Stone World

Marriott Bets $3 Billion on Indy Development

November 13, 2009


One of the benefits of my job is the ability to view construction projects in progress throughout the country. During a recent trip to Indianapolis, I took a few minutes to take in Marriott Place, a stunning downtown development slated for completion in February 2011.

Beyond its appearance, the project was a bees’ nest of activity. It was downright invigorating to see cranes operating, materials moving, and construction pros working.

According to the company’s Web site, Marriott Place is a collection of five hotels, restaurants and meeting rooms all connected to the Indiana Convention Center, which is also undergoing renovations scheduled to be completed by December 2010.

Normally, a big hotel project might cause me to do a double take and ask a question or two. But this complex is so vast I had to learn more.

Here is what I learned about Marriott Place.

* The total cost is projected at $3 billion.

* The centerpiece, which will be the JW Marriott Hotel, will feature 34 stories, 1,005 guest rooms and 104,000 square feet of space.

* At 375 feet tall, the hotel will be the largest building in Indianapolis and the largest JW Marriott in the U.S.

* Additional hotel properties will push total new guest rooms to 1,626.

A promotional sign for the development describes it as “Changing the Landscape of Indianapolis.” Even incomplete, the project lives up to that claim, looming over the city like a gleaming tower.

A project of this stature requires years of planning. Groundbreaking took place in May 2009, so it is now approaching 18 months of construction, all during one of the most profound recessions in U.S. history.

With the total project cost estimated at $3 billion, the Marriott Corp. has placed an extremely large bet on the future of Indianapolis as a business destination. I’m sure the company is counting on the expansion and remodeling of the Indiana Convention Center as a magnet for growth.


The Convention Center is another impressive downtown development. Its Web site states exhibit space will increase from 403,000 to 745,000 square feet, including 179,000 square feet in the soon-to-be connected Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. The expansion is situated within the footprint of the now demolished RCA Dome.

While I like Indy, it often requires a connecting flight to get there from some major U.S. cities. And its location in central Indiana means it is a four- or five-hour drive from Chicago, Detroit and Nashville. Indianapolis normally is a second-tier convention city.

Currently, Indy is ranked No. 32 among convention venues in terms of size. But with the massive investments, it will leap to No. 16, making it a major contender for trade shows and conventions.

What do you think? Will Marriott’s $3 billion gamble pay off?

Did the city guess right on its $275 million expansion of the Indiana Convention Center?

Check out the projects for yourself at www.jwindy.com and www.icclos.com. There’s also a live Web cam of the Marriott construction at www.oxblue.com/pro.