Nine weddings already are planned there, apartments are leasing almost as fast as they can be built, and the hotel aims to pre‐book 70 percent of its first‐year revenue before opening in January.

That's welcome news for CityWay, a $155 million Downtown development, and a relief to Mayor Greg Ballard and Indianapolis' taxpayers, who are on the hook for a $98 million loan to the project.

The mix of 250 apartments, a 209‐room hotel and 10 restaurants and shops at South and Delaware streets was a gamble by city officials that seems from early measures to be on track to pay off.

"We're on pace with our expectations in all regards," said Scott Travis, senior vice president of development at Buckingham Cos., the project's Indianapolis developer. Travis pulled on a hardhat last week and walked the old Eli Lilly and Co. parking lot now transformed into a densely built‐up urban block that's under construction and won't be finished until next summer. It has alleys, skywalks, apartments abutting parking garages, and a hotel topped by a glass‐walled boardroom with skyline views.

The instant urban feel was just what Buckingham and its Colorado‐based architect want. The project aims to serve the nearby workforces of Lilly, Anthem Insurance and Farm Bureau Insurance and link their semi‐isolated campuses with the core of Downtown.

City planners long sought, with limited success, to coax Downtown development around Lilly's corporate campus and its thousands of employees. It took Lilly freeing up its own land, Buckingham getting on board as developer and the Ballard administration's financial backing to birth CityWay.

The city stepped in with its 10‐year loan, backed by property tax revenues from a large chunk of Downtown, after the recession of 2007‐2009 made it all but impossible for Buckingham to get private funding for the project.

The fact that Buckingham has leased all but a handful of the first 100 apartments to open this month, and already found three restaurants to lease retail space in the project "makes us comfortable with our investment, and (that) it was the right thing to do," Deron Kintner, acting deputy mayor for economic development, said recently.

CityWay has benefitted from the hot market for Downtown apartments (they're 95 percent leased) and Downtown's continued popularity to new restaurants. The city's hotels also enjoy rising occupancy rates as an expanded Indiana Convention Center draws more conventions.

CityWay stands as a one‐of‐a‐kind project that's being done at the right time, said Terry Sweeney, vice president of real estate development for Indianapolis Downtown Inc. "That all contributes to the momentum that they have," he said. "It's a tremendous partnership that involves Lilly and the city and developer. That can't be done every day."

As workers swarmed throughout the project last week, Travis pointed out the complexities of the project, which has involved 1,600 construction workers since it began in August last year: 

"It's an ambitious project, a very dense mixed‐use development ... that required a lot of planning."

Excavation turned up buried railroad tracks and foundation stone. Both are reused in landscaping around the 10‐acre site.

Part of the roof of The Alexander hotel ‐‐ which opens Jan. 14 and will be run by New Jersey‐based Dolce Hotels and Resorts ‐‐ was greened over for environmental reasons. That meant rooftop mechanical systems ended up on a canopy structure spanning an alley between the hotel and one of two parking garages serving the site.

Buckingham, which owns the hotel, has positioned it as a boutique hotel with a specialty in hosting business meetings. It will contain a fine‐dining restaurant called Cerulean, run by a Northern Indiana restaurateur, and a second restaurant to cater business dinners and event meals, while also serving the public.

The hotel also features a second‐floor, 2,200‐square‐foot bar, called Plat 99, full of artistic touches ‐‐ think 4,000 handmade Mexican tiles and dozens of sculpted light fixtures.

To improve access to the site, the city is converting the nearby stretch of Delaware Street for two‐way traffic and installing a new signal light.

Fronting South Street is a plaza that will be lit by thousands of LED lights. It will hold outdoor dining for Cerulean Restaurant and has room to pitch a tent to fit 250 people for special events.

Project architect Kelly Davis sees the plaza becoming "a very active public and civic space" for the city.

Buckingham hired Davis and his nationally regarded Colorado firm, Oz Architecture, after a national competition to design CityWay. Davis and his team spent months in Indianapolis designing what he calls "a unique animal."

"The time was perfect for this," Davis said of the site, which abuts Downtown's elevated rail tracks. "Those railroad areas, kind of waste areas historically, have become some of the best pieces to infill" with chic urban developments, he said.

Similar mixed‐use projects near downtown rail tracks have opened recently in Kansas City, Cleveland and St. Louis, Davis said.

CityWay could be just the start of new life along the south side of the rail tracks.

The site still holds three undeveloped acres that could accommodate another 400,000 square feet of buildings.

And, across from the new Delaware Street entrance, Buckingham is eyeing two acres of land formerly used by Delaware & South Towing, which has relocated its longtime tow lot.

Davis already envisions CityWay spreading west across Delaware. "It's a great opportunity to double‐side Delaware with development. That will really bridge the gap with Downtown."