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Developer casts eye beyond downtown: New company led by Brian Knapp to look beyond condos in metro area

February 13, 2006

A former Simon Property Group Inc. executive known in recent years for downtown condominium developments is launching a new development company that puts him closer to his retail roots.

Brian F. Knapp, president of Dinmont Development LLC, recently created Diverse Development Co. LLC to focus on real estate beyond downtown's borders.

He'll continue to serve as Dinmont's president at least until its current projects are completed. Those projects, both joint ventures with locally based Hearthview Residential Inc., are the 40-unit second phase of Mill No. 9 condos and the 97-unit Lockerbie Park development, which is set to start construction in a few weeks.

While those are wrapping up in the coming years, Knapp will be scouting retail, office and land development opportunities outside downtown for Diversified, he said.

As for Dinmont's remaining 1.7 acres in Lockerbie Park and Chatham Arch, Knapp is looking to sell them or form a joint venture to develop them. When that's taken care of and when the Mill No. 9 and Lockerbie Park projects are finished, Dinmont will be finished, too, Knapp said.

It will leave its mark on the east side of downtown, however, where Dinmont has played a major part in downtown's condominium boom. In the past five years, the developer and others have transformed vacant lots and dilapidated buildings into some of the city's highest-priced condos.

Dinmont and Hearthview have "helped inject new life into that College Avenue corridor," said Terry Sweeney, vice president of real estate for Indianapolis Downtown Inc. "They're taking it from largely industrial and vacant structures into a residential center."

Lockerbie Park will take mostly vacant land and create 97 condos and more than 9,000 square feet of retail space in two buildings. Construction financing for the $28 million project is expected to close in the coming week, Knapp said, with construction to begin soon after. Complete buildout is expected to take about four years.

Mill No. 9, on the west side of College Avenue just south of Massachusetts Avenue, is in its second phase. The 44-unit first phase sold out last fall, a year and a half after construction began. The project converted former factory buildings once used by Real Silk Hosiery into loft-style condos priced from $140,000 to more than $400,000.

The success of that project has sparked additional development nearby, Sweeney noted. At 757 Massachusetts Ave., just north of Mill No. 9, the Beilouny family is working on a seven-story condo project with 27 units and 9,000 square feet of retail space. On the east side of College, two condo projects, Spring Street Condos and College Place, are under construction or soon to begin.

Dinmont has its roots in 2nd Globe Structures LLC, a partnership formed in 2000 to develop three acres straddling the Lockerbie Square and Chatham Arch neighborhoods. In early 2001, 2nd Globe purchased the Mill No. 9 buildings, then owned by locally based Hilltop Press.

2nd Globe included principals of Young and Laramore advertising agency, including Y and L President Paul Knapp. They tapped Paul's brother Brian, then a vice president of development at Simon, to lead development of a massive mixed-use development with residential, retail and 100,000 square feet of office space. That plan fell apart after the office market softened and after an investor left the partnership.

The partnership changed its name in 2002 to Dinmont and began seeking other opportunities for the land. The firm began working with Hearthview on Mill No. 9 in 2004.

The sole partner in Dinmont now is an unidentified out-of-state investor. In addition to serving as its president, Knapp said he also has an interest in Dinmont's projects, but not in the partnership.

With Diversified, Knapp will be the only member of the partnership with voting interest, although there are other members who serve as non-voting investors, he said.

"Diverse is Brian Knapp's company. Dinmont was an investor's company," he said.
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