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Century-old landmark building gets new life as condos: Former Ashantii Ballroom renovated into 11 units

November 6, 2006

He lived in the south Broad Ripple house 11 years, rented it out for another 11, then sold it for three times what he paid for it.

Today, McMichael, 43, owns a dozen rental properties around Indianapolis, plus the well-known Rathskeller Restaurant downtown.

And recently he's turned his real estate eye to 16th and Alabama streets where he's converting the former Ashantii Ballroom into luxury condominiums.

"I learned years ago with that first house the power of real estate," Michael said.

He bought the Ashantii from former Olympic boxing coach Hank Johnson in June 2005.

Johnson, who grew up across the street from the building, had turned the once social hall for employees of Indianapolis Power and Light into a catering facility. In fact, McMichael's original idea when he noticed that the building was for sale was to buy it and use it as a catering extension for the Rathskeller.

But the costs to bring the building up to code were prohibitive, McMichael explained. So he walked away from the potential deal. But the building's history and location had caught his fancy and he wanted it, he said.

So he decided to do the next best thing-buy it, gut it and completely renovate the structure into Old Northside Lofts condominiums.

He hired locally based Axis Architecture to design the 11 units. Nine are nestled inside the old Ashantii, eight of which have penthouses with floor-to-ceiling windows. Four of those include a basement. Two others sit atop a carriage house being built behind the condos that will provide parking for residents.

Brandt Construction Inc. is doing the heavy lifting. And as Brandt construction crews began working, layers from the various uses the 105-year-old building had been adapted for over the years began showing themselves.

Prior to its stint as a meeting and banquet facility, the Ashantii had served as a community hall, gymnasium and photography school, among other things.

"Working with the existing structure was a bit of a challenge," said Kerry Osborne, project manager for Axis.

Excavation revealed numerous layers of flooring, old walls and even layers of brick and construction debris that had been covered up.

One of the biggest challenges was removing two 8-foot trusses that were supporting the roof. Those had to come out-which meant shoring up the roof in the meantime-and be replaced with stronger beams to support the new penthouse floor.

Large holes were cut in the penthouse roof for skylights, which required that the rest of the roof be solidified. The penthouses, each with a different view of the city from a wrap-around deck, come equipped with a wet bar.

Most of the exterior work involved restoring the original structure to conform to requirements of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. The building is in the Old Northside neighborhood, which has been designated a historic district.

In fact, McMichael's condo conversion project beat out several other offers that had been presented to the prior owner and Tom Megenhardt of The R.P. Lux Co., who had listed the property for Johnson.

It was important that the project fit the character of adjoining neighborhoods, Megenhardt said.

Some of the large arched windows were reconstructed, but some had to be replaced to make them more energy efficient.

Tuck pointing-removing mortar between bricks that has deteriorated-was done on much of the outside walls and patio barriers.

Inside, the main floors of each condo boasts 14-foot ceilings and massive windows. Shelves are built into the wall as is an entertainment center. Each has two bedrooms, except for the smallest unit, which has one.

Marble backsplashes, stainless steel hoods, cherry wood cabinets and slate flooring adorn the gallery kitchens. Bathrooms are lined with porcelain and mosaic tile, and maple hardwood floors cover much of the rest.

Units range in size from 988 square feet to 2,760 square feet and in price from just under $200,000 to just under $600,000.

"It's a mix of the old and the contemporary," said Doug Dilling with Century 21 at the Crossing, who is marketing the condos.

One unit has been pre-sold. All are expected to be ready later this year.

"I haven't had this much fun doing something in years," McMichael said.
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