Fresh renderings: $23M Millikan on Mass Ave

July 26, 2012
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Check out brand-new renderings of a $23 million residential and retail development planned for the land surrounding the Barton Tower apartments along Massachusetts Avenue between Michigan and East streets. The project is a partnership between Flaherty & Collins Properties and Insight Development Corp. It calls for a mix of 144 affordable and market-rate apartments and retail/restaurant space along Mass Ave. The project, tentatively dubbed The Millikan on Mass Ave after an apartment building that once stood on the site, is being designed by Ratio Architects and A2SO4.

Millikan on Mass AveMillikan on Mass AveMillikan on Mass AveMillikan on Mass Ave


The developers plan to present the renderings at an Aug. 1 hearing of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The site now includes a park and parking that wraps around the 21-story Barton Tower, which is owned by the Indianapolis Housing Agency. Construction on the $11.5 million affordable housing component, planned for along East Street, is set to begin in the fall, said Bruce Baird, president of Insight Development, a not-for-profit developer affiliated with the IHA. Baird said financing for the market-rate portion isn’t in place because the development team is waiting to see if it can secure financing in conjunction with a larger project it hopes to build across Massachusetts on a half block now occupied by Indianapolis Fire Department. The Insight/Flaherty team is one of five developers that submitted a proposal to redevelop that city-owned site. What do you think?

  • Holy SketchUp, Batman!
    Not a bad little project, though.
  • How Long...
    How long will it be until someone freaks out about the loss of the "parkland" around the Barton Tower? Who will defend Le Corbusier's (indefensible) "Tower in a Park" modernist vision against the barbarian-at-the-gate developers?
  • Perfect!
    I love it! This infill is great, especially for one of the best neighborhoods in the city. I'm all for it! Any possible plans of "modernizing" the Barton Tower?
  • Nice
    Dresses that old building up very nicely.
  • Awesome!
    Love the "flat iron" type corner.
  • Nice Job
    Not a bad project -- it would be great if they could jazz up the existing tower, but all in all, this is a nice boost to that question (and this is not a criticism) what about parking? Are there plans to develop a garage of some sort nearby, or will they rely on existing lots?
  • Monotonous
    The whole block does not have to be the same elevation, height ,color or material. Buckingham knows that at City Way. No block on Mass Avenue is same material,height. This is another massive out of scale/flat Flannery & Collins development which will not connect Mass Avenue but separate two ends.
    • Out of Scale?
      UrbanDweller, how is a five-story building right next to a 21-story tower "massive [and] out-of-scale." If the developer was trying to be in the same scale as what is currently on the block, then they would build another 21-story tower. Also, this is simply a preliminary rendering to show general massing and placement. It is not a detailed final design. The buildings are not going to be the same color they are show in the drawing, and the materials and ultimate finishes will be determined as the project moves along.
    • thumbs up
      This is much nicer than the original renderings in the initial filing. The 3D makes it so much easier to envision. If I remember correctly, parking will be contained on the East street frontage behind the facade which, looks much nicer than another F&C garage project *ahem* Massing looks good to me. Design seems acceptable. The elimination of greenspace could be a concern, but do not forget that this is mere steps away from all of our lovely monuments and a glut of greenspace there as well.
    • Hmm...
      Hmm...looks like a lot of the same exact design elements seen in CityWay. You see the popped up roof element over the corners and the patterning on the facade is very much the same. It often looks like the designers in this town never looks outside of its own Indianapolis is all that exists...we should be looking for design inspiration in other places. I have to say, I wish the proposal would have embraced the existing tower and not simply turned its back on it. It would have been much more interesting to have the new structure engage the existing tower and also continue some of its materiality onto the new development. Instead, they decided to just avoid it by keeping separate from it. Again, it's better than the original rendering we saw but, still, we should be expecting more. All of this development happening downtown is a great opportunity to really make a design statement, and I'm just afraid we aren't fully taking advantage of the opportunity.
    • has potential
      I like the "doughnut on a stick" of the wrapped building around the tower. Has potential.
    • the other end
      I like the looks of this development. While I understand someone's comment about the loss of the "park" space, I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone other than vagrants lounging in it. Mostly, it seems to be lazy people using it as a cut-through from The Athenaeum to Mass Ave. I think the design of this looks like the other end of the "ship" that the 333 Mass Ave building resembles. Nice work!
      • Greenspace
        Development of the site is great in that it will "complete" a section of Mass Ave and so forth. An increased sense of "energy" will emerge from it (and the additional residents!). Still, seems a great shame that at least some greenspace/sunlight will not remain for the elderly residents (mostly not vagrants!) who live there. To live in a building (granted, largely at taxpayer expense) and have it surrounded by a wall seems rather prison-like. Periodic breaks in this wall would be good. I'd like to see what the proposed street level scape would look like.
      • Another bad idea
        Yet another project with no architectural intrigue, no synthesis with the surroundings (primarily Barton Tower, which is one of very few examples of brutalist architecture in Indy), and it takes away green space from the residents of this development. How does that help downtown? I know some people claim people don't "use" the greenspace, but it's not always about frequent use. Greenspace provides a visual break, it soaks up rain instead of forcing it into our city's antiquated sewer system, and gives us more trees in our urban core, which helps absorb pollution, create oxygen, and cools the temperature. Sorry, but this is providing urban density in all the wrong ways. Aaron Wren recently provided a good argument on his Urbanophile blog of why architecture like this is hurting Indy more than it is helping us.
      • Green space
        Rob E, Aaron Renn (among many others) have also said that "Downtown Indianapolis needs more green space like it needs a hole in its head." Everything that you're suggesting here could be achieved through rainwater harvesting along the parcel lines and perimeter landscaping, as well as the installation of a green roof. I suspect that the additional cost for those features could be offset through higher rents, which people in this market segment would be willing to pay for fancy new housing along Mass Ave. In a long disinvested downtown that is struggling to regain some semblance of density, green space is absolutely not a universal good. And for a low-density city that already has a great deal of green civic space (that is also mostly unused), it genuinely is about frequency of use. Oh, and in terms of visual interest, a superior example of Brutalist architecture in Indy is the Minton-Capehart building, just a few blocks away.
      • trees
        I am more interested to see what happens with the Fire Station. This project seems ok (design wise), but I would not mind keeping that green space there. As you build apartments across the street, that space would get more usage...kind of like that small green space by Starbucks (w talking head) where I often see people relaxing.
      • ugh...
        Enough already with this bad idea... The first several floors of the Barton Tower are now completely cut off from the rest of its surroundings, encased in a prison-wall-like shell. This would be the case no matter how the "wrap" was designed. The "cruise ship that ate the flat iron building" in the 300 block of Mass is suddenly sensible compared to this mess. Sorry, but this isn't a problem of the architects. No architect can solve this problem. This is a developer-driven problem. The only sensible answer is maintaining the space around Barton Tower as it is.
      • Seriously?
        Vagrants? How insensitive and unaware are you? Those "vagrants" are the people who live there. Get a clue.
      • Worthless greenery
        And the anti-density folks from Fishers have spoken! It's about time! Brought to you by the folks who are hellbent on keeping Indy bland and suburban looking.
      • Destroy the towers
        I live about 200 feet from here. Why are we talking about destroying the fire department (which makes the neighborhood feel safe) instead of the hideous Barton Tower, which makes the neighborhood feel sketchy? Another note--my toddler could have come up with a better design.
        • what the DESTRUCTO?!?!
          Seriously Destructo? First of all, the fire station is the most out of place building (while there are many) in all of Indy. The area will feel much better when the city moves it to an appropriate spot after the station and credit union is replaced with an appropriate infill project(5-8 stories). I personally like the brutalist Barton tower: not because the structure is great on it's own BUT--when considering it's context--how a proper infill development can compliment the brutalist structure. There's also the possibility to modernize the tower in the future. Also, I'm so tired of hearing about greenspace! If you have scattered parcels of greenspace or parkland within a scattered city(like Indy), these spaces do not get used by people!!! Density is the only thing that will eventually support greenspace. There are plenty of green spaces: you just don't use or know about them because you and people are not connected to them. Therefore, greenspace is not an issue right now. The problem with the suburban mentality that exists here in Indy is there is no outside the box thinking when considering utilitarian systems like city streets as our potentially best greenspaces(the cultural trail anyone?). As for the renderings? I guess it's easy to think that it's a decent infill project. I think it can be better. It almost looks like the developer doesn't consider how prime this location is: Anthenaum & Murat right there sharing corners while the circle is within walking distance??? Hmmm, seems a bit safe. This is one of those unique blocks where the infill and architecture needs to make more of a statement (and no...not in a bad STARchiTECTURE sort of way). It's too bad Indy plays it way too safe at times. I agree with the above comments that it's too monotonous, especially around such a unique brutalist tower. This belongs in developing Carmel or Fishers more than downtown. Needs to be higher elevations(7-8 stories) on the corners and mixed up a little bit. I guess parking would be the biggest issue. Any way to build a garage in the back corner of the fire station lot. It's exciting to see any higher density, mixed use infill project on Mass Ave. Just realize where this project is(PRIME LOCATION) and consider the tower as an asset to design with.
          • btw, this is MASS AVE
            Have the developer and architects walked down Mass Ave with their eyes open? I wonder how this project fits in with the rest of 'Arts and Theatre' corridor?
            • Where is the Green Roof
              How about a green roof on top of the buildings?
            • meaning of urban
              I am all for higher density. As a matter of fact I would not even worry about adding parking space (garage) for the Fire Station development since there is plenty of demand for rentals w/o parking (especially on this street, although I know most of the current residents would probably disagree with me here). Of course, the code would need to change. However, I don't equate green space with suburbs. It's ok to have small pockets of green in a dense and urban environment. I often hear another similar argument that equates urban with 20+ floor buildings, which I don’t understand in the context of Indy. Most European cities that are considered very urban do not have many super tall structures. High density and mixed use, but comfortable living with some pockets of green is what I would equate with good urban living. In the context of Indy, it probably means mostly 4 to 10 stories structures, and possibly a few high-rises (not the other way around). It means pockets of green. It means good public transit. It means market rate parking (i.e. very little parking).
              • Mass Ave Resident
                As someone who has actually lived ON Mass Ave for the last 10 years (how many of you can say the same?) I see first hand all the empty lots, vacant buildings, surface parking and new development that STILL hasn't filled in the street level retail......develop this small park parcel LAST. Its actually quite nicely landscaped and small enough to not take away from the "urban" feel. Its not uncommon to see this in larger cities. I'm all for urban density (if I wasn't I wouldn't have spent the last 10 years here) but please fill in the gaps before we tear up something nice like the little micro park. If you don't believe me, take a WALK, not drive, from the beginning of Mass all the way to the 800 block in the east end.
                • Kevin F
                  What micro park are you talking about?
                  • Micah
                    The area in front of Barton Towers. What this whole discussion has been about.
                    • Kevin F
                      So what's the point for not developing that parcel when it's never used? I'm just not sure why you feel this triangle of grass is so valuable merely for visual appeal? Don't you think the massive tower could be scaled down a bit with 5-8 story mixed use built around it? This block is such an odd hole in the middle of Mass Ave and the development needs to transform the block and help connect each end. Residential density is the only thing that will support more retail along Mass Ave...NATURALLY. And btw, the avenue extends beyond College: it's called the 900 block.
                    • Ugh
                      What a horrible misuse of one of our few grand Brutalist buildings. There must be a way to develop the land without turning the Barton Tower into a giant ring toss.
                    • A Shame
                      Clearly most Hoosiers don't appreciate this style of late modern architecture. Regardless, it is part of the history of 20th century architecture and deserves to be enhanced and preserved appropriately, as it well could be. Color and light could enhance the tower, and the park could be redesigned for better civic use and as a retreat for the tower residents. But what I see in this proposal is a simplistic extrusion of any possible buildable space and a game of pastiche facadism to make the design palatable for aforementioned Hoosier sensibilities (and I don't appreciate the architects stealing my white frame detail from The Hinge - be original, please). From this proposal I see 1) a housing agency that doesn't like Barton Tower, 2) hiring a developer to fill the site and hide it, 3) who in turn hire architects who will do what they are told. It is possible that additional apartments or retail space could be built on this site in a manner that respects the historic design. To do so would mean integrating the materiality and modern spirit of the original tower, and maintaining some greenspace by giving the tower room to breathe. But clearly these ideals were not those of the Indianapolis Housing Agency and the project team. This project is a real shame.
                      • Indy needs more Hinge projects
                        Yeah, the more I think of it, it's too bad I live in such a conservative, narrow minded community where people can't appreciate the Barton Tower. But even more, the chosen architects can't even design an appropriate structure around the existing building. And this sets in the middle of our 'Arts District'!?!?!? Embarassing to say the least. I respect H2SO4 but they clearly needed a firm like Blackline (Hinge) or someone other than Ratio to collaborate on a more perception changing design for Mass Ave. It's a waste and shame Indy can't move forward and think outside the box. Clearly, we have just been trained to accept anything mediocre at best...and what do we get for it: nothing but bland, political buildings. This will never attract outsiders to live and work here. And sadly, why would you want to play?
                      • Ehhhh
                        Why would the corners be blank walls in this uniquely interesting parcel? The corners will be where ALL the action is! Shouldn't there be doors instead of walled corners? Interesting, inviting, wide doors with outdoor seating and art? Does anybody at all look just down the street and think, hmmmm.. Old Pointe Tavern... Elbow Room... Front Page... now THOSE are interesting, people-filled spaces! Wake up. This parcel, on this plot of land, is far too unique to plop down what has become a new retail/apartment standard. Get creative.
                      • Craig was correct
                        After my initial reaction, which was one of happiness and optimism based on this infill, reading the comments led me to a new decision. I think Craig M nailed it by stating how the design of this infill is from the top down, where the architects were required to fill in the space as neatly as possible. No one would've just simply decided to infill this space by gazing at the green space around it. My only concern with keeping the greenspace is the lack of activity that occurs there. The reality of the scenario is that Indianapolis needs to densify the areas that can handle it; Mass Ave is that area! Is this the right project? Maybe not. Is this the right design? No! I believe an appropriate design would include more integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. More boxes, maybe of varying sizes, with openings into the street and in the structure in order to allow the Barton Tower residents to peer outwards. We cannot forget the intent of this original project and the design of the area around it should not just be for efficiency but for neighborliness. This new structure doesn't appear to interact with the Barton Tower but simply surround it, and in a way, ignoring it. Let's demand something higher quality. What do we mean by higher quality? We mean more people oriented, more neighborly, more interesting to look at, and more interesting to interact with.
                      • Update
                        I live in the tower and attended the meeting the day before the digging started. New artwork! A less vague plan to match the looks of the project across the street with corners like the Old Point has. (I know. L.A. around Brutalism? Yuck!) The tower's recent upgrades make it secure. Cameras all over. Sensors on locks. No bumming a night in the laundry, or lurking in fire escapes.... Now, why ring the tower? Income. IHA needs the block of low income rent and shops to support the subsidized rent that's about to get a THIRD budget cut. I lose some street view, lower floors get boxed in, rent stays low for the medically retired and such. Sigh.

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