Correction: A previous version of this story stated an incorrect time and date for the finance committee meeting. It is set for 4 p.m. Sept. 23.
The Hamilton Crossing retail center at U.S. 31 and Carmel Drive in Carmel could soon become home to the Republic Airways headquarters and training facility, as well as a hotel for Republic employees in training. Future additions could include a second aviation-based corporate headquarters as well as commercial uses and 94 multi-family units surrounding a parking garage.
Indianapolis-based Republic Airways announced the $200 million project on the south half of the 14-acre site Sept. 20 shortly before the Carmel City Council was set to discuss an ordinance authorizing $49.5 million in tax increment financing bonds to support the project. Additional investment is planned on the north half of the property in the future phase.
The project, being developed by Kite Realty Group and Pure Development, is expected to bring 1,900 new jobs to Carmel as Republic consolidates training centers in Cincinnati, St. Louis, Indianapolis and elsewhere. It would make Republic Airways one of the largest employers in Carmel.
“We are proud of the new investment we are bringing to Carmel. This project ensures Republic is positioned to attract and retain the most talented and trained professionals in aviation, by creating a space designed specifically to meet the needs of our associates and to reduce inefficiencies,” stated Matt Koscal, Republic Airways chief administrative officer. “Locating in the city of Carmel indicates our desire to provide a first-class corporate campus and training facility as this city is often listed among the best places to live, work and raise a family.”
The Hamilton Crossing retail center struggled in recent years after the reconstruction of U.S. 31, which led to the elimination of direct access to Carmel Drive from U.S. 31. Tom McGowan, Kite Realty Group Trust president and chief operating officer, said the road’s reconfiguration convinced developers that retail was no longer the best use for the site.
The bonds under consideration by the council would be backed by Republic Airways and can be used for infrastructure improvements that include utility relocations, road and stormwater upgrades and parking to support the development.
If the bonds are approved, demolition of existing buildings is set to occur by the end of the year, with construction on the 105,000-square-foot, three-story training facility set to begin in January 2022.
Republic aims to have 10 flight simulators, which will be visible to travelers on U.S. 31, in operation by the end of 2022. The simulators are in use 20 hours a day, 360 days a year. Republic expects to complete 2,000 employee training events in 2022. Up to 300 trainees are expected to be on site at any given time.
Koscal told the council that after flying and maintaining its fleet, training is the company’s next highest priority.
“We’re a workforce development engine for the aviation industry,” he said.
The training center will include a third-floor rooftop deck, 20 classrooms and 94 workstations. In the future, four additional classrooms and two more flight simulators are set to be added.
The Hampton Inn currently on the south end of the city will be converted from a 109-room hotel to a 274-room lodge to be used exclusively by Republic employees and guests. The building facade will be updated to match the design of the rest of the campus. City officials expect the constant flow of visitors to the site to boost business at nearby restaurants and retailers.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said he is eager to welcome the many new residents and visitors the project will bring to the city.
“We are excited to welcome Republic Airways to Carmel. We are especially pleased that their state-of-the-art training facility will bring opportunities for career and workforce development in an industry sector that is not available elsewhere in the area,” Brainard stated.
The city rezoned the Hamilton Crossing site from Meridian Corridor District to a Mixed-Use District in 2020. In addition to the Hampton Inn, it contains an empty former restaurant building and a strip mall, which has become increasingly vacant in recent years. Kite Realty owns the strip mall and restaurant building.
In 2016, Kite Realty proposed tearing down the retail center and replacing it with a 50,400-square-foot entertainment complex featuring a movie theater and bowling alley. But those plans were later dropped.
Republic Airways was founded in 1974 and operates a fleet of 220 aircraft that make nearly 1,000 flights each day to 100 cities in 40 states, Canada, the Caribbean and Central America. The company, which has 6,000 employees, offers flights operated through American Eagle, Delta Connection and United Express.
The city council’s finance committee plans to discuss the project at a meeting set for 6 p.m. Sept. 23.