$43M Mass Ave project to feature 235 apartments, three-story screen

October 25, 2012
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Mass Ave redevelopmentCity officials this morning unveiled plans for a $43 million redevelopment of a prime Mass Ave parcel occupied by the Indianapolis Fire Department. The proposal calls for up to 235 market-rate apartments, 40,000 square feet of first-floor retail space and two levels of parking including underground spaces. A notable feature is a giant electronic-mesh art display at the building's corner. The development team includes J.C. Hart Company, Paul Kite's Strongbox Commercial, and the architecture firm Schmidt Associates. (IBJ.com first reported the selection in a story Wednesday afternoon.) The city plans to contribute $3 million from the downtown TIF district to subsidize parking, along with the 1.5-acre site. The development team is required to put $5.4 million into an escrow account it may draw on to fund construction. If the project stalls, the city would keep the land and cash. Construction is expected to begin in 2014.

(Click image above for a PDF version of the rendering; additional PDF renderings are here and here.) What do you think?

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  • Screen content?
    What's going to be displayed on the screen -- art or ads? Is there going to be a limit to the rate at which things can blink on that screen? How bright will it be at night? Will it be on 24x7?
    • Just what we need...
      Another cruise ship!
      • Harbor District
        The city bans electronic billboards for good reason...interesting how they'll be able to interpret this and limit it to "art." And yes, it's another cruise ship by Schmidt. Perhaps we should canalize Mass Ave and turn it into the harbor district.
        • Really?
          I do not want to see one of the better preserved historical streets in Indianapolis transformed to look like Times Square Lite. Lose the screen.
        • Great Idea
          Love this idea. Downtown keeps getting better and better.
        • Ewwww
          I think that screen thing is bizarre and hideous.
        • Mini-Times Square
          Love the idea. Downtown keeps getting better and better.
        • Rendering Consistency
          It's funny that the people in the bottom right corner of the rendering look like they are freezing while there are other people eating outside in short sleeve shirts.
        • Electronic Bilboards banned???
          Why do you say that Electronic Bilboards are banned in the City? There is a Big electronic billboard on the Indiana State Fairgrounds lot that everyone can see when driving up or down Fall Creek.
          • No ads, just art
            I like this idea, as long as this doesnt turn into a giant ad space! Keep it tasteful and interesting with an Indiana-based artist contributing to the landscape.
          • State Property
            That is on state property, which is exempt from local zoning ordinances.
          • State Fairgrounds exemption
            The Indiana State Fairgrounds have digital billboards because they're on state and not city property and therefore exempt from the city ban.
          • Love Cruise Ships!
            I enjoy the new look of downtown development.
          • Like it
            I love this and the giant screen... really creates some energy and color. I like the screen as long as they use if for local artists.
          • What's on NW corner
            Ignoring the NW corner and using it for what looks to be a loading dock/non-retail area is an oversight. That corner is touched by the Cultural Trail and the parking lots there now may soon be developed, given the growing demand for residences near Mass Ave. Our developments need to address and anticipate future activities and development instead of locking-in urban dead-zone fates by turning their backside to intersections that are not fully developed presently.
          • Oh the cynics in this city...
            These pessimistic comments are astounding. Has anyone ever even seen a cruise ship because it doesn't even come close to what this looks like!? This city needs to move forward and developments like this help us "grow up". I'm thrilled about these renderings.
          • Great Questions
            I had similar questions. I think the electronic screen could be cool, as long as it features *only * art. No ads! I think that frenetic-paced NYC feel is out of place with the vibe of Mass Ave, so if the screen does go up, it should have a much slower "change rate" than Times Square. A good example is the speed at which those "vertical blind" billboards above highways change. For people to get an idea of electronic billboards, there's already one in the airport. You see it as you come down the escalators to baggage claim after your arrival. I liked the art--one of our local artists, Artur Silva, has an electronic art piece that is featured on there. If people really want that billboard feel, put it on the "clubbing" end of Meridian. Do something with the Nordstrom's space.
          • Behind the screen
            Interesting that the plans indicate there would be apartments behind the big video screen. I presume there will be windows behind the screen, and I wonder what it would be like to look out through the screen. Surely, they won't have windows looking at a solid video board blocking a great view of downtown.
          • Vegas
            When did Indianapolis go to sleep and wake up in Las Vegas?
          • Great, now where is the Whole Foods going?
            This sounds awesome! I'm so excited for our downtown area and how much it has improved over the years. All the new development downtown is so exciting. Ok now bring on the Whole Foods!
          • IHPC Approval?
            I believe this site is in the Chatham Arch and Massachusetts Avenue historic district, which means the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission would have to approve any new construction. If that is the case, the electronic art screen is hardly a done deal, given that a project like this would have to be approved at a public hearing.
          • IHPC
            Given that the IHPC recently approved filling in every square centimeter of land surrounding the Barton Tower will high-density dreck, I have very little faith in their ability or willingness to nix an electronic screen.
          • godo
            I like it. I wish it would not take that long to move the fire department to the new location, so construction could start sooner (vs. in 2014).
          • next
            Now let's redevelop the old Coke plant / IPS bus stop. That is a much larger site full of of potential.
          • Awesome!
            I don't understand the pessimistic comments. While I understand design opinions are subjective, this is a big improvement. It shows how Indy is growing and maturing, and keeping pace (and exceeding) against other large cities. I imagine most of the pessimists on here would complain about any development project.
            • Recommend Colors Get Toned Down
              Like the large screen, but the bold colors on the rest of the building is overkill and will not age well. The original JW Marriott design had checkered glass design and thankfully they reconsidered to more uniform blue.
            • Pessimist/Optimist/Realist
              While I agree that design opinions are subjective, I believe that it's up to experts in architecture and planning to help drive the city towards making better aesthetic choices. Many of us who decry some of the recent projects (3 Mass and Central Restaurant, eg.) are not complaining for the sake of complaining. We're begging desperately for the City and its developer partners to make strong architectural statements in the remaining few important parcels in the region. There are only so many amazing opportunities like the corner of Michigan, New Jersey and Mass, and the fear (borne out in things like the abortion surrounding Barton Tower) is that the opportunities will be squandered. Hinge, on the other hand, is an amazing redevelopment of a high-profile parcel. The design is progressive, it's to the scale of the neighborhood, it's sensitive on all sides to the surrounding area, and ought to be a model for how development can be well done. I think the same can be said of CityWay. Terrific high-profile project built to scale and aware of its surroundings.
            • mass
              The light board will be used for art until additional funding is needed. Then ads.
            • The Free Store...
              ... is where these developers get to shop. Is it really not feasible to give away a prime site like this and get something good developed at market rate without throwing in an additional $3 million subsidy? Mass Ave as it is currently developed is not struggling due to any shortage of parking, so if they are trying to sell the taxpayer handout as a subsidy for more parking for the rest of Mass Ave, I reject that argument. And if we can't see market rate development at this prime site, how do we expect it to ever happen anywhere in this City?
            • electronic screen
              Don't let Times Square be your sole mental image. The Mass Ave board would be used for art and periodic updates on things to do in the area. To see how a library in California used this technology to showcase art, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=UXvaeZFF1Fg So you know, I have a connection to the project.
            • Finally
              Unlike most of the negative people commenting on this project, I actually live near this location. I love the idea of the art screen. Finally, we are seeing something unique for the area. I am excited to see what is next for Mass Ave. The reason Indy is finally getting on the map is due to out of the box ideas like this one. If I did not want to live near some energy and progressive thinking, I would live in the burbs.
            • TIME SQUARE
              Has anyone seen how bright the digital billboards can be? This will not be limited to art but ads for Hair Transplants and Colostomies and you name it. Those signs are very expensive and can bet they will use city funds to pay for it. The sign will overshadow two historic structures on the other corners. Jumbo-trons work in Lucas Oil Stadium but not on Mass Ave. City setting precedence here, the billboard companies are celebrating and their attorneys are preparing another round of efforts to change zoning laws that would allow all interstates and major thoroughfares to be blanketed with digital billboards 14'hx 40'w. PLEASE NOTE I DID NOT COMPLAIN ABOUT YET ANOTHER DESIGN WITH CANTILEVERED ROOFS...OR DID I?
            • Where's Minnie ?
              M I C See it really does look like a giant Propane Tank K E Y Why not use Brick & Motar? Because it's expensive and requires the use of those pesky architectural and engineering skills. M O U You will be too transfixed by the happy colors and gentrified Art to ever realize how bad this is S E Ehhh.... Doesn't really raise the bar much does it?
              • A 43 million view from the cruise?
                Why can't all of the optimists out there realize just how bad these developments are by our local architectural firm, Schmidt? Unfortunately, 2 of the most prime lots on Mass Ave(btw...our Arts & Theatre district, right?) with institutional looking cruise ships? What gives? This is embarassing, and I feel for all of the talented, local architects in this city who have to sit back and see lifeless buildings like 3 Mass and the proposed Barton Tower development diminish what little 'prime' real estate this town has to offer. Yes, this development is an extension of our lovely Circle Center Mall: what's up with the rounded 5 story corner?!?!! Horrible missed opportunity. The City needs to get over the fact that the 80s & 90s are over. City Way is better but the HINGE should remind all of us what is possible to do in Indy.
              • No ads
                Just FYI - it's been said that absolutely no ads will ever be shown on the screen.
              • Cruise ship?
                I'm not weighing in on the project overall, but the people saying this is another "cruise ship" clearly have never been on a cruise ship or don't understand geometry. Yes, 3Mass sort of looks like a cruise ship from the corner, because it rises, then gets progressively smaller near the top. That is what a cruise ship does. This building does not get smaller as it rises: the top floor has the same footprint as those below it. Now, if you're equating "rounded 45 degree corner" with "cruise ship", then you a) are seeing things in the clouds, or b) don't understand that every block along our four diagonal avenues have these curved 45 degree angles (as an aside, 3Mass doesn't have a rounded corner). An architect can either make a flat surface and waste space by not expanding the building to fill the parcel (or waste interior space by creating a sharply angled wall no one can access), or curve it to occupy the full area of the block. Schmidt curved the walls. That doesn't make it a cruise ship. Find something else to complain about.
                • What?
                  Marcus, you have to be able to observe and think more abstractly to understand architecture and how it fits within a given context. This building looks like a cruise ship or a mall: do you not understand what a vacuum is? It's not that hard to understand. So, why would you propose a building that takes very little consideration of prominent views? Hmmm, maybe these apartments, condos, or whatever spaces are geared toward people who just need rooms with a TV view. Missed opportunity with this site: one that's not deserving of a cruise ship. This would fit in well by the convention center but not on Mass Ave.
                  • NO ADS EVER
                    Sure Jake, The Titantic was never doing to sink!
                  • Great Bold design
                    I think this is a bold and energetic piece for the city. I love the use of color in the architecture and I think the large screen can be an icon and landmark for the city if used in the right way. Public art is the key and by changing it frequently can keep the site and area interesting and dynamic. It's certainly got people talking on this blog.
                  • Great Design?
                    Look through the Property Lines archives at recent downtown residential development. Most, not all, have the same common elements - obligatory cantilevered roof elements, extruded rectangular facades and balconies between the extrusions. There is very little that differentiates this project from recent development. City officials should open their eyes and see what is being developed in peer cities.
                  • Micah???
                    Micah, you don't make sense.
                    • DTIndy
                      Well, Burban makes sense, would you not agree? Have you talked to any other local architects & designers around town? Well, I have...and guess what? The local design community is outraged. FACT: my response is the 42nd in a few days justifying an article in the Star, which quoted a number of FB comments. The reason? The local public (although not the mass) are bored and tired of prime lots being filled in with mediocre developments. Mass Avenue should not be turned into Indy's HARBOR DISTRICT & why do you want to try to be like Times Square (a place for tourists, lol!!!) If you can't see a cruise ship...you are in denial. Sorry, but this building falls short on many levels. Make any sense yet?
                      • DTIndy???
                        DTIndy. Where have you been lately? Personally, I feel you're not making too much sense. Are you vacationing in Times Square, NYC or Carmel, IN getting ENERGY?!? Btw, what is your definition of 'out of box thinking'? This is starting to get embarrassing. Like the last comment, why can't you back up your comment on why this design is so great? Good luck.
                      • because good design is objective
                        Wow, from the mock indignation of these comments, I've been able to learn that there is GOOD design and BAD design and that it is always a fact and that individual judgments and opinions don't matter. So, architecture must be just like music, clothing, books, TV, movies, and breaded pork tenderloin sandwiches--there's a right way to do it and a wrong way, and this proposal is just wrong wrong wrong. Glad we could clear that up so we wouldn't have to engage in a legitimate discussion.
                      • the screen
                        And as long as they show nothing but Lady Gaga videos on that giant screen 24/7, I'll be perfectly okay with it.
                      • HINGE
                        Hinge is the best example of appropriate and mature urban design (both interior and exterior) in Indianapolis today. I believe all the design expertise came from local firms. The talent is here. Best practices should be shared and discussed more often.
                      • Well...
                        I like it and just because you or someone else might not, doesn't invalidate my opinion. The quality of architecture,much like art, is pretty subjective once you get past the functionality.
                      • State property
                        The fairgrounds are state property and the state government is not bound by local rules.
                      • Screen Too Expensive
                        As you all know the screen will not be part of the project. It will get value engineered due to the exorbitant cost which on this project will be an improvement.
                      • Like using screens for art...
                        ...especially if they can create an effect similar to Crown Fountain at Chicago's Millennium Park. I think screens for showing ads or even worse, local news would be tragic.
                      • No, it's not a cruise ship ...
                        It's a SHOWBOAT !!! How exciting. Dimensioning a cruise ship would require some skill. This is just a bulky cartoon with some paint on the Dryvit. Take a look at the Branson Belle and compare http://www.showboatbransonbelle.com/
                      • God Awful
                        Why do we need this chopped-up building which seems so out of place with it's surroundings? The last thing needed is another distraction in a heavily traveled area. What's the purpose of a huge electronic advertisement billboard in the heart of downtown Indianapolis? Talk about crass,tasteless, and poor design; let's also talk about the hinge in Fletcher Place. What's up with that piece of crap?
                      • It's the Developer
                        Hi Guys The developer is who set's the standard for the design. The architect works his butt off to stay in the owner's face and then just pulls out the last set of drawings they did and says "how about some more of this". Have you met John Hart before?

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                      1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

                      2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

                      3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

                      4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

                      5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.

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