Woodfield Crossing plan calls for hotel, offices, condos, theater

A local firm plans to redevelop a quiet corner near the Fashion Mall into a mixed-use behemoth with a full-service hotel, 5,000-seat theater, hundreds of condos, and more than a million square feet of office and retail space.

A site plan and renderings for the 1.8-million-square-foot project, called Woodfield Crossing, show several modern-looking buildings oriented around a circular plaza southwest of the intersection of Keystone Avenue and East 86th Street. The retail component alone would be roughly the size of the Fashion Mall at Keystone. And the entire project's square footage would make it about 50 percent larger than Castleton Square Mall.

Plans show three midrise buildings and several smaller structures. The project calls for a 700,000-square-foot office building, a 240,000-square-foot hotel, 650,000 square feet of retail space, and 240,000 square feet of residential.

The tallest of the buildings appears to be about 20 stories. Although no cost figure was available at press time, the project would likely range into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The developer, Premier Properties USA Inc., hopes to open the project in the summer of 2009.

Premier displayed the site plan and renderings as part of its booth at the International Council of Shopping Centers' annual convention in Las Vegas May 20-23. Premier is pitching potential tenants on the project, but company officials said it's too early to discuss plans publicly.

The project would replace Woodfield Centre, a 60,000-square-foot retail center anchored by Elan Furs and D'Vine Wine Bar. It also would require adjacent properties and was designed to incorporate at least two neighboring office buildings.

Premier hired The Jerde Partnership, a Los Angeles-based architecture and urban planning firm, to design the project. Jerde came up with a dramatic layout unlike any other in Indianapolis.

A description of the project on Premier's Web site says Woodfield Crossing will "embody a lifestyle and experience that in the past was only available to locals in popular tourist destinations throughout the world."

The description says the project–which would sit across the street from a development that will include the city's first Whole Foods–will include its own organic foods market, among many other tenants.

Real estate brokers say the location is prime and has been underused. But the scope of the project attracted a measure of skepticism.

"It's certainly a viable retail corridor," said Donna Hovey, vice president of retail for the local office of Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis. "The question becomes, are there any underserved retail markets there, and do the uses the developer has in mind coincide with that gap?"

She said Premier has had success building and leasing projects, despite naysayers. The company developed the funky Echelon retail center, near the northwest corner of East 82nd Street and Allisonville Road, and Metropolis, a 600,000-square-foot lifestyle center in Plainfield. Materials distributed in Las Vegas show plans for an 800,000-square-foot expansion called Metropolis Commons.

"They're a regional developer that has quietly gone about developing their projects, often under the radar," Hovey said. "I think they'll probably pull it off."

Property records show Premier bought the 6.4-acre Woodfield Centre property in 2001. It was not clear whether the company has secured other properties it would need to complete the redevelopment project, including office buildings that also carry the Woodfield Crossing name.

Premier would not provide digital copies of the rendering or site plan, but an IBJ reporter photographed both in Las Vegas. (The images can be found on the Property Lines real estate blog at www.ibj.com.)

The Woodfield Centre shopping strip was developed in 1988 by the predecessor to Indianapolis-based Lauth. The center has suffered because it is difficult to access and doesn't have much visibility. The one-story shopping center is hidden by an on-ramp to Keystone Avenue.

Premier has not replaced some tenants that have left over the years, including Especially Wicker and George's Steaks & Seafood. And the company has put other retailers on notice that redevelopment is on the horizon.

Circle City Tickets' lease allows the ticket broker to walk or the landlord to kick it out with four months' notice, said Mike Peduto, a partner in Circle City. He said the firm renegotiated its lease about a year ago.

"They said they're going to tear the place down and do something different," Peduto said. "They told us there will be a place for us."

If there's any area of Indianapolis where such an "aggressive" development could work, it would be in the vicinity of Keystone at the Crossing, said Jeff Henry, managing principal at the local office of St. Louis-based Colliers Turley Martin Tucker. In 2006, there were about 25,000 households with a median income of $68,400 living within three miles of Woodfield Centre–prime demographics in the eyes of many retailers.

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