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Herron-Morton planning grows beyond art campus: Foundation hopes to redevelop 3 nearby buildings

October 10, 2005

Members of Herron-Morton Place Foundation Inc. are ecstatic that city planners chose their proposal to rehabilitate three vacant buildings as part of a larger redevelopment of the former Herron School of Art campus.

The dilapidated structures, known as the Foundry buildings, are a block east of the campus. Under the foundation's plan, they will be transformed into retail shops and should benefit from the foot traffic generated by the revitalization of the Herron property on 16th Street.

But now comes the difficult task of raising $350,000 to fund the improvements. The tiny not-for-profit, which paid $48,000 for the buildings at the corner of 16th and Alabama streets, will undertake a capital campaign to help raise the money. The Metropolitan Development Commission on Oct. 5 approved Herron-Morton Place Foundation's plan to breathe new life into the corner.

While its mission is to improve the quality of life in the downtown Herron-Morton neighborhood-it built a park in the 1900 block of Alabama Street-the foundation has never taken on a project of this magnitude.

"This is our first foray into rehabbing properties for retail-based uses," said foundation Vice President Michael Higgins. "What really spurred us onto these properties is that they are a cornerstone to the neighborhood."

The foundation envisions neighborhood-type businesses such as a coffee shop, dry cleaner, hardware store or restaurant that can contribute to the overall redevelopment of 16th Street extending from Martin Luther King Drive to the west to the Monon Trail to the east, Higgins said.

City officials chose a team last month led by locally based Mansur Real Estate LLC, to handle the Herron project. The group will invest $10 million to transform the historic art school campus into a contemporary art museum, a new charter high school, artist lofts and single-family housing.

The Herron School of Art and Design's 800 students moved in June to Eskenazi Hall on the IUPUI campus.

Mansur paid $307,000 for the property, but will perform a significant amount of remediation work to the property's two main buildings to offset the original $1.5 million asking price. The work will begin in the spring and should be finished in the summer of 2007, said Chris Palladino, Mansur's director of neighborhood development and finance.

The city accepted the Mansur proposal over a competing bid from locally based City Centre Associates LLC, which was led by principals Steven Scott, David Kosene and Gerry Kosene. Municipal planners think Mansur's design that included fewer residential units than City Centre's offer will be a better fit for the neighborhood, said DMD spokesman Justin Ohlemiller.

Mansur will partner with local firms Minkis Homes and Ratio Architects Inc. to renovate and lease the Herron Museum Building to the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum is now housed in space donated by law firm Katz & Korin PC on the Central Canal.

Going from 1,300 square feet to roughly 13,000 square feet on the first floor of the museum building will be the hallmark of IMOCA's five-year existence, said its executive director, Jeremy Efroymson.

"It's going to be a big step forward for contemporary art in the city," he said, "and puts us on a level with the other major contemporary museums in the Midwest, and throughout the country."

IMOCA has committed to taking the first and second floors of the two-story structure, but could sublease the top floor to another tenant, Efroymson said.

The Herron High School charter school may occupy additional space in the basement, once it is at full capacity. The school plans to open in the fall of 2006 with 100 freshmen and add a grade each year until it reaches enrollment of 400.

Much of the high school will be housed in the main building north of the museum. Its arts slant will provide students a curriculum that includes art history, said Joanna Taft, executive director of the nearby Harrison Center for the Arts and chairwoman of the school's board of directors.

"This is a school that will appeal to a child who wants to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher, or any profession," she said. "But when they graduate, they will be infused with the knowledge of art."

Angola native Rex Bollinger has been hired as CEO of the school. He spent 16 years as a school principal in Indiana before taking a job at The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, a not-for-profit in Princeton, N.J.

North of the high school, Fesler Hall will be sold to Minkis Homes for conversion into six loft-style condominiums that will front Pennsylvania Street.

A vacant home north of Fesler, also on Pennsylvania, will either be moved or demolished to make room for the construction of six townhouses, Palladino said.

Mansur is working with the Herron-Morton Place Neighborhood Association to salvage the house and has agreed to build a foundation for it if the association can find a location to move the structure, Palladino said.

The final piece of the development will occur on Talbot Street, where Minkis will build two single-family homes on a portion of an existing parking lot. Minkis is one of the builders in Fall Creek Place, which Mansur developed.

Taking on another project on the nearnorth side appealed to Mansur, Palladino said.

"We certainly have seen a lot of change in the area and have been involved in that change," he said. "This fits in perfectly with our scope of work."

Mansur will use the New Markets Tax Credit program, established by Congress in 2000 to help revitalize blighted areas, to fund the renovations.

The city received the 3-1/2-acre Herron campus from IUPUI in exchange for cityowned land on the Central Canal, where the Indiana University School of Medicine is building a research facility.
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