Former hospital could become student housing

January 19, 2009
Ivy Tech Community College is working with private developers on a plan to turn the old St. Vincent Hospital on Fall Creek Parkway into a housing complex for Ivy Tech and IUPUI students.

The developers, Paramount Realty Group and Alboher Development Co. Inc., would get the building and a 100-year land lease on the property in exchange for pouring more than $18 million into renovations. Ivy Tech, meanwhile, would consider other land for expansion of its adjacent downtown campus.

The deal, if finalized, could save the 1913 building—which has been vacant five years—from a wrecking ball. That would be a relief for historic preservationists, who had been fighting to save the structure that served as a hospital until 1974, when St. Vincent moved to West 86th Street and Township Line Road. Most recently, the building served as the Weyerbacher Terrace subsidized apartment complex.

The new plans call for a 100-unit apartment complex, ranging from one-bedroom to four-bedroom units, for a total of 250 beds. The building's exterior would get a new roof, new windows and new cornice work, and the interior would be gutted, said Stephen Shea, president of Fishers-based Paramount, which has partnered with Indianapolis-based Alboher on previous projects.

The same developers have been working on plans for a student housing development at the corner of Capitol Avenue and North Street. That development, originally dubbed Paramount Tower, now is being led by Minneapolis-based Opus.

It wasn't clear whether financing has been secured for the new project, but it could be a major hurdle unless the developers secure lots of equity, said George Tikijian, a leading local apartment broker.

Tikijian also isn't entirely sold on the location.

"Student housing is hot right now, but that location is pretty far from IUPUI," he said. "I guess I'm not sure what competitive advantage that property will have."

Ivy Tech bought the building and surrounding five-acre property from the city for $1 in May 2006 in a deal that required preservation of the hospital's facade and chapel.

Ivy Tech already has razed a couple of buildings on the property along Fall Creek between Illinois Street and Capitol, but had agreed to save and incorporate the former hospital into a campus expansion.

But it reversed course in mid-2008 after a study determined the building would be too expensive to save.

The college began planning for a replacement building and raised the possibility of demolition in discussions with the city. That drew the ire of neighborhood groups and the Historic Preservation Foundation of Indiana, which questioned the college's study.

In July, Ivy Tech appointed a panel to look at possible ways to reuse the property. That group recommended the apartment proposal, said Jeff Fanter, a college spokesman.

"The developer would keep the building and renovate the inside and lease the property from us," Fanter wrote in an e-mail.

He said the college and developers hope to have a deal in place by February.

The college plans to proceed with its plans for the rest of the site, which is the centerpiece of a $64 million expansion of the Indianapolis campus. Ivy Tech also has several surface parking lots on the north end of its campus.

The outcome is good news for the city, said Maury Plambeck, who heads the Department of Metropolitan Development.

"It saves the building, a historic asset for the city of Indianapolis," he said. "And it's a use that will complement Ivy Tech and be an asset in the long term."
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