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Mass Ave project surrounding Barton Tower gets state OK

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The redevelopment of a key stretch of Massachusetts Avenue is expected to commence in the fall now that developers have won approval to sell tax credits to finance the project.

A partnership of Flaherty & Collins Properties and Insight Development Corp. earlier this month was awarded rental housing tax credits by the state that will be sold to finance construction of a 61-unit, $11.5 million apartment project at 555 Massachusetts Ave. The project is to include 5,000 square feet of retail space facing Massachusetts.

The site is now green space and parking that wraps around the Barton Tower apartments, a 21-story concrete structure built in 1967 that is operated by the Indianapolis Housing Agency.

The project would occupy only about 40 percent of the developable land surrounding Barton Tower. The balance of the site is slated to be developed with an additional 83 market-rate apartments and another 10,000 square feet of retail space, said Bruce Baird, president of Insight Development, a not-for-profit developer affiliated with the housing agency.

Financing for the market-rate portion isn’t in place, Baird said, because the development team is waiting to see if it can secure financing in conjunction with a much larger project it hopes to build across Massachusetts on a half block now occupied by Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters, IFD Station No. 7 and the firefighters’ credit union.

The Insight/Flaherty & Collins team is one of five developers that submitted a proposal to redevelop that city-owned site. The city hasn’t disclosed the identity of the bidders or the details of their proposals. Baird said his team hopes to find out sometime in April if its bid was successful.

Baird said his team’s project works best if developments on both sides of the street can be wrapped together in the same financing package. “That’s what we’d like to have happen, but we can build the tax-credit portion and will” even if the project across the street goes to another developer. The market-rate portion on the Barton Tower side would probably proceed regardless of the city’s decision, Baird said.

The developer is working with a partnership of Ratio Architects and the architecture firm A2SO4 on a series of five-story buildings that would completely surround the existing tower. The buildings on Massachusetts would have retail on the first floor. Those on Michigan Street, which borders the block on the south, would not. And on East Street, the eastern border, the buildings would be elevated to preserve existing surface parking.

It’s not clear yet what materials will be used. Baird said the design team is pursuing a contemporary design that complements the existing tower. “We won’t be trying to look like the Athenaeum or the Murat,” he said, referring to historic structures south and northwest of the development.

The design work is being finalized now that the rental housing tax credits are in hand. The development team also has turned its attention to placing the credits with a syndicator that will sell the credits to institutional investors.  

The use of rental housing tax credits in financing the project places limits on the income levels of those who occupy the units. Of the 61 units being financed with the credits, more than half will be leased to people with household incomes of between $23,000 and $40,000 a year. The balance will have even tighter income restrictions. The rates for the market units have not been set.

 

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  • Metro Moving
    The word on the street is that Metro is moving into the Agio location as the rent was raised on their current location.
  • re:Kevin F
    You make a great point about the current empty spaces. I was unaware that the Metro was moving.

    However, other empty spaces have been quickly filled. There are plenty of new restaurants and shops that have opened within the last year. Bru, Vodka Video, Black Market, numerous small boutiques, the Sweet Tooth Bakery, something in the former Buddha Bar space. While Agio sits vacant, I think there may be more to the story than meets the eye. If you notice, the place looks like it was closed down at the end of a busy night; all the tables are set inside as if it were still open. Maybe there are some issues preventing this from being sold or leased. As more people move to the downtown area with the numerous new developments, there will be even more demand for space on Mass Ave. I'm sure you are well aware of how popular things get on any weekend.

    As more people find out about Mass Ave (and trust me, a lot of the people in this city don't know what the area has to offer), the demand for retail space will continue to increase. While it may seem like overbuilding at the moment, I think the demand over the next few years will be more than enough to fill the empty spaces along the avenue.
    • Mass Ave
      I also live on Mass Ave but I can't get excited about this particular project until all the other dead space and unoccupied buildings are developed first. This is a nice little stretch of green space with mature trees and good landscaping. The development of the fire station space across the street will add more continuity.

      My other concern is all the empty exisitng space such as Agio, the original Bazbeaux, soon The Metro, the still available street retail space in the 3 Mass building & Beilouny building. And there are still plenty of surface parking lots.

      Not trying to be negative but how can we fill up brand new retail space when there is still so much available empty?
    • Finally
      Glad to see this happening. As a resident of Mass Ave, I routinely see people stop and turn around when they reach this block. I see many people that seem to be unfamiliar with the neighborhood strolling around, but many will stop when they reach Michigan or North (depending on the direction they are coming from). Not only will this help alleviate the eyesore that is the Burton Tower, it will help connect the two sections of Mass Ave.

      Now if they could only get more than half of the lights on the trees working...

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