When Ed Beilouny bought property at the southwest corner of Massachusetts and College avenues in 1977, many of his friends and family members thought he was crazy.
The neighborhood wasn't much to look at. In the eyes of some, it was downright dangerous.
But Beilouny, who was born in New York, had a vision that would take 30 years to develop. The land is now home to the flagship building of Beilouny Luxury Properties, a privately held company that has become a big player in mixeduse development downtown.
The Beilouny Building, or 757 Mass Ave, features first-floor retail and 23 condo units, 17 of which have been sold at prices from $400,000 to more than $1.5 million, including slick pads for racecar drivers Michael Andretti and Dan Wheldon.
The upstart company also built the New Arts Building, which features retail space and two condos, next door, and is building a 17-unit condo building around the corner called 707 East North. Units in the new building willl sell for $800 000 to more than $2 million.
The company's new-found prominence means fewer people are butchering the name (just combine Bell and Melanie, Bell-anie).
Recently, the principals-Ed Beilouny and Harry Adams-and Ed's son, Joe, took a few moments to answer some questions from IBJ about the company's philosophy and future plans.
IBJ: Ed, you obviously held on to the 757 property for a lot of years. Why did you buy it back then?
Ed Beilouny: The area just looked like it was ripe for developing. It was the area I could do my ideas. You couldn't do a building like this where I live on the north side. When we built the New Arts Building next door, a brand new building, people walked by and assumed we were remodeling the place. That was the highest compliment they could give me.
Joe Beilouny: I remember when he bought it. He had his vision, but it was a bad part of town. It came around.
IBJ: What's your philosophy on the kinds of projects you develop?
Ed Beilouny: I was born and went to high school in New York. When I left and came here, I wanted to do the same quality of construction as they had in New York. Most people laugh at me, but Harry didn't laugh. Most people thought no one would pay the price, but people will pay the price for quality.
IBJ: What are your plans after the 757 and 707 buildings?
Adams: We would like to stay downtown and do the same thing. Of course in real estate, location is everything. This entire area is booming. Unfortunately there's not a lot of land left.
IBJ: Do you expect to tackle more projects that are a mix of commercial and residential?
Adams: We would like to do more retail. We were a little bit leery on the 707 building about the retail situation on the College Avenue corridor. But since the Cultural Trail is coming down here, I think it's going to be just like Mass Ave eventually.
Ed Beilouny: Depending on how successful we are with the 707, we do have one more project we can do. And we're trying to get real estate for about two or three more jobs. There's another piece of property we're thinking about buying. Hopefully it'll come to fruition.
IBJ: Will you say where you're looking? Ed Beilouny: No. Adams: We can say it's in the same general area.
IBJ: You own the property next door to the 707 project. What are your plans for that site?
Adams: We really don't have a solid plan yet. I'm just not sure what we're going to do with that yet. One of the reasons for getting that property was to get a staging area for the 707 building.
IBJ: What's the deal with naming your buildings after the addresses? Is that a New York thing?
Adams: We chose the addresses because we thought they were prominent. We originally, when we started, were looking at a couple of different names. Chatham Point was one of them.
IBJ: The units in 707 East North start at $800,000. Is there enough of a market to sell 17 of them at those prices?
Ed Beilouny: Let me explain something to you: We're betting our shirts it's going to work, literally our shirts. Everything I own, everything Harry owns is in hock for these buildings. If they don't go, we're going to be knocking on the soup line. But that's not the case with these other people downtown: If they go broke, the city pays for it.
IBJ: There are three or four hotel condo proposals that would bring very high-end condos like these. Is there enough of the demand for these downtown?
Ed Beilouny: I know some of the people who are trying to do them. The stuff they've done so far haven't met my standards.
Adams: I think there's room for everybody.
Ed Beilouny: All the rest of the people, the city's throwing money at them. We haven't asked for a dime.
IBJ: You haven't gotten public money for any of your projects?
Ed Beilouny: Nothing. Zero. Not even tax abatements. They didn't offer it to us, either. (Everyone laughs). The only people that have given us money are the banks. My philosophy is if it's going to be successful, business will take care of it. If you're trying to hedge your bets, then you want public money.
IBJ: You've got retail space in 757, with a clothing boutique committed, but the restaurant space is still open. Brokers tell me you're driving a hard bargain.
Ed Beilouny: We're pretty choosy here. Could we have rented the place before? Ten times over. It's me. They have to be just so. I'm not going to have a band there, late-night entertainment. It has to be an exclusive-type place. It can be a high-end restaurant. I would like maybe a coffee shop. They're going to be in a Beilouny; it's got to be on the upper end.
IBJ: Do you see demand waning for the high-priced units you're doing? Any chance you'll aim for more of a mid-level model?
Joe Beilouny: Not under the Beilouny name. Top of the line is standard under the Beilouny name. We picked out all the top options. Some are importing Italian porcelain tile, going over and above that. They're flying to all ends of the world to get what they want.
IBJ: What's the worst someone's pronounced your name?
Ed Beilouny: Think about it.
Joe Beilouny: We get baloney a lot.