Private foundation planning Carmel HQ

June 27, 2014
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The Indianapolis-based Liberty Fund plans to build a campus-like headquarters on the Meridian Street office corridor in Carmel—if officials approve a couple of notable exceptions to the city’s development guidelines for the area.

Liberty Fund wants to erect a 61,300-square-foot facility on largely wooded property at the northeast corner of Meridian and 111th Street. The multi-story building, designed around a central courtyard, would house the private educational foundation’s library and archives in addition to office space and meeting rooms.

Liberty Fund headquarters
                              rendering, CarmelLiberty Fund's new headquarters is designed around a central courtyard. Click to enlarge. (Rendering courtesy of Rowland Design)

Founded in 1960, Liberty Fund has 50 employees and expects to add as many as 16 in the coming years, according to paperwork filed with its application for a development-standards variance. 

Carmel requires buildings with Meridian Street frontage to be at least 38 feet tall and have three occupiable floors; the minimum height for buildings along Pennsylvania Street—the eastern border of the 9.8 acres Liberty Fund has under contract—is 26 feet.

But Rowland Design’s plans calls for a shorter building: The two-story façade along Meridian would be about 31 feet, construction drawings show, and the portion fronting Pennsylvania would be less than 16 feet tall.   

Following the current standards “would result in a significant amount of unused and/or vacant space; increase construction costs unnecessarily; and prevent the owner from developing a campus environment that optimizes the use and benefits of the property,” the application said. Project costs were not disclosed.

As designed, about 60 percent of the building’s total area would be on the first floor, exceeding the 40-percent maximum for the office corridor. Liberty Fund also is asking to reduce the number of required parking spaces (from 245 to 115) and eliminate a mandatory loading dock.

Approving the parking waiver “will allow Liberty Fund to save a significant portion of the existing mature trees on the site, which should have a positive impact on the use and value of adjacent properties,” the application said.

Carmel’s Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to take up the variance requests at its July meeting. Once that’s resolved, the Carmel Plan Commission will review the development plan and other details like lighting and landscaping.

A construction plan submitted with the variance application showed a pedestrian trail cutting through the woods, two sculpture gardens and a retention pond/reflecting pool visible from the two-story library, which would overlook the highway.

The building also includes 8,500 square feet of below-grade space to accommodate a portion of Liberty Fund’s archives and a “mechanical tunnel.”

Liberty Fund reported expenses of $22.2 million on revenue of $20.6 million in the year ended April 30, 2013, according to its most recent federal tax filing. The fair market value of its assets at the time: $309.6 million. The foundation is located in the Woodland Center II office building at 8335 Allison Pointe Trail.

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  • Space
    Seems they could also save a bunch of the mature trees by building up instead of out. And if you know what the requirements for a building are on that plot, select a different plot? There are large, unwooded fields for sale on the opposite side of Pennsylvania. Put this building there.
  • US 31 view
    I'd also be curious to see what the US 31 facing side looks like because the Pennsylvania side in that rendering is quite ugly.
  • Interesting
    Sounds like a nice addition for the area. Of course the city council, and planning commission won't like it, as it doesn't conform to their "views." Remember, those views caused that monstrosity Walgreens at 116th and Rangeline. These folks like the trees, don't need parking garages or huge parking lots, and don't need unused 3rd floor space. Note there is a lot of unleased space along 31 also. Why build more unused space. Sounds too logical to me, which means the planning commission and city council won't like it.
  • No more mistakes
    I agree with the comment about Walgreens, that building is hideous and completely overpowers area. If the building had to be 2 stories (which none of the surrounding buildings are), they sure could have made it more attractive.
  • Unfinished
    Can't look worse than the Capital Group building at Carmel Drive/Meridian. The Merdian/126th side still appears to be unfinished and looks like they ran out of money before landscaping was done.
  • Resident's Opinion
    I get what you're saying RKW, however one of the whole points of the requirements is sustainability. This is Carmel's only major Class A corridor, and space is limited. Couple that with commercial property values that will likely increase as a result of the 31 upgrades (and already are). If memory serves me correctly, the Landmark buildings just sold for an impressive gain on the previous investor. This development just doesn't seem to fit. There are parks all over Carmel, and we don't need a low rise corporate park in this area. The land there is far more valuable than the current proposal, in my humble laymans opinion. In 20 years when there's nothing left & Westfield cashes in on their 31 frontage, Carmel will be kicking themselves that they didn't stick to the plan. Likewise, say CVS or Walgreen's skip town, those buildings almost instantly become viable for another use because of the so-called absurd standards. That wouldn't happen if they were just cookie cutter chain drug stores. I get that there's a middle ground, so I don't intend to dismiss your opinion, it has good points. I just happen not to agree in this particular case. Liberty Fund needs to come further on this. It's simply not worth it for a site that may only count for 16 more heads in the foreseeable future.
    • Replying to self...
      I should note, I also hold the opinion that the Walgreens building is ugly as mud. My point is density & sustainability, and how it lends to maintaining a positive tax balance over time.
    • Room for improvement
      Assuming North is up in that rendering, the eastern portion of the bldg looks like the Marion Co, jail, while the western portions look like Lenin's tomb in Moscow. Also note the lack of windows in this rendering.I sincerely hope this gets sent back to the drawing board for a massive redo.
    • That Ugly Walgreens
      BTW, one thing I noticed the other day, when heading east on 116th at Rangeline. I notice that Walgreens blocks one's views of traffic heading south on Rangeline. Normally, you can see or hear emergency traffic due to their sirens and lights. Forget seeing their lights until they are right up to the intersection, and we barely heard them coming, while we were stopped at the stoplight, until the fire engines started blowing their horns. Apparently the building blocks sound pretty well too. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program about Liberty.
      • Walgreens
        Agree about sound factor at that corner. As I cleared the intersection of 116 heading east, I heard sirens and horns right on top of me.AND My hearing is the only thing on me that hasn't gone.
      • Property Taxes
        Good for Liberty Fund for building something a little different. An exempt operating foundation like liberty fund is different than a for profit corporation and has different needs. Carmel's push to promote art should dovetail nicely with Liberty Fund's academic mission. This would be a good "get" for Carmel. That said, I'm not sure whether a nonprofit like Liberty Fund pays property taxes. (I still support Liberty Fund's plans.) Discuss amongst yourselves...
      • Agree
        I agree Carmel has done a great job developing North Meridian as a centralized office corridor. No reason to approve waivers to put this in especially with the parking waiver which will reduce the viability of the building going forward for another tenant or owner.

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