Revitalization efforts had been plodding along for years in the triangleshaped historic neighborhood known as Fletcher Place.
The slower pace of development gave the neighborhood just southeast of downtown a lower profile than places like Chatham Arch and Lockerbie Square.
But Fletcher Place is under the radar no more, thanks to a massive eight-story condo project known as Villaggio at Page Pointe.
The 64-unit building-now the neighborhood's tallest structure-looks like it could be in Florida, except its panoramic views capitalize on the skyline, not the ocean. Page Development has sold 38 of the units, which range from $335,000 to $750,000. The first residents are slated to move in next month.
The $30 million project, which sits along Virginia Avenue just outside the Fletcher Place historic district, has helped spark a wave of development in the neighborhood. More investors are converting old buildings into condos and renovating historic homes. Property values are rising.
Real estate agents and developers say the project by locally based Page Development has helped the area reach critical mass.
"It's almost like everyone was waiting for one big fish to jump in, and now that we have it, a lot of other things are happening," said Joe Everhart, a real estate agent with Indianapolis-based The Sycamore Group. "It's really starting to pop."
Across the street from Villaggio, the old Fletcher Place United Methodist Church is being converted into luxury condos with underground parking. The five or so units will go for more than $500,000 each.
A few blocks away, on College Avenue, the old Fletcher Place Community Center will soon become eight lofts and townhouses. One-bedroom units will start at $175,000, and two bedrooms will go for $270,000 and up.
Local architect Craig Von Deylen is developing the project, which will be called Fletcher Place Lofts. He said the Villaggio project influenced his decision by showing a level of faith that high-end residential projects are viable in the neighborhood.
"It's always been a pretty good neighborhood," Von Deylen said. "Now it's starting to really turn."
Nearby corporate offices for Anthem, Farm Bureau Insurance and Eli Lilly and Co., along with easy access to interstates 65 and 70, also are helping bolster development prospects.
And the momentum could get another big lift from the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which is slated to take a trip down Virginia Avenue to the nearby Fountain Square Cultural District.
Fletcher Place got its first converted condo buildings in the 1980s, but has never had the "buzz" of Massachusetts Avenue or Chatham Arch, said Linton Calvert, who owns the old Fletcher Place bowling alley on College Avenue. He converted the 1947 Art Deco building into a banquet hall about six months ago.
"This area is a hidden secret," Calvert said. "With the Villaggio, people are finding it."
The influx of interest and the small geographic footprint of about 50 acres are helping push up values.
Several listings in the last few years have exceeded $500,000, which would have been unthinkable years ago, Everhart said. While prices in other parts of Indianapolis have stagnated, Fletcher Place has seen some "nice movement," he said.
Neighbors are happy about the rising values and new interest in the neighborhood, said Jeff Miller, a board member of the Fletcher Place Neighborhood Association.
But they're also hoping the project won't change the character of the neighborhood, which was named for Calvin Fletcher Sr., whose farm was platted into Fletcher Place in 1857.
"Things like [Villaggio] open the door for projects people might not have thought they wanted to do otherwise," Miller said. "Our hope and prayer is that future development will be as sensitive to the neighborhood as possible."
Some members of the Page family grew up in the neighborhood, and that's a big reason why they built Villaggio there.
"It's our Italian neighborhood," said Tony Page, the company president. "We wanted to bring something back."
In addition to boosting nearby property values, the project could help drive new interest in retail along Virginia Avenue. The first floor of Villaggio will feature a salon, dry cleaner, restaurant and bank. Page said the company is negotiating with Broad Ripple's Corner Wine Bar about the restaurant space and Regions and Huntington about the bank space.
Some were skeptical the project would get built, but it has risen as fast as the company's projects in Florida. Page expects to sell the rest of the units quickly once buyers can finally see what they're buying.