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Architecture firm closing, renovated HQ on block

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A prominent local architecture firm is in the process of disbanding as a bank forecloses on a construction loan used to renovate its historic headquarters building.

A2SO4 Architecture LLC filed paperwork Tuesday with state agencies alerting them of the firm’s closing. Its managing partner, Sanford Garner, said A2SO4 is no longer bidding on contracts and is finishing up existing contracts. He said he hopes to wind down operations by the end of March.

A2SO4, one of the largest architectural firms in Indianapolis, in early April moved from Union Station to a former Catholic Church at the southwest corner of College Avenue and North Street, near the Lockerbie neighborhood.

The firm spent more than $1 million rehabbing the 11,000-square-foot building, which is larger than the 9,000 square feet it formerly occupied.

In a judgment finalized Monday in Marion Superior Court, lender KeyBank was granted a decree of foreclosure and awarded $1.2 million, including interest, on the outstanding loan amounts owed by A2SO4.

The firm borrowed $1.1 million and another $300,000 in February 2012. It owed $907,651 in principal on the larger loan and the entire amount on the smaller one, according to court documents.

The loans came due a year later, in February 2013. Due in part to construction delays, Garner was unable to pay the entire balances and requested an extension, which the bank denied, he said. A2SO4's workload also suffered from the downturn in the economy, Garner said.

“I’m very thankful to have brought back a wonderful, vacant building downtown,” said Garner, noting that he has no definite plans and is considering his options.

Garner bought the building in 2002. It had remained vacant until A2SO4 moved in last year. Garner is attempting to sell the building, which is listed for $1.75 million with Larry Gregerson of Century 21 Scheetz.

An attorney representing KeyBank did not return a phone call seeking comment on the foreclosure. The bank sought to foreclose on the loans in June.

A2SO4 has been accused of falling behind in payments before.

In February 2013, the state temporarily shut the firm because it owed more than $43,300 in delinquent taxes. The Indiana Department of Revenue revoked the firm’s retail merchant certificate, which authorizes companies to withhold sales taxes and employee payroll taxes.

Garner said at the time that the state never should have closed his business because it’s not a retail establishment and doesn’t collect sales taxes. A February letter from the state to Garner’s attorney supported that contention.

The letter further said the department was satisfied with the firm’s commitment to address unpaid employee withholding taxes and would take no further action.

Garner founded A2SO4 in 2001 along with Vop Osili. The two are among relatively few black architects in Indiana. Osili left A2SO4 in 2010 to run for secretary of state and then sold his interest in 2011. He currently is an Indianapolis city-county councilor.

With billings of $3.4 million in 2011, the most recent year figures were available, A2SO4 ranked as the city’s 11th-largest architectural firm, according to IBJ’s Book of Lists. At the time, A2SO4 reported that it had a staff of 18 full-time employees. The firm currently has seven employees.

A2SO4's design projects have included a parking garage for Eskenazi Health, the interior design for a series of five-story buildings to surround downtown's Barton Tower, and several projects at Indianapolis International Airport.

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  • Please
    It's cheap to come on here and anonymously take potshots at someone. Most everyone associated esp with real estate and development struggled the past 5 yrs...including banks and law firms. Look at how many great local developers had major setbacks - almost all of them. Hopefully the economy will continue improving and Sanford (and many others that dont grace the pages of the IBJ) can turn things around and contribute further to the community.
  • not good
    church-it's a church-
  • Not complete
    Barkies, come on. Surely you can tell that the restoration/renovation isn't complete and that the entire space hasn't been fully restored??? I think it was smart of them to not finalize the vision of the space as they wouldn't be the tenants and it appears they would have had better uses for any extra cash flow they had. Leave it as is for the next purchaser to finalize their own vision - easier to sell that way.
  • Cyclical business
    Yes and No. Most arch firms are small and offer limited or pitiable benefits. As entrepreneurs go, architects are admirable in their passion and work ethos but don't have the deep network that developers and home builders do. Even with a financial 'firewall' in place, architects that go bankrupt tend to lag behind their peers for years. So, in this case, situations similar to this are likely to repeat themselves, but with new architectural players. For all of the architects who are struggling on their own, or with a small firm, I've always heard it's best to have a well-heeled family and a spouse that carries the benefits.
  • Church looks awful!
    I just looked at the church real estate listing. It looks awful! I live nearby and the exterior still looks run down, but the inside is pretty half-assed also. I'm supposed to hire these guys for their design expertise and they can't even do their own building right?
  • deja vu all over again
    Unfortunately, similar situations will likely play out again. It has happened over & over with developers, home builders, etc. Just file bankruptcy, get a new cash infusion (and/or favorable treatment on bids) and you can be back in business - com'l or residential. Never mind if you run out of money - just stiff those who actually do the work!!
  • TBFTGOGGI
    Again, 'There but for the grace of God' (or fate, if you prefer) go any number of small firms struggling to make a go of it in the new economy, the outcome of which we still don't yet have a clue. The stategic failure here, unlike any number of other entities who have quietly gone away without a media firestorm, was the showy, chest-thumping, glory-seeking approach of the shop's founders, Osili and Garner. Garner's rather eager personality did not serve hime well after the split, but it does not make him a bad guy as some here have suggested, and I wish him the best of luck in his transition.
  • For Sale
    It is listed here: http://www.century21scheetz.com/Property/IN/46202/INDIANAPOLIS/540_N_COLLEGE_AVE
    • What will become of the church?
      What will become of their church? If they ever finished the renovations, you sure as hell can't tell from the outside.
      • When did decline begin?
        First, I think John is referring to RW Armstrong where A2so4 shared office space at Union Station. Second, Did Vop Osili's departure signal the end?
      • I wonder?
        You do know that they were once affiliated with another "great" company that was recently purchased by a New York company. Look it up...
        • Sad
          It's pretty amazing when a firm can't balance its books despite being given significant advantages over most other firms on government projects.
        • Clarification Requested
          Greg: Why don't you clarify for the Sanford's past group subconsultants (the engineers and architects that he "stiffed") how you would define a "wonderful person". Sanford used their money (not his) to benefit himself & his firm, in lieu of paying them for legitimate services rendered. "Sanford is a wonderful person..." Are you kidding me!
          • Sad news
            This is sad news. Sanford is a wonderful person, and I always thought of A2S04 as one of our city's best architecture firms. We wish you and your employees the best, Sanford, and hope that we will be seeing you in a new capacity soon.
          • Sorry to hear this
            Sanford has been a true architect and passionate about design he will land on his feet. But the city will not be the same without the participation of A2SO4 as a firm. A great legacy tho.

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