Shiel Sexton to give city block extreme makeover: Historic home of VanAusdall & Farrar gets new life

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Shiel Sexton Co. Inc. is continuing its downtown redevelopment spree with plans to turn an entire city block into an office complex that could include some retail space.

The Indianapolis contractor bought the block at auction this fall when its former owner, local office equipment distributor VanAusdall & Farrar Inc., moved to offices at 75th Street and Binford Boulevard.

Bounded by 12th, Meridian, 13th and Illinois streets, the 2.9-acre property houses four buildings, three of which are clustered along Meridian Street. The fourth, a warehouse, stretches along 12th Street.

Preliminary plans call for a one-story building on Meridian Street to be razed early next year, making room for additional parking and a new entry and façade at a two-story office building at the northern edge of the property.

Then, Shiel Sexton will tackle the centerpiece of the parcel-a four-story structure built in 1919 that was once home to a Lexington Automobile Co. showroom.

Gutting and rehabbing the 48,000-square-foot building will cost at least $4 million not including tenant improvements, said Richard E. Hennessey, Shiel Sexton’s chief financial officer.

“We want to preserve the integrity of the building and really open up the interior,” Hennessey said.

One possible layout of the block calls for at least three buildings with 71,000 total square feet of office and storage space and 250 parking spaces.

Company officials also are floating the option of including a drive-through-type retail space on the western end of the block that could be a good fit for either a bank or a pharmacy.

Shiel Sexton closed on the parcel-now dubbed “The Lexington at Meridian”-on Dec.15. Hennessey declined to disclose the price, but VanAusdall & Farrar originally listed the property for $4.5 million.

This is the third neighborhood project that Shiel Sexton has tackled since the late 1990s, when it renovated 902 N. Capitol Ave. for its headquarters.

In 2005, the company partnered with Gregory & Appel Insurance to rehab 1402 N. Capitol Ave. The 60,000-square-foot building is now 95-percent leased.

The Lexington at Meridian is Shiel Sexton’s first completely speculative renovation. The space is being marketed by Patrick Lindley and John Crisp, principals at the local office of St. Louis-based Colliers Turley Martin Tucker.

And Shiel Sexton isn’t the only entity pouring money into redevelopment just north of Interstate 65.

“Interest has really picked up along Meridian Street,” said Amy Kotzbauer, president of the Near North Community Development Corp.

At 1530 N. Meridian St., locally based Sandor Development Corp. has demolished an Econo Lodge hotel to build a Walgreens and possibly some new office space.

At 1352 N. Illinois St., work is progressing on Michaelis Corp.’s renovation of a 40,000-square-foot building that once housed a dry cleaner.

“We hope to move in there by the middle of 2007,” said co-owner Richard Michaelis.

And the WFYI TelePlex is eyeing another building in the area. Its board has given preliminary approval to a plan to move the public broadcaster’s offices to 1630 N. Meridian St. if a purchase agreement can be finalized.

Formerly the headquarters of Indiana Energy Inc., the 94,000-square-foot building and its 430 parking spaces have been nearly vacant since the utility merged into Evansville-based Vectren Corp. in 2000.

Shiel Sexton plans to invest at least $4 million to renovate a historic 1919 building at 12th and Meridian streets. Work should begin early next year.

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