Aug. 26--The cafeteria in the Indianapolis Power and Light Co.'s Downtown headquarters hasn't warmed meatloaf in 20 years. On a recent afternoon, the stainless-steel serving line and still-equipped kitchen presented themselves in ghostly silence.
A coming $20 million renovation of IPL's notable building on Monument Circle will end the cafeteria's eerie suspended animation -- and do a whole lot more.
The electric utility has decided its 10-story offices, charitably described as a salute to corporate life 1960s-style, will finally receive the functional modernity it's been begging for.
The lobby-to-penthouse facelift will update the building's insides over the next year for its 300 users and for possible office and retail tenants IPL hopes to bring into the lower floors.
IPL's vice president of public affairs, Greg Fennig, offered a walk-through of the place and didn't bother trying to gloss over its throwback look.
"They call it a museum of the decades," he said. "Parts of this building haven't been renovated in 50 years."
Formal, walled corporate offices are still in vogue in IPL-dom, positioned around the outside of each floor with a shared secretary's desk in between. In a hallway: a phone booth marked "Telephone" for visitors to use in those pre-cellphone days of yore. The only handicapped-accessible restrooms in the building are on the first floor.
IPL, a regulated electric utility owned by energy giant AES Corp. of Arlington, Va., put off renovating its headquarters for years because of the cost, Fennig said. Company officers didn't even remove the employee cafeteria after it was deemed unneeded and closed, he said, "cause it cost money to pull all the stuff out."
The move last year of 100 AES jobs to the IPL building suddenly made the renovation urgent, even for a stodgy utility. IPL officials realized, Fennig said, that "We need to provide a productive, collaborative, fun and safe place for people."
Since everything down to the electrical and plumbing systems is outdated, the renovation requires gutting almost every floor.
Fennig said IPL and its architect, Ratio Architects, haven't yet decided on the new look. But that Mad Men '60s look is sure to be replaced with modern office features like non-walled workspaces, huddle areas and conference rooms with the latest video and audio gadgetry.
The IPL building is actually two co-joined buildings, the older one dating to 1927. (IPL moved into the older building in 1935 and expanded into the newer one in 1959.)
The oldest will be renovated first by contractor Shiel Sexton. About half of the 300 employees have been moved to temporary space at 130 E. Washington St. The other half will relocate within the building as the renovation proceeds.
The exterior of the building won't change, Fennig said, but after the work is done next summer, IPL will no longer be the sole resident. By reconfiguring the office space and moving a call center out of the building, IPL will have enough spare room to lease out three or four floors, including the ground floor.
While IPL hasn't identified any tenants yet, a retailer is possible on the ground floor, Fennig said.
IPL plans to use tenant rent money to help pay off the $20 million renovation cost. IPL also will use about $1 million in government economic development money, given for the move of the AES jobs, to help pay for the renovation, Fennig said. IPL might put the renovation costs into a future rate hike request with the state, he said.
One thing's for sure: the frozen-in-time cafeteria on the top floor will finally go.
Call Star reporter Jeff Swiatek at (317)444-6483. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSwiatek.
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