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King Memorial Park area readies for redevelopment: Local contractor wants to build 50 homes in near-north-side neighborhood

April 4, 2005

A local investment firm hoping to capitalize on a resurgent near-north side is planning a 50-home, privately funded redevelopment project in the blocks surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park.

Homevestors LLC, led by husband and wife Jerry and Carole Jaquess, has applied for city approval to build 50 single-family homes between 16th and 22nd streets just south of Fall Creek Place.

"It's the next logical area" for redevelopment, said Jerry Jaquess, a general contractor. Jaquess' partnership is not affiliated with Dallas-based Homevestors of America Inc., a national home-rehabilitation franchise that has announced intentions to enter the Indianapolis market.

The area immediately surrounding King Park has remained a mixture of vacant lots, dilapidated homes and a few rehabs, while neighborhoods in every direction have begun to experience redevelopment.

Area residents and neighborhood groups are generally behind redevelopment efforts, but Homevestors has stirred some controversy because of its initial plan to build homes with carriage houses, which would include additional living units that could be used for rentals.

Home values in the area have remained stable for the past few years, with most homes selling for less than $100,000, but land speculation has increased, said Phyllis Jones, a real estate agent with locally based Carpenter Real Estate who works in the area.

One local couple, Steve and Carmen Carman, agreed to sell four lots in the area to Homevestors for a total of $60,000. They bought the lots three years ago for $6,300, Steve Carman said.

The deal between the Carmans and Homevestors is now in question because of repeated delays in closing, Carman said. Jaquess said the purchase is contingent on receiving city approval to build on all 50 lots, and delays in the approval process have delayed the closing.

Homevestors' petition for approval to build the homes, required because the lots are in a park district, has been continued for several months pending discussions with neighborhood organizations and residents. The next scheduled hearing date is April 28, by which time Jaquess expects to have ironed out differences with residents and city planners.

Prices for the homes could start as low as $100,000 and reach $350,000, Jaquess said. Lower-priced homes were added in response to concerns about gentrification from existing residents, many of whom have lived in the area surrounding the park for decades, he said.

Carriage houses would be built only if the market demands it, Jaquess said. He said the apartments might appeal to those who want a separate home office, extra space for guests or income from renting the units.

The last option has generated concern in the neighborhood, partly because the area already has a high proportion of renters to homeowners and because of overall density concerns.

Although carriage houses are fairly common in older city neighborhoods, houses around King Park were generally built without them. That causes concerns about changing the character of the neighborhood, said Robert Frazier, executive director of the King Park Area Community Development Corp.

Despite some differences of opinion, the CDC has been working with Homevestors throughout its approval process and is "rooting for Homevestors to get through the approval process," Frazier said.

Other developers are looking for opportunities in the area as well, Frazier and others said. Frazier said the CDC, which also owns some lots in the neighborhood, is exploring ways to work with developers to boost redevelopment.

"That neighborhood will change significantly pretty soon," he said.

King Park itself, a 14-acre rectangular greenspace between 16th and 21st streets, is scheduled to benefit from upgrades planned by the Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation.

Mayor Bart Peterson is scheduled to rededicate a memorial at the park April 4, the anniversary of the assassination of the civil rights leader for whom the park is named.
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