.

Also, WaterStep has begun offering mission-similar startups space in their complex. Both EcoBridge Industries and Six Sigma Laboratories have moved in.

EcoBridge Industries is working with farmers to grow sustainable crops that can be turned into bio-plastics and other eco-friendly manufacturing products that are typically sourced from overseas. Stay tuned for a longer profile on EcoBridge soon.

Six Sigma Laboratories produces NormaLyte oral rehydration salts — think Gatorade, but healthier for you and in powder form. Sure, you can use these to hydrate yourself after a killer workout — heck, they’re probably pretty good for a killer hangover, too.

But WaterStep and Six Sigma see more humanitarian applications, too. The formula, which meets the strict criteria of the World Health Organization, replenishes a body racked by diarrhea from viruses, bacteria and parasites. It also makes scarce water work harder in your body. The powder form makes it easier and cheaper to ship to troubled areas. It also has a long shelf life.