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Mass Ave condos in the works: High-end, 10-story project in trendy cultural district has 46 units, retail space

June 5, 2006

Log one more entry into the crowded field of downtown condo projects. But developers of a 10-story development at Massachusetts Avenue and New York Street think its location and amenities will reel in high-end buyers.

The condos, dubbed Three Mass Ave, will be developed by a three-way partnership of Halakar Properties Inc., Pillar Investments LLC and architect Wayne Schmidt.

"We want to make sure that this is a classy building that fits in with the historic nature of Mass Ave [Cultural District]," said Todd Maurer of Halakar Properties, who noted that residents of the building could easily walk to jobs in the central business district.

He declined to disclose the total cost of the roughly 200,000-square-foot project, but said preliminary pricing for the condos ranges from $375,000 to $1.7 million.

Schmidt is one of four people who together own the land, which is currently a parking lot, under the name Horizon Partnership. Schmidt said his partnership has tried to develop the land for 25 years, but finally the timing came together when he met with Maurer.

"It's crazy how close we came at times, but something always happened-an oil embargo, war in [the Middle East]," Schmidt said. He said the other three owners of the land are no longer interested in developing the property and cashed out their investment.

Schmidt's architecture firm, Schmidt Associates Inc., designed the brick and limestone façade structure and Keystone Construction, which has ownership ties to Pillar Investments, will be the builder. The building will have roughly 19,000 square feet of dining and retail space on the first floor and 46 condominiums above. Some of the condos at 333 Massachusetts Ave. will be two stories and feature walls of windows 20 feet high.

This is the second residential project for Halakar, which previously converted the building on the northeast corner of Georgia and Meridian streets into 24 units priced from $300,000 to $470,000. All units there have sold, Maurer said, adding the new project could attract the same eclectic mix of professionals.

Maurer is the son of Indiana Secretary of Commerce Michael S. Maurer, who is part owner of IBJ Corp., which publishes the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Crowded field of condo dreams

Within a stone's throw of Maurer's newest project, a slew of other condo projects are under development or for sale, including 100 flats and town homes in the $200,000 to $400,000 price range at Lockerbie Park and 10 condos at Lockerbie Corner Condominiums.

Farther south on Alabama Street, two large projects are under construction or in the planning stages: 256 condos, with prices of $200,000 to $1.4 million, at One Market Square, and 70 units, ranging from $160,000 to $750,000, at the Hudson.

When asked about the competition in downtown's burgeoning condo scene, Maurer said he thought his product would stand out.

"It's really different from anything downtown," he said.

Slick promotional materials spell out the perks. The top four floors decrease in size, giving each floor a setback that allows for more sunlight to hit surrounding buildings and leave room for large wraparound terraces. Between the terraces and three balconies, the top unit has 2,500 square feet of outdoor space. Lower units will include substantial balconies of at least 100 square feet.

The top units also feature curving interior windows to highlight the view of downtown. Each condo will come with a parking space in a one-story underground garage. Some buyers of the highest-priced units will get a second parking space.

Amenities that are typically considered upgrades, such as hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, will be standard. All residents will have access to a rooftop deck and fitness center and there will be double walls between units to ensure sound insulation.

Downtown condo projects have for the most part succeeded in carving out their own niche, according to Terry Sweeney, vice president of real estate development for Indianapolis Downtown Inc., which promotes downtown living.

"There's enough product differentiation when it comes to location, price range and the type of project so that the market seems to be working pretty well," Sweeney said. "There's not the cannibalization between projects."

He said Halakar's Three Mass Ave project, for example, shouldn't poach sales from One Market Square, a high-rise/mid-rise project at the old Market Square Arena site, because Halakar's project has a low-rise neighborhood feel.

And it won't directly compete with the Lockerbie Park mid-rise development because the two projects are offering different price points.

James E. Thomas, Jr., a partner with Hearthview Residential LLC, said there are enough people wanting to move downtown to soak up the product coming online.

"There's clearly demand," Thomas said. "The question always is at what price point."

He said the challenge of developing downtown is competing with price-persquare foot costs of new construction in the suburbs.

Time line

The owners of two neighboring buildings have appealed the city's May 9 approval of the project. Henry Price, who owns the triangular corner building at 301 Massachusetts Avenue, built in 1874, where Massachusetts Avenue and New York Street merge, said he met with project officials who assuaged his concerns. He said his main worry was that construction of the underground parking garage not affect his building's stability and that any new structure fit the historic feel of the neighborhood.

"I think the design is quite appropriate for the neighborhood," Price said.

Gil I. Berry Jr. and Preston Breunig, who own the building at 302 N. Alabama St., also filed an appeal seeking to overturn the city's approval of the condo plan. Breunig was to meet with project representatives June 1, but he declined to spell out his concerns, saying only that he thought neighbors should be given notice when a large project applies for city approval.

The Department of Metropolitan Development is considering options for notifying neighbors when developers submit project applications, according to planner Jeffrey York. The Metropolitan Development Commission is scheduled to hear the appeal June 7.

The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission also is set to consider the adoption of a preservation plan June 7 that would make projects on Mass Ave subject to the preservation commission's design review process, according to commission administrator David Baker.

Baker said that since the project was filed before any action on the preservation plan, it won't fall under the commission's purview unless the project changes significantly.

Barring any wrinkles with approval, Maurer said he'd like to start pre-selling units by mid-month, begin construction this year, and have people living in the building by mid to late 2007.

He said he's talked with a grocery, fitness center, coffee shop and restaurant about leasing the first-floor space, but nothing's finalized.
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