Insurance and Real Estate & Retail

Conrad high-rise condos sell fast: Only 4 of 15 residences left; biz leaders among buyers

May 29, 2006

Eli Lilly and Co. President John Lechleiter is among the wealthy buyers who have snapped up all but four of the 15 private residences perched atop the Conrad Hotel downtown.

Lechleiter will be on the 23rd floor, one level from the top. Pete Piazza, president of Piazza Produce Inc., will be on the 22nd. And insuranceindustry executive Jack Mead will be on the 21st.

The 15 residences fill the top six floors of the new $100 million tower. They start at around $1 million, and feature floor plans ranging from 1,354 square feet to 7,638 square feet.

Mead said he chose the high-rise home to be part of the energy of downtown.

"Both my wife and I work downtown," said Mead, president of Mead & Co. "We think that downtown is an exciting place to be."

He said they're empty-nesters, and the move will mean less maintenance compared with their Meridian Hills home.

Piazza confirmed his purchase, while Lechleiter did so through a Lilly spokesman. Both declined to be interviewed.

The rumor mill is buzzing with names of other possible purchasers. But a representative of Al Kite, president of building developer Circle Block Partners LLC, said confidentiality agreements bar disclosing the names of buyers.

Locally based Circle Block Partners is privately held. Owners are Al Kite, Paul Kite, John Kite and Tom McGowan, executives with publicly traded Kite Realty Group Trust.

The 241-room Conrad Hotel held its grand opening this month. The condos are not yet complete, and officials haven't filed propertytax paperwork revealing owners.

The listing agent, Kurt Flock of Flock Realty Inc., calls the condos a "new benchmark for upscale urban living."

"At this point, the product kind of sells itself," he said.

He said marketing the spaces has been an adventure, especially when he gave tours while construction was ongoing.

He said some buyers reserved spaces even before workers had erected the floor where the condo would be built.

"My wife and I were there with hard hats on, taking people up the construction elevator on the outside of the building," Flock said, adding that wind would occasionally buffet the elevator as cranes swung steel beams into place.

Showing the condo space is easier now that he can bring prospective buyers in through the hotel's marble entry and stroll past its two upscale restaurants.

The condos come with two spaces in a private parking garage. Owners also will have free access to the hotel's fitness center and pool and pay-per-use access to the spa and room service.

"There are not even interior walls framed up now," Flock said, but residents are expected to move in by early fall.

The 24th floor will be one residence, the next three floors have two condos each, and the 19th and 20th floors will have four apiece. The four residences still available are on the 19th and 20th floors. A condo on the 22nd floor is reserved but the sale hasn't closed.

Recent listings suggest the asking prices for the condos-except the pricier 24thfloor residence-range from a little more than $1 million to nearly $3 million. A $125-per-square-foot finishing allowance is built into the cost.

"People are typically exceeding that because they're putting their own designs and finishes into [the condos]," Flock said, mentioning buyers who planned to install Italian cabinets and imported ceramic tile.

Building occupants are still hammering out details of the homeowner's association and how to divvy up building-maintenance costs among the hotel, restaurants and residences.

The only other high-rise condo project planned for Indianapolis is One Market Square, a 31-story, 225-unit development on the former site of Market Square Arena. Its units list for $200,000 to $1.7 million.

That project is in preleasing, and developers hope to break ground in August. Flock, who also is listing those residences, said the building might not be ready for move-ins for two years.

Jeffrey Fisher, director of the Indiana University Center for Real Estate Studies, said high-price condos offer prestige to buyers, but typically also are good investments.

"Projects like this in other markets have surprised the developer in how successful they were," Fisher said.

"Someone buying a property in that price range is typically going to be status-conscious ... but assuming no competing projects are built, I would expect that they would hold their value," he said.
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