Groundbreaking nears for $7.5M Fletcher Arts project

December 3, 2010
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Fletcher Arts Indianapolis 1Developer and architect Craig Von Deylen is finalizing plans for a mixed-use project Fletcher
                              Arts Indianapolis 2called Fletcher Arts just west of the intersection of Virginia Avenue and East McCarty Street. The project at 719 Virginia Ave. calls for 57 market-rate apartments, 7,000 square feet of storefront commercial space and a 58-space parking garage. It is a scaled-back version of a proposal Von Deylen has been working on for about two years. The first phase of the project, including the apartments and parking, will cost about $6.5 million, said Von Deylen, who has closed on the property and is awaiting term sheets from two lenders. The commercial phase would add about $1 million, he said. Von Deylen hopes to recruit an arts-focused organization (other than iMOCA, which has settled in at the Murphy Arts Building) to take first-floor space in Fletcher Arts, which will sit along a future phase of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. The project still requires Regional Center approval. Von Deylen hopes to begin construction in late spring. The designer is Blackline Studio, a new local firm led by Craig McCormick, who described the building's design in an e-mail: "Simple contemporary forms are articulated to express the playful culture of the neighborhood. The design is a balance of urban fortitude and the lightness and transience of contemporary life." Check out elevations from the north, south, east and west.

  • Design
    I'm personally not a fan of the design, but I applaud the project, it'll be a welcome addition.
  • the 70's?
    I sure hope the colors are altered slightly. While 70's retro may be cool for tennis shoes, creating an entire building from it is iffy.
  • Oh My
    This project will stick out like a sore thumb, won't it? I don't see this design aging well, but that's just me.
  • A request for Craig...
    Craig, please explain to me why the multi-story portion of your building is not fronting the Virginia Avenue right-of-way? I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Virginia Avenue and your desire to introduce contemporary architecture into the corridor, but I don't understand the the massing of your building. Good urban design principals instruct us to create a feeling of enclosure by fronting the right-of-way with multi-story buildings. This is fundamental especially along an urban, mixed-use corridor. As it is designed now, your building does little to contribute the the street wall that is formed by the existing multi-story mixed-use buildings. In a city like Indianapolis that lacks good urban street walls we need to default to urban design fundamentals as much as possible.

    Craig, Please contribute to the Virginia Avenue street wall and place the multi-story portion of your building along Virginia Ave.
    • Agree
      I agree with Matt's comment. The design largely neglects the street frontage to Virginia Avenue, especially due to the fact that the only piece fronting Virginia is not a part of the first phase. This front retail piece appears under scaled and almost looks like a strip mall placed on the street. As Matt said, the building should address Virginia with the larger, multi-story portion of the building. This corridor could be the the city's best urban street, if we introduce new buildings that continue to contribute positively to it's urban nature.
    • Well...
      ... I know that because I am not a trained architect or engineer I am likely to take some flack for saying so, but I rather like the design. I especially like the retro feel of the project. I may not have the education of an architect (I have a degree in biology), I have the experience of living in the heart of several maor cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and now South Beach. This is a project that could, and would, be built in any of them.
    • Hmmmm...
      Hey Cory, can you calrify if this will be reusing the existing structure on the site? The only justification I can think of for the massing of the multi-story portion is that they will be reusing the existing building on the site and adding stories. I could be wrong, but that's what I think when I look at this.
    • good project - so-so design
      I have a sense that market rate apartments will be very successful this close to downtown, and I welcome the scale of the project. The design is so-so, but this project should demonstrate the demand for market rate apartments (no luxury!) close to downtown. Hopefully this paves the way for more market rate urban living options and residential services around downtown.
    • Green Roof?
      With this particular massing, I could only hope that the roof of the first floor has some type of green roof and/or pool terrace that the residents could look out upon as opposed to a mass of EPDM rubber roofing.
    • Virginia Ave Frontage
      With the Cultural Trail finding its way down Virginia Avenue along that side of the street, I think having the more human-scale portion of the project adjacent to the trail befits the space. It makes for a much more bike- and pedestrian-friendly intersection to have a buffer between the trail, the landscaping and the building.

      Simply having other multi-story buildings pushed to the walk's edge doesn't necessarily mean that every building should do so. I believe that the north end of the project will merge well with the adjacent structures, creating a natural flow of scale and proportion.

      Great job. Love it.
      • wow
        That. Is. Fugly.

        will the city be giving him a bunch of money too?
      • Human Scale
        To say that a building has a human scale does not necessarily mean that it is small. Its more about the building communicating its size in human terms. For example, a 20-story building with human sized windows and doors might be human-scaled while a 3-story building with curtain-wall glass and tinted windows might be said to be scaleless or out of scale to the human.

        Anyway, I disagree with you because with only a few multi-story buildings, the existing street wall is not well established. Good infill should re-enforce the best of what is already in existence. It should not seek to break the rules before the rules have been established. If all you want is single story buildings to define the street then I guess we simply disagree on what makes a compelling urban street.
      • Human Scale
        To say that a building has a human scale does not necessarily mean that it is small. Its more about the building communicating its size in human terms. For example, a 20-story building with human sized windows and doors might be human-scaled while a 3-story building with curtain-wall glass and tinted windows might be said to be scaleless or out of scale to the human.

        Anyway, I disagree with you because with only a few multi-story buildings, the existing street wall is not well established. Good infill should re-enforce the best of what is already in existence. It should not seek to break the rules before the rules have been established. If all you want is single story buildings to define the street then I guess we simply disagree on what makes a compelling urban street.
      • Start Building skyscrapers
        instead of the same old building structures, when new buildings are built by the same arch. firms, they tend to look alike, for instance if you look at the North South project the Dolce Hotel looks exactly like the Convention Center's new entrance.. Be more progressive Indy, geez.
      • Vito's old location
        I noticed the For Lease sign is gone from the site of Vito's downtown location. Any idea what's going in there?
      • Ugly
      • Positive development for Virginia Avenue
        First of all I applaud Craig Von Deylen & Co for taking the leap to build this project in today's economic market, I wish Craig & his team the same success as they've had in the other nearby developments they've completed like Fletcher Place Lofts, Fletcher Place Terrace as well as the awesome progress that has been made of the Murphy Building.

        Everyone's got an opinion, I respect the ones who put their actual name and not hide behind some stupid alias. I'm just say'n. . .

      • Response from Blackline
        This is Craig McCormick of Blackline Studio responding to a few of the comments.

        Matt Hostetler - You have a valid point about the street front massing on Virginia Avenue. Our current design is being driven by two factors: The limitations of the shape of the site and the current nature of bank lending for mixed-use projects such as this.

        The site is triangular, and in order to make the project viable, (which means to have an adequate number of units and garaged parking spaces), the mass of the building must be pushed to the two rectilinear sides of the site (to the west and south). This results in a layout where three stories of living units can be built directly above a double-loaded parking garage, with equal numbers of units and spaces. This is similar to the footprint of the existing building on the site, but we cannot re-use much of it. We plan to recycle that building to the greatest extent possible and reuse parts of the structure that are suitable for our new use. The commercial space has always fronted Virginia Avenue, filling in the triangle and meeting the street. Since it's inception, this is the diagram that has been driving the project and which makes it economically viable.

        The second and most determining factor shaping the height of the retail street front is the reality of current bank lending for retail and commercial space. Lenders have agreed to fund the apartment block portion of this project, but will not fund the commercial space unless it is 100% pre-leased. A few years ago, some developers were building commercial space fully-funded by bank loans with little more than a letter of commitment for 30% of the space. That does not happen today. Therefore, the size of the commercial portion of the building was decreased in the hope of finding a feasible way to build both the commercial and residential portions at the same time. Craig Von Deylen is working diligently to find a way to make this happen.

        We would love to see the street facade on Virginia Avenue be two stories tall. That would cost more to build, and likely need to be leased at a higher rate. If a tenant is interested in this, it could be done. We also agree that a green roof on the single-story building would be a great amenity, and we are currently planning a green roof in our budget. Again, there is a fine economic line dividing what is feasible based upon what tenants will pay in a very competitive market, and all the progressive and urban ideas we would like to implement.

        One last point regarding the height of buildings on that stretch of Virginia Avenue: At a glance, there are equally as many one-story historic buildings as two-story buildings on adjacent blocks, possibly more. As I stated, from a design perspective Blackline would prefer to design a two-story street front, but we are content with the one-story street front considering the adjacent context of buildings. It is important for privately-developed projects such as this one to get built in this economic climate, and we're doing our best work to make that happen with the most elegant yet feasible design solution.
      • Sunshine Coast real estate
        Really good.
        Sunshine Coast real estate
      • Response
        Craig, I understand the case you are making in your argument, but I have to disagree slightly with it. You are making the claim that in order to have a two-story piece fronting Virginia, it would cost more and, therefore, need to be leased at a higher rate. This is, however, assuming that the space fronting Virginia is all commercial. I don't think Matt was implying this. I agree, more than one story of commercial on Virginia would not make sense. It seems residential above commercial on Virginia would make more sense. You mention that parking is located directly below the residential, resulting in an equal number of units and spaces. Placing residential on Virginia would change this strategy, but I'm sure it could have been done resolved.

        And just one last comment on the existing nature of Virginia. I agree, there are many one-story structures along that stretch of Virginia, which in my mind, makes a stronger case for doing something more than that. Virginia is a great opportunity for the city to develop a strong urban street, the strongest in the city. These types of sites present us with the opportunity to further develop Virginia as a positive example of urban design in the city.

        I do appreciate the ambitions of the project and the continued development of this corridor. I just want to see the best design possible. We often applaud projects simply because they are happening, often somewhat oblivious to the designs presented. I see the strong design intent here, I just wanted to express my concerns and comments over it. I am a strong supporter of this neighborhood and want to see it grow in the right way. I do thank you for coming on here and posting an explanation of the design process.
        • In the right direction
          My initial thoughts about this was: while not an ideal urban infill project, at least it's contemporary/retro style and affordable nature fits the neighborhood and city's needs. I would say this is much better than the usual bland 'suburban institutional' style found in new Indy archititecture too often. I agree a strong urban frontage along Virginia Avenue would be ideal but I also understand today's economic climate, not to mention the fact that Indy is really the 28th largest urban center in America. People tend to forget how small the Indy market actually is sometimes. Let's face it, SUBURBS still rule here but at least projects like this offer the start of higher mixed use density at an affordable rate. That's really all you can ask for right now. I think downtown neighborhoods and Indy in general will start seeing better urban style mixed use development from now on. It will still take time but I'm always curious to know how many of these who people who chime in about bad urban policy in Indy while sitting in their suburban dwelling? Maybe not many here...BUT just curious. This project is not ground-breaking, and although it's easy to just get excited for any development which replaces one of the million parking lots that plague downtown, it's easy to see that the development is perception changing enough to feel good that we are moving in the right direction. I hope this continues to spur residential living downtown.
        • Thanks!!!

          Thank you for responding to our comments on this forum!!! I don't think most developers would be this responsive.

          I'm not sure I completely understand your argument... Is the issue that the financing for the commercial and residential portions of your project coming from different sources? You are essentially building a mixed-use project but not a mixed-use building right? Is the financing for a mixed-use project which does not include a mixed-use buildings vs. a mixed use building really all that different? Isn't the amount of risk the same in both scenarios?

          Could you build the single story commercial building in such a way that it could support an additional floor and then finance a residential project on top of that platform?
        • You are correct...
          You are correct Brian, I was talking about residential units over the commercial building.
        • One story up = One step up
          Just one story of residential would make this project 20 times better. Seems like such a natural solution in terms of sustainabilty. The mixed use right up against the street also addresses issues of safety and crime as a detterant, a fact people here seem ignore way too much. People in the streets deter crime...NOT POLICE, PARKING LOTS AND VACANT PARK SPACE!! One day people might get it.
        • Tired!
          Is there anything good to say about this design? Just because somebody can get funding and approvals for such a project doesn't mean it's appropriate or high quality design. Even down-in-the-mouth Fountain Square deserves better.

          Either it looks like an old housing project from Chicago's bygone era of bad public housing or the resurrection of the old YMCA near the IUPUI campus. Chicago has had the good sense to demolish building that looked like this years ago -- hopefully somebody in Indianapolis will put a stop to this eyesore before it's built.

          Proof that money can buy a lot of things except good taste.
        • Sage is not a sage
          Sage, this is not an eyesore. The problems with it are with its massing. I think the new surface detailing is a huge improvement on the banal garbage we usually get. I do agree with others that a second story would help along the street.

          If you think this looks like Cabrini Green, then we have different eyes - and it wasn't demolished for aesthetics. That's ridiculous.
          Sage, The aesthetics and exterior materials used in this proposal are actually quite pleasant...especially compared to the cookie-cutter suburban style you get most of the time here in Indy. The composition of elevations are nice, varied and contemporary...nothing that looks institutional like a mixed prison/hospital, OR IN OTHER WORDS a CABRINI GREEN. Did you ever see one balcony this nice at Cabrini Green? And what was the setting of C.G.? I will say it wasn't in the middle of a diverse neighborhood. Or let's talk human scale when it comes to buildings and architecture when you want. Like Josh states, the main downfall of this proposal is massing. The 4 story is set back to conform to the 2 other streets (which is practical in one sense) but leaves only a one story wall along the most vibrant corridor---Virginia Avenue. The gap in the middle of this development feels suburban and less dense. I think Sage raises a strong point in his/her statement however: People here tend to care less about proper massing and density (for community development) than they do with materiality or certain styles when it comes to buildings and architecture. This emphasis on over texturalizing or trying to create the traditional past (new urbanism a la Carmel) is the wrong approach for creating a more urban friendly, unique Indianapolis.
        • Fantastic
          This projects is fantastic... I love everything about it. About time we have a private developer build something at market rate and with good design to boot. I challenge anybody that criticizes this project to put your money where your mouth is... design and build market rate infill in the current economic climate. Mad props to Craig! This project is going to be very successful!

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