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March 25, 2013

On the Scene in Indy

By Chris Boyle

The Gallery Suite, Conrad Indianapolis

The Gallery Suite, Conrad Indianapolis

Lobby, The Alexander

Lobby, The Alexander

By Tova Syrowicz

Indianapolis may not top the elite destination list, but the city’s recent luxury hotel buzz and the completion of a $63 million beautification project in May are indications that it’s gearing up to host more visitors with higher expectations.

While the Conrad opened about five years ago, and has since hosted the likes of David Letterman, Lil Wayne and Patrick Dempsey, it unveiled a new top suite in 2012. The Gallery Suite, spanning 2,000 square feet and ringing up at $3,000 a night, is most notable for the quarter-million dollars’ worth of museum-quality art on its walls—signed by Picasso, Dali and Warhol, to name a few.

Following the top art trend is The Alexander, a Dolce Hotel brand new to the city in January and a hotbed of contemporary, specially commissioned artworks. A white lacquer piece in the lobby by a Brooklyn native takes on completely different colors depending on how the light hits at different times of the day, while the parking garage has been “vandalized” by a British graffiti artist who learned the tricks of the trade from Banksy. The Alexander’s top suite measures in at 1,350 square feet and comes complete with a 55-inch LED TV, Gilchrist & Soames bath products, an in-mirror bathroom TV and convenient boardroom access.

So where is the demand for all these luxurious rooms coming from? The Indy 500, held each May, certainly attracts celebs and team owners, but Indianapolis is not a one-trick pony. Home to the NCAA, March Madness is a big deal, not to mention the Superbowl, which the city hosted in 2012 (famously erasing its “Nap Town” moniker) and would very much like to host again in 2018. Besides being a sports city, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and the bizjet engine branch of Rolls-Royce keep corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, so top execs are always flying in and out.

Insiders say even with The Alexander, the city could still use another upscale hotel. The owner of the Conrad, who lives atop it, was deciding between Conrad and the W when he chose to open a hotel, but there’s no word on which property Indianapolis will welcome next.

It can be said, however, that visitors with a little spare time between the big meeting and the big game will likely enjoy the eight-mile walking/biking/blading/green space/public art trail that officially opens this May. Twelve years in the making from concept to reveal, the beautification project has taken the place of some vehicular lanes of traffic, and Project for Public Spaces in New York has dubbed it “the biggest and boldest step for any American city.” The cultural trail effectively connects a slew of niche-y neighborhoods that lie just beyond the downtown core, giving guests access to the local hangouts they may have previously missed altogether. As you might expect, both the Conrad and The Alexander flank the path and offer complimentary bike rentals for guests who want to fit in a little outdoor exercise/mobile sightseeing while in town.

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