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Multifamily projects abound in Chatham Arch, Lockerbie

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The neighboring Lockerbie and Chatham Arch neighborhoods downtown could see four multi-family projects built south of Massachusetts Avenue along or near College Avenue.

The developments, one of them condominiums and the other three market-rate apartments, received consideration July 2 from the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

REW map of downtown housing projectsAll told, the four projects, two of which would be built by Milhaus Development LLC, would add nearly 280 units within about a four-block stretch from East Michigan Street north to Mass Ave., not counting the 265 apartments in Milhaus’ Circa complex under construction. The first phase of that five-building, $26 million development is set to open next month.

“What people are realizing, and it speaks to the success of the historic districts and saving these neighborhoods, is that it has created an environment where lots of people want to live in now,” Bill Browne, IHPC's chairman and Ratio Architects' founder, told IBJ.

Here’s a rundown of the four projects and where they stand n the approval process.

Lockerbie North

TWG Development LLC’s $28 million Lockerbie North is by far the largest of the four projects, as measured by its 215 units, and is the only one that has received IHPC approval.

The commission gave its blessing July 2 , contingent on removing two fourth-floor connectors. The modification will change the design from two L-shaped buildings to four separate structures at the northwest corner of East Michigan Street and North College Avenue.

Traffic in and out of the building is also a concern. The main entrance and exit is on Michigan Avenue with another exit onto Park Avenue, but that could change.


The development includes 5,000 square feet of commercial space, likely for office use, and 247 underground parking spaces.

“It’s going to be the biggest project in the 200-and-some-odd-year history of this neighborhood, and that’s significant,” Lockerbie resident Keith Mundrick said in expressing his support of the development to IHPC members.

Construction is set to start in September.

500 Park Residences

Chase Development LLC’s four-story 500 Park Residences will feature 12 condominiums with 21 ground-level parking spaces. Five of the units will be rooftop townhomes, or two stories, while the remaining seven will be flats.

The 12-unit condo building would be constructed at the northwest corner of East Michigan and Park Avenue and just to the west of TWG’s Lockerbie North project.

To make way for the condos, Chase Development would buy and demolish the building at 534 E. Michigan St. The structure made of concrete block houses a mechanical contractor’s business and was built in three phases around an 1860s-era two-story home.

“It is one of the oddest reuses of a historic building that staff has ever seen,” IHPC staff wrote in a report.

Only the second floor of the historic house remains and sits above the flat roof of the concrete-block building.

The IHPC continued until Aug. 6 Chase Development’s request to demolish the structure and construct the four-story condo building. In the meantime, the developer will tweak the building’s design.  

IHPC recommended that the building’s façade along Michigan Street feel more “approachable” to pedestrians since the entrance will be on Park Avenue and not on Michigan Street.

500 Park Residences is part of the first phase of Chase Development’s plans. That phase also include constructing four townhomes along Leon Street and two single-family homes on Park Avenue. The second phase, at the southwest corner of Park and North Street, will contain some type of residential.  

720 and 747 N. College

IHPC granted both Milhaus projects at the two addresses on College Avenue continuances and is set to again consider them Aug. 6.

At 720 N. College, where a vacant building sits, Milhaus has scaled back its plans from 32 to 10 units and from five to four stories with 16 covered parking spaces. The developer hopes to improve its chances of approval after neighbors expressed concerns about the project’s density.

REW Milhaus project 747 CollegeThe project at 747 N. College Ave. will have 42 apartments and 8,500 square feet of retail space. (Image courtesy Milhaus Development LLC)

But the bigger sticking point seems to be the vacant building sitting on the property. Milhaus wants to tear most of the building down, to the chagrin of IHPC members, who want the developer to instead incorporate as much of the structure into its design as possible.

The two-story brick building dates to the 1890s, although several additions were made up until the 1930s. Milhaus’ latest design for the property is an improvement from what it first proposed, Browne said, but the existing building “has a lot of character in its own right.”

"If the need is to keep everything, it makes the site very difficult to redevelop," said Jeremy Stephenson, Milhaus' executive vice president of development, while noting that the developer continues to evaluate its options for the site.

At 747 N. College, plans call for 42 apartments, 8,500 square feet of retail and 55 parking spaces on what’s now a parking lot at the southeast corner of College Avenue and East St. Clair Street, where Massachusetts Avenue intersects the streets.

IHPC members are seeking a standout design, or what they’re calling “gateway architecture,” for the high-profile intersection in the Chatham Arch neighborhood.

At their suggestion, Milhaus has added more brick to the design. But IHPC members still want Milhaus to change certain elements of the design, such as making the residential entrance at East St. Clair Street more pronounced.

“We want to make sure the architecture is at a high standard because of the importance of the intersection,” Browne told IBJ. “I think this project is really coming along quite well. It’s a very handsome design.”

 

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  • Everything sounds like NIMBY to people who only want development
    I never indicated whether I was in favor or opposed to the specifics; rather I indicated some of the considerations that people have. I've lived in the adjacent neighborhoods for 20 years specifically for their density, but that doesn't mean I can't raise questions just as IHPC does about the design, massing, and appropriateness of something being proposed. And as far as Barton and Lugar towers, both have some breathing space around their perimeter. And I don't use my car, but bike or walk everywhere, so thanks again for projecting your own biases on to my situation. When I referred to 5-6 lights, I meant sitting in the same intersection having to wait for the light(s) to change multiple times in order to get through a block or two, something that is an increasingly regular occurrence on Mass Ave during peak hours.
  • still sounds like a NIMBY to me.
    Jeffrey C, we repeat this argument here at IBJ as more of the locals remonstrate against density, time and time again. In this case, those "urban-minded people" have cut a development down more than 60 PERCENT in the name of the "right calibration on density". It's unreal! I know how tedious the arguments about Hoosier provincialism can be, but it does honestly seem as though people came right from a cornfield to downtown Indy and never visited another city, where nobody thinks twice about having to spend 90 seconds to find a parking space two blocks away. Over here you'd think you're asking to build a landfill next door. Good grief. Density is flattering--it's what a neighborhood needs to stay vibrant. And Jeffrey, you already have "structures that tower over immediately adjacent buildings" in the form of Barton, Lugar, etc--so how does that objection hold water? And why view the distance to your apartment in terms of 5-6 stop lights? Isn't the whole point that you now can walk a whole lot more places--and maybe even other humans beings while you're walking? This perspective implies that "as long as I got my foot in the door to an attractive neighborhood, we can go ahead and slam it shut behind us so practically no one else can get to it". In other words, NIMBYism.
    • Breathing space
      It's not a battle between density or dead zones, it's finding the right calibration on density. We don't want structures that tower over immediately adjacent buildings in visually unappealing ways, nor do we want traffic backed up at the corner of Mass, St. Clair, and College so that it takes 5-6 lights just to get to your apt. at night. It's a tough mix to predict when you have unpredictable human behavior involved. One person's ideal density is another resident's unappealing quality of life. If you've lived in one of these neighborhood 10+ years you-re one of the people who weathered tougher times that have helped make the current vibrant quality of life happen ... voicing legitimate concerns about the best way to go about this development shouldn't get you labeled as a recalcitrant NIMBY. It's not about being "not in my backyard" and more about "how in my backyard."
    • Not a cheap palce to visit?
      Sure you can drop a lot of coin on the Ave, but with a half-dozen pubs, a yogurt shop, Yats, and more, it's hardly an expensive place to grab a bite.
    • Comment
      You didn't even mention the cosmetic issues these developments bring, which is a huge issue for an up and coming city. I believe that one of the beautiful things about this city is it's diversity and this issue has nothing to do with a certain Race. It has to do with people that are not able to invest in these businesses that only survive from our local dollars. If we create a bigger parking issue and continue to crowd the area, we will lose the people who come to spend their money in these areas.
    • Crowd Concerns
      I believe that the over saturation of tax-income based housing will prove to be a huge problem in the next few years. Mass Ave, as we all know, is not a cheap place to visit. The fine dining and nightlife requires people with a disposable income, and yet, we are surrounding the area with people who will not have the means to invest in the local establishments? Another concern is the cosmetic factor of these developments. Look at 16 Park Apartments, for example. A few years ago, these were a nice addition to this particular area. It did not take long for these to start looking trashed, unkempt and a bit run down. The construction in itself is not high quality and will not "stand the test of time." In conclusion, I have literally been pushed out of downtown because I do not qualify for these developments, like many other hardworking, locally-invested people. They are forgetting that the BIG idea is to create financial and cultural growth for the city. These developments foster crowded streets with no financial benefits for surrounding businesses.
      • Mayor Ballard?
        What does Mayor Ballard have to do with the above mentioned projects?
      • Downtown
        The downtown population boom continues under the leadership of Mayor Ballard! These are exciting times to live in downtown.
        • New Housing, good...
          But could someone please come up with a design that doesn't look like a Saltines box. There is zero architectural creativity happening in these new constrcution projects. IHPC should demand there be some elemets that reflect the historic neighborhoods these buildings are flanking. Does the city not have an urban design committee? Imagination has died here, I fear.
        • Density arguments
          While I agree fully that Indy could benefit from more density, it is not always fair to make kneejerk comparisons to other Midwest cities. No other Midwest city doubled its size forty years ago through a merger of its city and county, which overwhelmingly explains why Indy's numbers are so low. Plenty--perhaps even a majority--of southern cities have even lower densities than Indianapolis. And in the Midwest, Kansas City has lower density than Indy...and feels like it does, too.
        • Density
          The problem is that too much thought is given to the criticism of a few. City planners and developers need to tell people, this is what the city needs and continue on as planned. Increased density will help the city to grow. It's almost like a mother who has a child who doesn't want to eat his vegetables. The mother forces the child to eat the vegetables anyway because the mother knows what's best. Developers have seen what works in other denser cities than Indianapolis and there's no reason why a 5 story building can't work here a mile north of downtown. People who complain about density need to go to other midsize cities with higher population densities, like Cleveland or Minneapolis, and then come back to Indianapolis. And if they still don't want their neighborhood becoming "too dense", well there's plenty of space outside of center township for them to move to.
        • Yay IHPC!
          Really pleased to see how concerned the IHPC was about making College and Mass look good. You may not be able to see it now, but this will probably be THE intersection that represents Mass Ave. It's the end of where College is 2-way, and it's how many people enter downtown. The six corners need to be great. The building housing 45 Degrees is gorgeous and sets the standard. Very happy to see IHPC block the construction of a surface parking lot at the NW corner of this intersection. Can't wait for IPS to sell that bus lot someday.
        • density
          I agree with you Paul. The people complaining about density should not be living in or near downtown. We need much, much, much more density in downtown and all over Indianapolis.
        • Density
          Can we stop complaining about density downtown? Indianapolis is already one of the least dense major cities in the country. (Hint: In the Midwest it even sits behind Grand Rapids). As a resident of this area I can tell you it is far from overcrowded and can have a certain empty feeling to it considering it is downtown.

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        1. How can any company that has the cash and other assets be allowed to simply foreclose and not pay the debt? Simon, pay the debt and sell the property yourself. Don't just stiff the bank with the loan and require them to find a buyer.

        2. If you only knew....

        3. The proposal is structured in such a way that a private company (who has competitors in the marketplace) has struck a deal to get "financing" through utility ratepayers via IPL. Competitors to BlueIndy are at disadvantage now. The story isn't "how green can we be" but how creative "financing" through captive ratepayers benefits a company whose proposal should sink or float in the competitive marketplace without customer funding. If it was a great idea there would be financing available. IBJ needs to be doing a story on the utility ratemaking piece of this (which is pretty complicated) but instead it suggests that folks are whining about paying for being green.

        4. The facts contained in your post make your position so much more credible than those based on sheer emotion. Thanks for enlightening us.

        5. Please consider a couple of economic realities: First, retail is more consolidated now than it was when malls like this were built. There used to be many department stores. Now, in essence, there is one--Macy's. Right off, you've eliminated the need for multiple anchor stores in malls. And in-line retailers have consolidated or folded or have stopped building new stores because so much of their business is now online. The Limited, for example, Next, malls are closing all over the country, even some of the former gems are now derelict.Times change. And finally, as the income level of any particular area declines, so do the retail offerings. Sad, but true.

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