IBJ: Keystone unveils renderings for $1B Eleven Park; demolition to start in May

IBJ – February 17, 2023 | Mickey Shuey

Keystone Group said Friday that it will break ground on its Eleven Park mixed-use development in May. The Indianapolis-based developer also released new details about the $1 billion downtown project, including renderings that place its 20,000-seat soccer stadium along the White River and add a 4,000-seat entertainment venue.

Keystone founder Ersal Ozdemir—majority owner of the Indy Eleven soccer team—told IBJ that work at the former Diamond Chain Co. property at 402 Kentucky Ave. will begin about a month after the manufacturer fully departs the 100-year-old structure in April.

Demolition and remediation are expected to last until November, at which time Ozdemir anticipates construction will begin on several buildings across the 20-acre tract. He expects the stadium to be done in time for Indy Eleven’s 2025 season.

Ozdemir and his team continue to negotiate with the city to flesh out details of the public-private partnership that will help fund the stadium and the incentives that could assist with other parts of the development.

This week, Keystone filed a request to rezone the Diamond Chain property, modifying it from its current industrial designation to CBD-2, which is used for commercial developments in the city’s business district. The change will require approval from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, Metropolitan Development Commission and City-County Council.

In addition to the updated timeline, Keystone shared renderings for the project that depict an open-air stadium along the river, with seating protected from the elements. That’s a change from the site plan Ozdemir shared in June, when IBJ broke the news that Keystone had purchased the Diamond Chain site for the development.

The original plan sited apartment buildings along the river, with the stadium just east of the apartments. But the new renderings show only greenspace and walking trails between the stadium and the river.

They also show at least five 10- to 20-story buildings for apartments, a hotel and office space, along with a new addition—a 4,000-seat entertainment venue.

The renderings depict massive outdoor video boards and an expansive public plaza area for which the company plans to seek city incentives.

Ozdemir said the goal is to take advantage of the site along the river and boost development in an area that has been largely industrial for decades.

“We want to do what we can, on our scale and our site along the White River,” Ozdemir said. “It will offer amazing opportunities in a complementary neighborhood to downtown Indianapolis.”

“We want to do what we can, on our scale and our site along the White River,” Ozdemir said. “It will offer amazing opportunities in a complementary neighborhood to downtown Indianapolis.”

Already, the city is planning to build a bridge on Henry Street, on the south edge of the Diamond Chain property, that will essentially connect Eleven Park to the former GM stamping plant site on the west bank of the river, where Elanco Animal Health is building its new headquarters campus.

Working out details

Eleven Park has been in the planning stages for years and is the result of Ozdemir’s efforts to win support for a soccer stadium the Indy Eleven can call home. After several failed attempts to land funding for just a stadium, Ozdemir proposed in 2019 to develop what he said then would be a $550 million mixed-use district that would generate taxes to support the stadium.

Lawmakers signed on, agreeing to divert up to $9.5 million in tax revenue per year to pay off debt issued to fund the stadium’s construction. The law authorizes a special taxing district that is expected to include all of Eleven Park and requires Ozdemir and his team to pay for at least 20% of the stadium’s cost.

But while lawmakers approved the taxing district’s structure, the city must put it in place. Ozdemir said he expects to reach an agreement outlining those details in the coming months.

When asked about the negotiations, the city released a statement saying it “continues to engage with the Indy Eleven and Keystone on their plans for Indy Eleven Park.”

“Located near significant city infrastructure investments, the site is critical for the future of downtown and activation of the White River,” the statement said.

Keystone Group, which is both a developer and construction company, is not expected to work on the stadium, instead serving as supervisor and master developer of Eleven Park. It is working with national construction firm AECOM Hunt on the stadium portion of the project.

New renderings of the site show at least three glass-heavy apartment buildings, each 15 to 20 stories tall and totaling 600 units, on the northeast side of the campus. Each building would have six floors of parking garages at the bottom with apartments above.

The middle of the site would feature a public plaza with an outdoor stage and play areas for families. The renderings show a row of stand-alone restaurants abutting the plaza and multiple outdoor television screens affixed to surrounding buildings and capable of displaying corporate messages, sporting events and more.

Ozdemir said the plans also include a 4,000-seat, flexible-use indoor entertainment venue, much like the 2,600-seat Coca-Cola Roxy theater in Atlanta’s Battery District and Boston’s 5,000-seat MGM Music Hall at Fenway Park. The venue would be managed by an undisclosed, national partner that specializes in event properties, he said.

The space is expected to host about 75 events every year, ranging from high-end dinners to small concert performances, Ozdemir said.

A 205,000-square-foot office building and a luxury hotel are set to round out the south end of the campus. Ozdemir equated the office space with that found at the Bottleworks District on the northeast side of downtown and in Carmel’s Midtown area. He called it a high-end, destination product that will keep companies in the city’s central business district but allow them to embrace new scenery and a growing submarket.

The soccer stadium is expected to feature a canopy that protects most spectators from the elements, with a natural-grass playing surface.

Ozdemir said that, in addition to Indy Eleven men’s and women’s games, the stadium could host outdoor concerts along with high school and college soccer, lacrosse, football and rugby, as well as international soccer events.

Additionally, the campus calls for:

 At least 2,000 parking spaces, serving Eleven Park residents and office workers as well as stadium-goers.

 197,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.

 Infrastructure improvements to Kentucky Avenue, including an extension of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

Tight timeline

Ozdemir said he expects construction on most of Eleven Park’s elements to begin at roughly the same time, rather than phasing them in over time. And although it’s a tight timeline, he is pushing to have the stadium finished by the second quarter of 2025, in time for Indy Eleven’s home opener.

He expects the parking garages and plaza area to be completed at about the same time, with other buildings completed in 2026.

But before construction can begin, Ozdemir said, he expects some site remediation will be necessary. The site was a city cemetery for decades before it was turned into an industrial development in 1917.

“Whenever we develop a new project, there’s environmental stuff to do; that’s just part of the process,” he said. “We’re confident that it will be done, but if there’s any unforeseen conditions … we will address them.”

In addition to working out details of the taxing district, Keystone is talking with the city about whether any tax-increment-financing dollars might be available for the project, particularly the infrastructure-related components along Kentucky Avenue and the public plaza.

There is precedent for such action. The city committed tens of millions of dollars for infrastructure at the Elanco project site, as well as $25 million for the 1-1/2-acre plaza under construction north of Gainbridge Fieldhouse.