Real Estate & Retail

Barton House awaits renovation: Former nursing home to become housing

March 21, 2005

A long-vacant downtown nursing home is about to find new life as affordable housing.

The Indiana division of the Salvation Army plans to convert the Barton House on the northeast corner of Delaware and Michigan streets into 30 apartments for lowincome families and space for some of the organization's programs.

The Salvation Army purchased Barton House and Carpenter apartments, its neighbor to the east, for about $500,000 each in late 1999, said Maj. Dennis Strissel, the Salvation Army's divisional commander for the state of Indiana.

Carpenter has 52 apartments, mostly efficiencies, that the organization rents out with financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Barton House renovation will cost about $10 million. The Salvation Army hopes to get about half of that from the United Way of Central Indiana, which would tap into a Lilly Endowment Inc. grant for capital projects. The remainder of the cost is expected to come from tax credits granted for affordable housing projects.

The United Way piece of the funding has been approved by a committee, but still must be voted on by the not-for-profit's full board, said UWCI President and CEO Ellen K. Annala.

Salvation Army expects to begin work on the Barton House in the coming weeks and wrap up construction in June 2006, Strissel said. The organization is also pursuing obtaining tax credits for historic structures on the Barton House, built in the first decade of the 20th century. The nursing home closed in the mid-1990s.

"We're going to take Barton House back to its 1920 glory days," Strissel said.

The building, first used as a hotel, still has much of the exterior and many interior features intact. The organization plans to replace the windows, many of which are broken or boarded up, with windows that are more historically accurate.

Designing the interior layout has been a challenge, he said, because the sleeping rooms will be transformed into full twoand three-bedroom apartments.

The 30 apartment units will be used for permanent supported housing for lowincome families and individuals the organization serves. Residents will receive rent assistance as well as counseling and case management services.

In addition to the apartments, the Salvation Army will also move its domestic violence shelter from a downtown-area house into a secure area in the Barton House. The move will approximately double the shelter's capacity, to 15 to 20 people, Strissel said.

The Salvation Army will also expand services for homeless women and children in the Barton House, adding a day center where women could receive job placement counseling, wash clothes or perhaps store some belongings, Strissel said. The organization currently provides nighttime shelter for about 80 women and children in its main center at Alabama and Michigan streets.

The renovated Barton House will also have a multipurpose community room, where the organization may hold its Sunday church services, along with Bible study groups and other functions, Strissel said.

The renovation into affordable housing may not be the most glamorous reuse of a building, but it will put a long-vacant building into use and serve a need, said Terry Sweeney, vice president of real estate for Indianapolis Downtown Inc.

"It's important that there continues to be good, decent, affordable housing along the whole [housing] continuum. This fills that niche," Sweeney said.

Although the organization has owned the building almost five years, it's taken that long to come up with a plan for the building and to pull together the necessary funding, Strissel said.

The Salvation Army has grand plans for the half-block of property it owns between Delaware and Alabama streets. When the Barton House is open, the organization hopes to concentrate on renovating the Carpenter apartments next door, Strissel said.

Beyond that, the group is considering what to do with the service center on Alabama Street.

The mid-century building isn't accessible to the disabled and making it so would be cost-prohibitive, Strissel said. The Indiana division last year submitted a proposal to the national Salvation Army to build an 800-seat theater on the site to be used largely for children's programs. It would have been one of a handful of Salvation Army theaters in the Midwest built with some of the $1.5 billion left to the organization by Joan Kroc, widow of McDonald's Corp. founder Ray Kroc.

That proposal was rejected, however. Strissel said losing the theater was disappointing, but the organization will take a new look at the building's future.

For now, the group is concentrating on expanding its mission of service to the Barton House.

"It's now an eyesore, but once it's renovated, it's going to be beautiful," he said.
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