Builder targets entire block: Centex in talks to buy land from Shapiro’s Deli, others for downtown development

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A national home builder is negotiating to purchase an entire downtown block for a retailand-residential development-a project that could temporarily displace the landmark Shapiro’s Deli.

Dallas-based Centex Corp. says the block southeast of the planned Lucas Oil Stadium is among several downtown-area locations it is reviewing for its first local foray into urban residential development.

Brian Shapiro, owner of Shapiro’s Deli, 808 S. Meridian St., said he has not reached a final agreement to sell his property. But he hinted that a new Shapiro’s would be part of the Centex project if he did.

“Under whatever scenario, Shapiro’s will be here. Whatever happens down here, that is a true statement,” Shapiro said. He referred questions to his attorney, who did not return calls.

In central Indiana, Centex is known for building homes and town homes at the city’s outer edges and suburbs. But Indianapolis Division Marketing Manager Vincent Laplante said it’s time to break into downtown.

“It only makes sense that we go after the Indianapolis downtown area because of the revival,” Laplante said. “People want to get back to living downtown.”

He confirmed the company’s discussions with landowners in the 800 block of South Meridian Street, which is home to restaurants, small businesses and boarded-up houses. But he said Centex had not narrowed its land search to that block.

“We’re in talks with several landowners downtown right now,” he said. “There are a variety of sites. There’s always land available.”

He declined to go into detail on what type of development Centex was considering for the block.

Mark Flanary, executive director of the Concord Community Development Corp., which serves that area, said he was reluctant to talk because development ideas are in flux.

“It’s very early in the ballgame,” he said. However, he confirmed the vision is a project that combines retail and residential development and has a strong base of international restaurants.

Shapiro’s is one of the city’s bestknown eateries. It opened in 1905 as a small grocery and deli and evolved into a restaurant in the 1930s. The South Meridian store was closed for weeks in 2003 to repair damage from a small fire. Shapiro’s in 2002 closed a location at 86th Street and Township Line Road and opened one in Carmel.

Attempts to contact other businesses on the block-Midwest Computer Accessories, Shimp Optical, the Greek Islands restaurant and Cafe@Ray-were unsuccessful, or the owners declined to comment.

Centex’s Laplante said that while the company didn’t have a set schedule to secure land downtown, he thought it wouldn’t happen “for at least a year.”

In an effort to lay groundwork for the development, local community development leaders this month approached the Marion County Metropolitan Development Commission’s Plat Committee seeking a reduction in filing fees.

They want the lower fees for a filing they will submit asking the city to turn over ownership of several alleys in the block.

Concord’s Flanary said clearing ownership of the alleys would “streamline the area for future development.”

Experts say the near-south side will likely experience residential growth when the stadium is complete in 2008.

“The south side of [downtown] hasn’t seen a lot of activity yet,” said Chris Reid, a partner of downtown condo veteran Hearthview Residential LLC. Reid said he thought the blocks from the stadium east to the Lilly Corporate Center will be the “next wave of development.”

Abbe Hohmann, principal and vice president of the local office of St. Louisbased Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, agreed, noting that much of the prime land north of Monument Circle already has been taken.

“The question becomes, where else are there opportunities in the downtown vicinity?” she said.

The opening of Lucas Stadium could bring additional business to Shapiro’s and The Greek Islands, but wouldn’t be enough to sustain new restaurants that might open, said Steve Delaney, a partner and restaurant specialist at The Linder Co., a Carmel-based real estate firm. They’ll sink or swim on their daily traffic.

“You can’t live on game days at Lucas Oil Stadium,” he said, noting there’s only a handful of home games each season.

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