After 5 years, USTA ready to serve up 96th Street HQ: Raymond James, First Merchants sign on as tenants

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The locally based Midwest division of the U.S. Tennis Association is preparing to break ground on a 25,000-square-foot headquarters and hall of fame building on East 96th Street after five years of planning and courting tenants.

The two-story office building was first conceived in 2000, but has been held up more than four years by a search for other tenants during a soft office market.

The organization recently scored two tenants, Florida-based Raymond James & Associates Inc. and Muncie-based First Merchants Corp., to occupy a combined 10,700 square feet, paving the way for construction to begin this month. The building is expected to be finished in March 2006.

The Midwest Youth Tennis and Education Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the association, will own the building and rent it to USTA Midwest and the other tenants. For USTA Midwest, the building will generate rent revenue to support the foundation’s mission of supporting youth tennis programs. It will also boost the organization’s visibility in one of its most active membership regions.

“I don’t know if the community has realized we’ve been here for the last 14 years,” said Jay Hacker, president of USTA Midwest, the second-largest of USTA’s 17 regional divisions.

That will surely change when the $3.8 million building is completed on its highly visible two-acre site. USTA Midwest’s offices will be between 96th Street and Interstate 465 on the north side, just east of Five Seasons Sports Country Club and west of the Monon Trail.

The USTA Midwest office and its 20 employees, now housed in rented space in Castleton, will occupy 6,200 square feet in the building. About 1,000 square feet on the first floor of the new building will house the USTA Midwest’s Hall of Fame, now at Michigan’s Kalamazoo College.

Another 3,500 square feet is still available for lease, said Mike Napariu of locally based REI Investments Inc., which is handling leasing for the building.

USTA Midwest’s decision to seek two or three other tenants, rather than one for the entire balance of the building not used by USTA Midwest, opened up the potential pool of tenants, Napariu said.

USTA Midwest moved to Indianapolis in 1991 from Springfield, Ohio, to be closer to the center of its five-state region, which has about 75,000 members. The organization joined a host of other amateur sports associations that moved to the city around the same time.

For USTA Midwest and the other tenants, the headquarters building will put their names literally in front of thousands of I-465 motorists.

Typically, tenants can’t expect to see their name on the outside of a multitenant building unless they occupy at least 15,000 square feet, said John Robinson, executive vice president of locally based Meridian Real Estate. Having the company’s name on the building along the interstate is comparable to having a billboard in terms of marketing, he said.

“That’s worth $75,000 of free advertising a year, at least,” he said.

The signage was important to Munciebased First Merchants, but the 96th Street address was the deciding factor to relocate its downtown commercial lending and trust services office to the USTA building, said Bill Redman, senior vice president of the bank’s Indianapolis banking division. The Monon Trail also offered a nice amenity for the office’s eight employees, he said.

The company opened the office two years ago in the Chamber of Commerce building on Meridian Street downtown. It had been looking for more visible space nearer its four local branches, all in Hamilton County. The USTA building will be finished just as the lease on the current space is expiring, Redman said.

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