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Owner of East Market Street buildings eyes apartment conversion

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The owner of a pair of century-old buildings on East Market Street is searching for a partner or buyer interested in converting them to apartments or a boutique hotel.

Crown Property Group is issuing a request for proposals for the buildings, one of which is at 136 E. Market and houses a Stockyards Bank branch. The other is at 129 E. Market. Built around 1904, it’s known as the J.F. Wild Building. Though Crown envisions the buildings being converted to apartments, it's open to other ideas.

The request for proposals will go this week to “a select group of developers” representing a variety of product types, said Amy J. Burmeister, a Summit Realty Group broker who, along with Summit broker Alex Cantu, is working on the RFP for the owner. Responses are due Nov. 1.

RFPs are typically issued by government entities and go to a broad group of potential respondents. Burmeister said the RFP is likely to generate more conversation about redevelopment compared with simply listing the buildings for sale.

Jim Ammeen, a lawyer and a partner in Crown Property Group, said it’s possible the buildings would remain office space. But he said his goal has long been to convert them to another use.

“I’ve been thinking of doing something different with the buildings ever since we acquired them,” said Ammeen, who co-founded Crown in 2003 to buy downtown real estate. Its first purchase, in 2005, was the Barrister building at the southwest corner of Delaware and Market. Crown bought the Stockyards Bank building in 2006 and the Wild Building in 2008. The Barrister building isn’t for sale.

To ready the Wild Building for sale, Ammeen bought out the owner of the building’s ground lease. The 99-year ground lease, executed in 1919, had landed with Huntington Bank by the time Crown bought it last year.

He also worked to assemble parking for the buildings. Last year, Crown bought from Huntington a 48-space parking lot immediately east of the Wild Building. It also bought from Huntington control of 56 spaces inside the Penn Park Garage, which is connected to the Wild Building.    

The parking is expected to make the buildings more attractive to apartment developers, as is their location just a block from Monument Circle. The buildings, both of which are about 55,000 square feet and 12 stories tall, are sparsely occupied and most of the leases are set to expire soon. The exception is the Stockyards Bank branch, which is expected to remain on the first floor of the 136 E. Market building.

“We want the market to tell us what the market thinks is the highest and best use of the buildings,” said Ammeen, who thinks apartments are the most logical use for the buildings. The economy points toward people leasing rather than buying their homes, he said, and the price of gasoline makes it more attractive to live in a walkable downtown.

Ammeen’s interest in downtown development goes beyond his role as a building owner. He was on one of the many committees that helped create the city’s most recent Regional Center Plan, a document that guides downtown development and recommended higher population density for downtown. Last February, he joined the board of the Indianapolis City Market, which is less than a block from Crown’s buildings.

Scott Pollom, a broker with Cassidy Turley who specializes in apartments, said any property within walking distance of the Wholesale District or Monument Circle is a candidate for an apartment conversion. He said he’s working with investors now who want to create high-end apartments downtown. Secured parking, preferably in a garage, is key to that strategy, he said.

John Watson, a developer of downtown apartments, most of them in converted buildings, said there are pros and cons to Crown’s buildings.

The west side of downtown is a hotter apartment market because of the student population at IUPUI, he said. The Crown buildings also have fewer windows and lower ceiling heights than he’d typically want to see. But he said the proximity of the buildings to Monument Circle and to the State Capitol could make them good candidates for conversion.

 

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  • Tax Sale Comment
    In response to Moochie's comment:

    The property tax assessment for 2006-2010 had been under appeal since reassessment in 2008 (and the succeeding years). The 99 year land lease for the property was transferred in 2008, and the land was acquired by the lessee of the land lease in 2010. The property tax appeals were resolved once and for all shortly before the May 10 installment was due this year. Due to the fact that three agencies have a responsibility for tax assessment, invoicing and, collection, the County was not able to invoice the amounts due during the rush prior to May 10, so final true-up of amounts due or paid for the years under appeal was not resolved as of that date. Questions related to the final true-up have been resolved. All amounts claimed as in arrears post-appeal have been resolved and paid. The properties will not be in the tax sale next week. If you have further questions, you should contact Amy Burmeister, Summit Realty Group, at 317-713-2100.
  • Surface lots...
    I think one thing we could do to really boost downtown would be to put a zoning ordinance in place prohibiting surface lots in the Mile Square. Allowing for some small lots that might be needed for some retailers (20 spaces or fewer) would be a reasonable allowance. Then remove the parking spot requirements from the zoning ordinances. Let the market decide how many parking spots a building needs rather than a certain ratio per square foot. Downtown could position itself to get young professionals living in the core city by simply modifying the zoning ordinances.
  • Tax Sale?
    Interesting that 129 East Market goes into tax sale next Thursday. Crown owes $50,000+ in back taxes.. From the indy.gov/treasurer

    A521 1026475 CROWN WILD LLC 129 E MARKET ST, INDIANAPOLIS 80FT 10IN X 64.83FT NE PT L4 SQ57 & 1/2
    VACTALBOTT ST E & ADJ
    $52,709.58
    • Agree
      rwh,

      I agree. Surface lots in the core of DT are a waste. There is soo much potential for DT Indy, but much of it is disguised by the many parking lots that stand in the way. It would be great to have more apartments or condos in the heart of Dt, but if parking lots are the cost of this, then maybe we need to look more closely at it.
    • Parking lot
      It would be nice to develop the parking lot. This always bothered me to have a parking lot on that piece of prime real estate. What a wonderful place for building infill.

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