Effort to save Salvation Army building comes up short

August 18, 2010
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Salvation ArmyThe Salvation Army has won approval to demolish an historic home it owns next door to its office at 540 N. Alabama St. after Indiana Landmarks could not find another user willing to invest in the property. The Queen Anne-style structure at 234 E. Michigan St., which was built before 1898 as a single-family home, has been controlled by the Salvation Army since 1947. It was used as apartments until about five years ago. While the exterior remains in good condition, the interior is in rough shape. A report prepared for Indiana Landmarks by Mansur estimated renovation would cost between $600,000 and $700,000. "As hard as I tried, I was not successful, particularly in this economic environment, in finding an end user willing to lease and spend a large sum of money to rehab," Mark Dollase of Indiana Landmarks wrote in an e-mail. "It had much going for it, but also much against it." The Metropolitan Development Commission approved the Salvation Army's request Wednesday. No date has been set for demolition. The Salvation Army had planned to use the space for parking but is now proposing green space.

  • Boo!
    Another parking lot...just want we need...that really sucks...this is such a shame!
  • Sighs
    The same old defeated tune plays again...But Why? Another Parking Lot?
  • wow...
    Yay, more parking lots downtown, just what we need.
  • bad news
    Another historic structure will be gone leaving another void downtown. There is way too much surface parking already downtown why can't find parking on a surrounding lot like the Murat. Why does the City approve these drastic measures? It would be different if they were going to replace with a new building.
  • oh goody...
    more surface parking! As if Indianapolis isn't filled with it! What a shame this house could not be saved.
  • Why
    It's very sad to lose this building, but if we step away from the historic preservation issue, has the Salvation Army demonstrated a real need for a new parking lot? Aren't they now -- and have been for many, many years -- operating out of the main building next door without the additional spaces they'll create in this demolition? What changed?

    Looking at this another way, let's accept that they DO have a real need for parking. What if Indiana Landmarks HAD been able to find someone willing to fix up the building? What would the Salvation Army have done to satisfy their parking need? Whatever it is, we should have asked them to use that solution regardless.
  • Not parking, greenspace
    The space left will be greenspace, as idnicated by the petitioner's presentation on Wednesday. A parking lot is NOT proposed.
  • Greenspace?
    Well, greenspace really doesn't make sense. At least you could argue that parking was a use of the land. They don't need greenspace -- they're a block and a half from the American Legion Mall for god's sake!
  • advertised???
    Well it doesn't sound like they tried very hard to find a buyer. This is the first I've heard of it but maybe I missed it. Did they list the property or just word of mouth?

    I'm with CorrND - greenspace doesn't make sense given the proximity to the park.

    How many construction bids did they get? I'd be curious to get a second opinion . . .
  • greenspace
    Jeff Y: Thank you for clarifying.
  • What a shame...
    ...this is a terrible loss for our city.
  • Can this not be stopped?
    Such a shame. Is there anything that can still be done to save this house? What can be done?
  • Green?
    Tearing down buildings isn't "green." So great, they put in a little patch of grass that will collect trash, vagrants and debris? Oh goody, can't wait to have more of that on the street scape. This is bullpucky.
  • Outrageous
    Service organizations should not be allowed to tear down our best old buildings. If your organization is hosted downtown you should consider it a duty to save the landmarks around you rather than tearing them down.
  • terrible
    This is terrible, terrible news. Failure of the worst kind.
  • Poor decision
    Destruction of this grand old home for green space seems like a big waste. If Historic Landmarks couldn't find a buyer, maybe one of the downtown realtors with a history of finding buyers to renovate homes can!
  • It isn't for sale
    Note that they could not find someone that was willing to lease the building and do the work that needed to be done. Salvation Army has no intention of giving up the land.
  • Waste
    Just another waste of what thread of historic infrastructure remain on the fringes of the commercial district. They do not need parking or green space, and where is the City in trying to oppose this? No doubt with the mayor who seems to aspire more to the new is better approach than supporting preservation.
  • Anybody Know?
    Anybody know what this house was--historically? I have vague memory of "name" association--have been in it but cannot bring memory up. I think important to know!
  • Houses--downtown?
    We don't need to preserve every house ever built in what is now Downtown Indianapolis, especially the ones within a couple of blocks of the downtown core.

    To my knowledge, no one documented any special historical significance of this one.

    Since this house has long been cut up into apartments, restoring any kind of historic integrity to the inside would be difficult and expensive.

    Plus...it's more than 100 years old and in "rough" shape. Just bringing it up to acceptable life-safety standards would be expensive. Adding ADA accessibility would add more expense. Modernizing mechanicals would be costly.

    Sometimes demolition is the best solution, and without a tenant willing to pay for all the repairs, the choice is to let it fall in or knock it down. I'd rather look at a vacant lot than a deteriorating vacant building.

    • Dont donate to the salvation Army
      Destroyers of the fabric of America. You dirty dogs will not get another dollar from me. I suggest that anyone who loves America do the same. The salvation army is wasting a vauluable building to pave America
    • Step Up
      All those opposed to the demolition should pool their resources and come up with the $700k needed. I can spare $20 to start an investment fund. Who is with me?
      Thundermutt--This attitude is precisely what is wrong with this country. Just because you haven't personally been provided with a dossier on the property doesn't mean anything. What is most significant at this point is that it is a VERY RARE sight to see what looks to have been a single family dwelling so close to the heart of downtown. It is a reminder of where we were. The commercial area has grown over time, but this regal beauty to have lasted until 2010 and there is absolutely no reason it should have to be destroyed. Damn the Salvation Army!
    • Private property
      While I would have liked for the building to be renovated in a historically consistent way and made usable, I don't have $700,000 available to pay for it today and I'm not surprised there aren't other eager investors. The SA is probably incurring costs to insure and maintain the building too. What other better options has the city offered to SA?
    • Epic Fail
      People who work in this area love this house and no one has ever understood why the Salvation Army wonâ??t take better care of it. It is literally just feet outside of the â??Chatham-Arch/Mass. Ave.â?? protected historic district.
      The house has been listed for a while on the Indiana Landmarks website as 226 E. Michigan Street. The Salvation Army doesnâ??t want to sell, but suggests leasing to a long-term tenant (itâ??s connected to their office building).
      Because it faces the â??Tista Oilâ?? gas station, it might be a hard sell to prospective homebuyers. It would be great for a law office or similar light commercial use. Many professionals and non-profits offer low-/no cost construction help for remodeling, so the repair cost isnâ??t the only factor in play.
      Aside, I have never been happy with the way the Salvation Army takes care of its properties on this block. On face value, it doesnâ??t seem to be very good steward. The fact that it doesnâ??t want to sell makes me think that it has been coveting the land and has planned demolition for years, hoping no one would notice the neglect.
      At the end of the day, there is no good excuse for stealing a great house from the neighborhood simply because someone failed to plan adequately for its care and upkeep. Maybe we should all be more generous in our giving to the Salvation Army this holiday so they donâ??t screw some other neighborhood in 2011.
    • Elephant in the room...
      ...If they tore down the salvation army building instead, and moved them to a more appropriate location, perhaps a law firm, design firm or architectural firm would be tempted to move in, increasing the property values in the area. But we live in the urban environments we deserve, i'm afraid.
    • thundermutt
      Thank God not everyone thinks like thundermutt does...otherwise, our urban fabric would look like little more than tall building and surface parking!
    • maybe a move
      I am sure all of us watch the occassional HGTV. They have moved houses much larger than this. How about giving the house to anyone that wants to move it.
    • Tell them what you think
      If you're on Facebook, jump over to The Salvation Army of Indiana page and tell them what you think of this destruction.
    • Really?
      Thundermutt is dead on. Historic Landmarks successfully stalled the Salvation Army for 2 years on this. This went before City Council and MDC on numerous occasions. So, all you had plenty of chances to voice your concerns. From the comments on this page, most of you don't know a lot about what surrounds the building. Apparently, neither did Historic Landmarks because they proposed a Bed & Breakfast on the site. Nothing says romantic getaway like a night between a homeless shelter and HUD apartments -something Historic Landmarks was called out on during Steve Simpson's show on WIBC when he was still on afternoons. That's right, folks, this was being debated a year ago. It's a little too late now to be throwing stones when the Salvation Army basically gave two years for somebody to come up with a viable alternative.
    • Realistic option
      Who is going to invest a significant amount of money in a building just so that they can LEASE it from the Salvation Army? If they weren't willing to sell it, I question whether you could realistically consider their offer a viable alternative to demolition.

      Yes, it's sandwiched between the S.A. and subsidized apts, but many other nearby market-rate ventures are thriving. A bed & breakfast? Probably not the best idea. But condos, apts, or professional offices would all seem potentially viable, IF the investor would actually be able to OWN their investment.
    • The Real Indignity
      The real indignity will come in 5 years when the SA determines they need to move their downtown operations out to the suburbs to address the new suburban homeless that were displaced by city financed gentrification. Thus leaving the site completely vacant until a bank will lend a housing developer to build a condo tower in 10 years.
    • IndyArchitect
      IndyArchitect, Tim, and others:

      There are plenty of more-intact neighborhoods to indulge nostalgia for days gone by. We already have Lockerbie, Chatham Arch-Mass Ave, Old Northside, Herron Morton frozen in time.

      Keep in mind that knee-jerk "preservation at all cost" arguments were probably tried 90 years ago to prevent the demolitions that created the American Legion Mall and War Memorial, or three decades ago when the Board of Trade building was demolished to build the Chase Tower. But today those "new" landmarks are essential parts of the urban fabric of our city.


      Cities change and redevelop repeatedly over time. Today's Paris is built on the rubble of widespread demolition 140 years ago.

      Ancient and great cities like London and Rome are layer upon layer of urban redevelopment. I'm thankful that "preservation at all cost" didn't carry the day there.

      Demolition of a single isolated remnant dilapidated house in Downtown Indianapolis is not a cause for taking up arms.

      Let's focus limited time and resources instead on places like School 97 (and the rest of IPS' truly irreplaceable historic structures) using the restored manor house at Cold Spring School as an example of good adaptive re-use. Let's fight to somehow preserve, adapt or creatively re-purpose places of real significance (such as the Old St. Vincent, Indiana Landmarks' Old Centrum, and the Rivoli Theater).

      And let's leave the Salvation Army alone.
      • thundermutt
        Thundermutt, you must live in a different Indianapolis than I live in. You're talking about a city whose contribution to its own "urban fabrique" is that piece of garbage the Colts play in on Sundays. Seriously...comparisons to London, Paris?
        And you're comparing the creation of the Legion Mall to the demolition of an existing property to replace it with a useless greenspace (which will, of course, eventually be converted to surface parking)?

        How much embodied energy is in this existing structure? What will it cost to demolish? What is the impact of its demolition? Can we really not find anyone to inhabit the building, provided that the SA is willing to sell the property vs. lease it?

        And to the guy who said this property has been up for discussion for 2 years, where was the coverage then? I consider myself part of the preservation community, but I've heard nothing of SA's plans to demolish this structure.
        • IndyArchitect
          Being part of the preservation community as you say, maybe these are some of the questions you should be asking?

          Historic Landmarks had a year to find a buyer or a tennant. How many serious candidates did they bring to the table? Why didn't Historic Landmarks do a better job of publicizing this if as you say you'r part of that community and you didn't know. Why didn't Historic Landmarks take up Steve Simpson's offer to join the Salvation Army on the air to discuss? Are the board members of Historic Landmarks holding their director accountable for his bungling of this project? Why is their director fighting the Salvation Army over a marginally historic property when truly historic Bush Stadium is filled with cars from the Cash for Clunker's program? And why is the Salvation Army taking so much heat when a few years ago, they restored the Barton Center (2 doors down) at a cost of over 10 million dollars?
        • Yep
          A greenspace (landscaped, maintained vacant lot) is a whole lot better way to "land bank" for future redevelopment than a parking lot or an abandoned, deteriorating old house.

          Sometimes tearing down a dilapidated and obsolete house is the right thing to do. I did not every say "always" the right thing to do, even though you're trying to paint me into that corner.

          In this specific case, it's hard to make an economic or historic argument in favor of the old house on Michigan: it's a run-down energy-inefficient firetrap that would require more money than it's worth to save. It is not listed on the inventory of significant buildings.

          How much labor and embedded energy would go into a total gut to make it energy-efficient? How much material into a landfill? It would need new wiring, new plumbing, new HVAC, new sprinklers, new ramp and/or elevator (for ADA compliance)....

          Sometimes decisions have to be about the numbers, and sometimes the best way to "save" the house is with a picture in an album, especially for an organization whose business is helping people get their lives on track.
        • just wondering
          Mark, sure seems like you have a lot of insight as to the thought processes that have gone into The Salvation Army's decision to demolish this house. Do you work for them?
        • This land is the S.A.'s land
          The Salvation Army can do whatever it wants with its own the land. For all you anti-parking lotters, why don't you buy the building and pony up the $600,000 - $700,000 to rehab it. It is so easy to tell others what to do when you have no intention of being part of the solution.
        • Misleading Photo
          The photo is misleading. It should show the entire block; then people will understand the SA's dilemma. The house is an albatross whose time has come. Shame on those who say boycott the SA! Spend your own money to renovate and maintain the building! Or raise money for an endowment so the SA could utilize the building!
        • lord help!
          where are all the church's?couldnt they have a fundraiser to restore & remodel,to put family's at rest dureing a homeless time?
          would rather see family's fed & housed,than parked cars?

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