Marcus hotel proposal loses in Indy

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

It appears that Marcus Hotels and Resorts, a division of Milwaukee-based The Marcus Corp., will miss out on an opportunity to operate a flagship convention hotel in downtown Indianapolis.

A committee appointed by Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson recently selected a competing convention center hotel proposal instead. The committee chose a proposal by an investors group that includes Merrillville, Ind.-based Whiteco Industries to build a J.W. Marriott Hotel, a Fairfield Inn, a SpringHill Suites and a Renaissance Hotel. All of those are brands of Washington, D.C.-based Marriott International Inc. The four hotels will have more than 1,000 rooms. The tallest hotel, the J.W. Marriott, will be 25 to 30 stories tall.

The committee selected that proposal over a 44-story, 1,016-room InterContinental Hotel that would have been developed by a group led by Michael Browning, who is the chairman of the board and president of Indianapolis-based Browning Investments Inc., and operated by Marcus.

The hotel that would have been operated by Marcus featured a taller and more dramatic design than the J.W. Marriott proposal. Because of that, the committee selection has generated criticism from some residents and the editorial board of the Indianapolis Star. However, Peterson is expected to rubber stamp the committee’s recommendation, and the city is asking Whiteco to improve the architectural design for its project.

Indianapolis plans to provide a significant subsidy for the hotel development. The exact amount is yet to be determined but, according to published reports, the developers have indicated they may need $40 million to assist the project.

The convention center hotel project is in the works as Indianapolis is planning a $275 million expansion of its convention center that would add 254,000 square feet of exhibition space, bringing its total size to 564,000 square feet. The city is also building a new retractable dome football stadium for the Indianapolis Colts, which will be part of the convention center complex.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, officials are trying to decide if the Midwest Airlines Center should be expanded, and how it would be paid for. It would cost about $100 million to $150 million to add 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of meeting space to the current 189,000-square-foot convention center, said Franklyn Gimbel, chairman of the Wisconsin Center District.

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