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Developer shelves plan to buy city land, build Meijer

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A Minnesota-based developer is scrapping its controversial plan to build a mixed-use project north of downtown that would have been anchored by a Meijer store.

Opus Development Corp.’s proposal to buy 2.4 acres from the city near 16th and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. streets relied heavily on its ability to purchase and demolish a series of nearby homes to make the development work.

But Opus encountered stiff resistance from residents of the Flanner House neighborhood, which received a boost from Indiana Landmarks. The historic preservation group included Flanner House on its latest "10 Most Endangered" list due to the prospect of redevelopment.

The organization said late last month that 35 of the 181 homes in the neighborhood could be razed as part of the Meijer project.

Responding to IBJ questions about the project, Doug Swain, vice president and general manager of Opus’ Indianapolis office, said on Friday via email that the company has ditched its plans.

“Opus has thoroughly evaluated the potential development opportunity at Martin Luther King Street and has decided not to pursue it further at this time,” he said. “Opus is committed to well-planned urban development projects in Indianapolis and will continue to work with the city of Indianapolis to identify future opportunities.”

Opus had offered to pay $600,000 for the vacant piece of land and had until the end of the year to seal the deal by purchasing the 35 homes in the Flanner House neighborhood, before a city-imposed deadline.

Opus also has alerted the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development of its decision to pull out of the deal. DMD Director Adam Thies is uncertain how the city might proceed with selling the property.

“At this point, I’d have to talk with our staff,” he said. “All I know is that Opus is rescinding its plans.”

The city is not offering any tax abatements or other incentives to entice a sale, Thies said.

City officials selected Opus’ bid over one submitted by Indianapolis-based Douglas Realty Group, which offered to buy the property at the minimum bid price of $497,250.

Alerted of Opus’ decision, Douglas Realty principal Doug McAuley said the firm is still interested in developing the site by following its original proposal to offer a mix of apartments and retail smaller than what Opus had proposed.

“Our plans did not call for destroying the neighborhood,” McAuley said. “We would like to incorporate the neighborhood into the project with smaller, neighborhood-friendly retail.”

Homes in the Flanner neighborhood were built between 1950 and 1959 through an unusual cooperative aiding African-American families that couldn’t secure conventional mortgages. More than half the houses still are owned by the builders or their descendants.

Several of the homeowners signed a petition sent to the city last week indicating their refusal to sell to Opus.

One of those, Disa Watson, has lived for 51 years in her home that her father built in the neighborhood. The homes range from 900 square feet to 1,800 square feet and originally cost $8,500 to $9,500 to build, she said.

Watson could not be reached for comment Monday morning. But before Opus rescinded its plan, she told IBJ that the developer had never floated an offer to homeowners who would have been affected.

The replacement value of the homes is between $150,000 and $175,000, she said.

Meanwhile, Meijer, which did not respond to IBJ phone calls, has interest in other Indianapolis-area locations. The retailer plans to build a supercenter within the Anson development near Whitestown, scheduled to open in 2014, and another in Plainfield at the corner of Dan Jones Road and U.S. 40.
 

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  • @Idyllic Indy
    Agree. The Douglas proposal is a much better fit for all concerned. Here's hoping the days of oceanic parking lots are drawing to a close...
  • Hooray!
    This is great news. Hopefully, the Douglas Realty proposal or something similar will still prove to be workable. The City could've chosen that proposal to begin with as they are not required to take the highest offer, and considering that the Opus (Meijer) proposal was contingent upon buying out 35 homes, one could reasonably opine that it wasn't the best offer. When you also consider that the true mixed-use proposal of apartments and smaller-scale retail offered by Douglas fits better with an urban neighborhood than a 3-acre big box store, one should question why the City chose the Opus/Meijer proposal to begin with.
  • @Maria
    "area will remain a ghetto"? There's some news in the article that may interest you (then again, maybe it won't): "Alerted of Opus’ decision, Douglas Realty principal Doug McAuley said the firm is still interested in developing the site by following its original proposal to offer a mix of apartments and retail smaller than what Opus had proposed. “Our plans did not call for destroying the neighborhood,” McAuley said. “We would like to incorporate the neighborhood into the project with smaller, neighborhood-friendly retail.” I like Meijer just fine but it is not the only retailer. There are other possibilities. As for "No one has still been able to explain to me what is so historic about these properties." it would be more accurate to say that you are unwilling to accept the explanations offered in the article and in the comments on this and the previous thread.
  • Maybe Mass Ave?
    Very disappointing news. I understand trying to preserve history, but this area is run down. And the only to revive it will be to reconstruct everything that is currently there. The neighborhood will never continue to grow and better it's self if it stays in the current shape. Maybe they can do a similar development in a different neighborhood? The old Coca-Cola factory on Mass Ave. would be ideal!
  • YES! Obviously you have not.
    If you do visit othr areas of the world not just the USA you will soon see that each neighborhood is served by a mix of local and national merchants. Neighborhoods in this city since 1950 have been bereft of 'any' retail--bigs, small, mom & pop-whatever. San Francisco. Are you kidding? This palce has less retail from block to block than an average town of 50,000.
  • no eternal hippies
    Maria, the historic nature of the neighborhood appears to be the way the houses were financed and constructed, not the structures themselves, more of a cultural-social history....and Indy is not full of stay behind eternal hippy tree huggers like Bloomington and San Fran....and one would have to think none of the homeowners in that neighborhood would get anywhere near $150K.
  • what a shame
    What a shame this area will remain a ghetto. No one has still been able to explain to me what is so historic about these properties.
    • I guess you have never been to San Francisco, no chain stores allowed. or Bloomington, no big box stores. A little bit of a development killer.
      • Much better this way-NOT!
        The area will be much better served with ancient homes, empty lots and no place to shop. Most impractical, retail hostile town in America.

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