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Downtown projects face crucial hurdles

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Two downtown apartment projects seek critical government approvals in the next month, while  another commercial project is on track to start this year.

The following are updates on the projects, all of which were previously reported in Real Estate Weekly.

— Milhaus Development's plan to add apartments to the 600 block of North College Avenue was sketchy back in early October, shortly after Milhaus put the former Mitchell & Scott industrial site just south of Massachusetts Avenue under contract.

Since then Milhaus has hammered out the details of a $26 million development that would house 236 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The apartments, the majority of which would be one and two bedroom, are to rent for between $900 and $2,000 a month.  

The apartments would be spread among five buildings, four of which would be new and between four and five stories in height. The new buildings would line College and North and Fulton streets. A fifth building is a historic structure at the site that Milhaus plans to incorporate into the complex. Some of the first-floor units along College would be marketed for live/work space.

Before work can begin, Milhaus must get design approval and have the site rezoned from industrial to mixed use. That could come as soon as March 6, when Milhaus' case will be heard by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, which has jurisdiction because the site is in the Chatham Arch Massachusetts Avenue historic district.

Plans call for the complex to have one parking space per unit. The adequacy of the parking plan has been questioned by some neighbors of the project.

Milhaus' goal is to clear the site and begin construction in the third quarter and have units ready to lease by the fourth quarter of next year.

— Two obstacles stand in the way of locally based Englewood Development's breaking ground on a 50-unit apartment and retail project at 460 Virginia Ave.

One is zoning. Englewood won what could be a decisive battle in its quest to rezone the site from industrial to commercial when the city's Metropolitan Development Commission voted 7-1 in favor of the request Feb. 6. Now the matter goes before the City-County Council, which could approve the rezoning at its Feb. 25 meeting.

The other obstacle is financing, which Englewood should get word on late this month. That's when the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority will announce which projects from around the state have been chosen this year to receive housing tax credits, which Englewood would sell to raise money for the project.

Besides apartments, the project  would include about 5,000 square feet of retail space and an underground parking garage. Some neighbors of the project strongly oppose the apartment component, which they say would pack too many residential units onto the site. But they might have to save that fight for another day. The issue on the table now is zoning. And city planning documents for years have recommend the site be zoned for commercial development.

If the rezoning is finalized and Englewood wins tax credits from the state, the project itself would have to win support from the city before it could be built, possibly beginning later this year with an opening in 2014.

— A 1927 retail strip near 11th Street and College Avenue that's been vacant for at least 30 years is still in line to be purchased and redeveloped by Larry Jones, who has plenty of experience with infill retail projects in urban neighborhoods.

Jones  was a partner in the redevelopment of the Murphy Art Center at 1043 Virginia Ave., and developed Chatham Center, a retail/apartment project at Ninth and East streets and Lincoln Park Shops at 25th and Central.

He said last fall he'd buy the dilapidated College Avenue retail strip, whose owner had sought permission to demolish it, if he could secure enough parking to serve the building and if environmental testing came back clean.

Though the 6,600-square-foot building once housed a laundry, soil samples didn't reveal contamination, Jones said. He's waiting for the state to certify those results.

On the parking front, Jones is working with the city's Department of Public Works to allow street parking on College Avenue and on the south side of 11th Street. He expects the City-County Council to take up the matter in late March. If the plan is approved, tenants and visitors to the building would have access to about 30 street spaces close to the building.

Jones expects to spend about $540,000 to buy and rehab the building and lease the space for $14 a square foot, less than what tenants pay on nearby Massachusetts Avenue.

If the environmental and parking issues can be resolved, he'll buy the building and start work on it this year.

 

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