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Focal point for Mass Ave project: Huge electronic screen

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The most striking feature of a proposed $43-million development along Mass Ave is a Times Square-style electronic screen that would wrap around the building's corner and rise more than three stories.

Planned Mass Ave redevelopmentA giant electronic screen is planned as part of the $43M Mass Ave project. (Rendering courtesy of Schmidt Associates)

The LED screen would be roughly 36 feet tall and 52 feet wide and display artwork and public announcements about Mass Ave arts and entertainment events, said Wayne Schmidt, principal at Schmidt Associates, the project's architect.

"We think it'll be a focal point of the city," he said Thursday, shortly after Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard led an unveiling of the five-story project on 1.45 acres bordered by Massachusetts Avenue, North New Jersey Street and East North Street.

The plans calls for up to 235 market-rate apartments, 40,000 square feet of first-floor retail space and almost 400 parking spaces on two levels, with some underground. The locally based development team includes J.C. Hart Company, Paul Kite's Strongbox Commercial, and Schmidt, as IBJ first reported Wednesday.

The brightly colored building will contain a mix of brick, stone and metal paneling along its Mass Ave frontage, with the electronic screen wrapping 180 degrees and facing the skyline from the corner of Michigan and New Jersey streets and Massachusetts Avenue.

The screen, which will cost about $250,000, will look like a large computer monitor, said Sarah Hempstead, a Schmidt principal.

The "media mesh" material will be made of stainless steel fabric woven with thousands of LED lights, which direct the light outward and away from the residents whose units are behind the screen, she said. The material also won't block residents' view of the skyline from their apartments.

The idea is to display a "rotating art gallery" and perhaps a daily display of arts activities and events, Hempstead said. It would not display advertisements.

The screen will require zoning approval as part of the project's overall review by the city's planning department.

It was no surprise that the anchor for the project will be upscale apartments, as both rent and occupancy rates have risen to record highs in the downtown area, and units at the still-to-open CityWay on the southern edge of downtown have leased up quickly.

For the retail portion, the developers hope to land a specialty grocery store and a couple of restaurants with outdoor seating, Paul Kite said.

"I'd love to see some national tenants help solidify the local tenants and help expand the trade area," he said.

The city plans to contribute $3 million from a downtown tax-increment-financing district and the prime real estate—currently occupied by the Indianapolis Fire Department—as a subsidy for the project.

The development team is required to put $5.4 million into an escrow account it may draw on to fund construction. If the project stalls, the city would keep the land and cash.

Construction is expected to begin in 2014. The city must first relocate the Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters, Fire Station No. 7 and the Firefighters Credit Union.

Once the site is clear, city officials and the developers will finalize the details of a project agreement before closing on the deal.

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  • What are they thinking?
    There is no market for projects like this in Indy without government subsidies in the form of TIF financing which, in and of itself, should be enough to dispel the lie that this is a cutting edge city. It's not. All the people here get are these tired old attempts to create buzz by doing something that is hopelessly out of date in most of the rest of the country. You want Indy to thrive? Focus on neighborhoods. Our peer cities who have done so remain vibrant. MSP comes to mind. Denver, too. Yes, they have lakes and mountains, but that's not it. What they have that we don't (and never will until we change how we think) is a willingness by small operators to invest in their own organic projects. Invest in Indy? I wouldn't dream of it, because I know that my local government is solidly in the pockets of the big boys. That's fine with me. There are plenty of other places to invest. Places with leadership. Places with a brighter future than past. Indy will continue to wither away as the creative classes flee this bizarro vision of what cool is.
  • If Mass Ave Doesn't Want It...
    We'll be happy to take it over in Fountain Square! I might have a few tweaks that I'd recommend but the scale is perfect for the corridor. A digital screen that is used to display art work? Yes, please. So, anyway, if the NIMBYs win out over there, I'm sure space could be found in the Square.
  • Respect the history of the area
    I walked the site after work yesterday. There were others doing the same thing. I ran into a guy pontificating to a small group of people how the screen, the design, and the height of the building are totally out of scale with anything in the neighborhood... Which is wildly untrue.. Across the street is The Murat, an eclectic.. I'll say it.. bizarre looking building with a tower about 100 feet tall. On the other side of the street is the Barton Tower, that brutalist monstrosity (that I love) that is what... 20 stories? It seems that a ton of people in that area have blinders on. It's as if they've collectively decided to ignore the buildings that they don't like and only see the quaint brick structures. Perhaps they believe that if they simply wish away what they don't like, Mass Ave will somehow become the urbane sleepy slice of turn of the century Manhattan or Boston they all wish it to be. But that isn't what Mass Ave is. The history of the area is diverse and eclectic and that attitude doesn't respect it. The Barton Tower has now been there about half a century. It is unique and now an important part of the history of the area. It too now deserves respect. There are many parts of the neighborhood that reflect it's sometimes undesirable past. We should not ignore or disrespect them either. The new development is actually following in the tradition of the area. It's unique. It's a little over the top. It's controversial. while I don't love it, It fits in very well.
  • Game Changer
    This is a neighborhood not central downtown. This is one of the best projects I have seen from a city. This is big! This neighborhood will have uniqueness.
  • Wow... and that's a first in a LONG TIME.
    I'm actually impressed so far with the preliminary design/idea of this section of Mass Ave. Anything like this would turn this blighted area of the corridor into more activity. THEN, the entire stretch of Mass Ave will be a lively corridor. For the first time in a long time, I'm pleased with this.
  • Public Corruption
    Sleight of hand by Mayor Ballard.... Says he is selling the property for $5.4 million but the developers get to keep the proceeds want a complete scam on taxpayers this financial defalcation which is one in a series. In the private sector people go to jail for doing what he is doing. There is no justification for TIF or giving land in that location. CORRUPT
  • Another Giveaway
    So the City of Indianapolis is giving away another piece of prime real estate and getting nothing in return. It's more Pay to Play from Mayor Vaughn. What do you want to bet his old employer, Barnes & Thornburg, has their hands in this deal?
  • I am shocked. The cheese and whine crowd panning another development. Imagine that. One of these days I really hope one of you is successful enough to either finance a large project like this or be tasked with designing one. Then we can pan your design.
  • further enhancements
    Would be nice if a streetscape change would also happen at the same time, maybe twist and turn that block of Mass to add bump outs for restaurant tables and green space ala that famous San Fran snake street? How about a cultural trail loop from Walnut and East to Mass and East and then down Mass past the development up Michigan to Alabama? Also, the tree lighting is a disaster with most trees not working...isnt this a Schmidt idea gone wrong with poor execution. Sure the right architect was picked?
  • TIF money
    I was always under the impression that TIFs were created to spur development in areas that were starved for development -- which Mass Ave clearly is not. But why not pad the pockets of rich developers and commercial real estate types, the community certainly isn't in need of anything that benefits the public good, right?
  • LED Screen Out of Place
    I think the LED screen is a good idea just not at this location. This corner is a perfect place for an architectural element. Its the best view in and out and its being hidden by the screen. I hope the project does not have to skimp on the backside like 3 Mass. The visible back side looks horrible from the east. I also think the buildings are too similar. Some more variation is needed especially the building heights.
  • Out of Scale
    The billboard is out of scale for Mass Ave, a great "main street" cultural destination. The sign is taller than many buildings on the corridor. It'd be more appropriate in the wholesale district that caters to the convention crowd and is better scaled with things like the sports stadiums, convention center, and bigger quarter-block buildings. Other than that, it replicates the existing Schmidt cruise ship. How about we keep the footprint but divy up the facades to 5 or 6 architects so we get a scale more consistent with the parcel and block pattern?
  • Sad
    Why does this city pander to the lowest common denominator, Vegas-style? Why are we always trying to be something we're not? Mass Ave is not Time Square. Why not capitalize on what makes Mass Ave so great? Brick walks, great shops good food, good music instead of some sleazy revenue stream like a billboard? Yuck.
  • Advertising will come
    "The idea is to display a "rotating art gallery" and perhaps a daily display of arts activities and events, Hempstead said. It would not display advertisements." Like the ex-art-work-turned-part-advertising-screen over the arrival escalators at the airport, if this screen is built, it will eventually have advertising. When it happens, go ahead and add advertising to Ann Dancing, as well.
  • Mass Ave Project
    Mass Ave is popular with locals because it provides a simple charming and relaxing enviroment far from the scenes of Meridian street and Broad Ripple. From the looks of the project, although pretty impressive will make Mass Ave lose it's charm as a gateway from the ordinary and simply a place to bike and walk full of cool restaurants and Bars...

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  1. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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