Developers planning a reuse project for a vacant east-side motel that was once a crime magnet cleared a big hurdle Wednesday night.
The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission unanimously approved the demolition of the former Indy East Motel at 5585 E. Washington St.—with a few conditions.
Groups leading the redevelopment effort must get approval of the architectural renderings for the site’s new development and line up financing for the project before tearing down the motel, said Amandula Anderson, executive director of Irvington Development Organization, or IDO. Her not-for-profit group is working with investors with ties to Meyer-Najem Construction Co. on the project.
As IBJ reported last month, financing for the $8.7 million project will depend on IDO's ability to secure federal tax credits through the state. The group intends to apply for those before the Nov. 1 deadline and expects to know whether they'll get them by March. The development will include about 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 3,000 square feet of community space.
Anderson said her group will have neighborhood meetings about the project every two or three weeks through the end of the year to get feedback. That will help determine details, such as what goes in the community space, how much green space the project includes and whether it has features such as a green roof.
Chris Piazza, president of local development firm Reverie Estates, attended Wednesday's meeting with about 25 area residents to protest the demolition. Piazza had proposed a $3 million renovation of the hotel into an "artist colony," with live/work studios for artists and an art gallery.
In an e-mail sent to IBJ Thursday morning, he pointed to several reasons the 1959 structure should be saved, provided it could be creatively reused.
"It is on the National Road, it shows the evolution of architecture over time," Piazza said. "It is a mid-century modern building, no matter how ugly it looks right now. I saw the potential in not only reusing it, but creating a destination in the city unlike any other—with that I see the historic significance."
Piazza and area residents also raised concerns that IDO has not engaged the community enough in discussions about the development plans.
Anderson said her group felt they needed first to tackle certain steps, such as rezoning the site, before getting neighborhood input. But last night’s testimony signaled a need for more discussions with residents, she said.
“That was a clear message to us,” Anderson said. “We had not done a good job of communicating with the neighborhood.”
Some community members also showed up in support. Kyla Thompson, president of the 11-member Historic Irvington Community Council, which represents the neighborhood, said her group voted to officially back IDO's efforts in August. She sees remediation as a long-overdue salvo to a problem spot in the community.
"I get frustrated because I see a positive thing that’s happening in the neighborhood, and a number of people don’t want to move forward with positive change," Thompson said. "If you don’t move forward and change the neighborhood for the positive, your neighborhood dies."
The city revoked the Indy East Motel’s license in 2006 and shut down the motel in 2009, heeding complaints from residents and police. IDO has been working with investors on the proposal for about 10 months. The group got the deed for the property, which was tax-delinquent, in late July.
If the developers can secure the tax credits, they hope to present architectural renderings to IHPC in April, Anderson said. If those plans are approved, the site’s demolition would take place late next summer, and work on the new development would begin soon after.