Apartment developer plans 217 units in Lawrence

Developer J.C. Hart Co. is designing plans for a $17 million upscale apartment community in Lawrence.

The New Urbanist project, part of the master-planned Lawrence Village at the Fort, will consist of 217 mostly one- and two-bedroom units with some three-bedrooms. Rents will range from about $700 to $1,000 per month.

The Carmel-based developer has agreed to pay $1.2 million to the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority for the parcels it plans to develop along the new Otis Avenue, near the YMCA and Fort Harrison State Park. It also has an option to buy more land for a second phase that would add about 35 units.

Preliminary plans call for apartments built to the streets, with parking spaces hidden behind. The buildings would extend into the neighborhood, rather than being grouped together. Designs would vary. The main building at the corner of Wheeler Road and Otis Avenue would include a first floor that's convertible to retail space if demand eventually warrants.

"The whole idea is to be part of a thriving mixed-use development that'll give our residents the opportunity to come home at night, park their car and walk to get dinner or find entertainment," said company president John C. Hart Jr. "It will be rather unique in that we'll have buildings and units spread throughout the redevelopment area."

The company submitted a letter of intent to build the project this month. IBJ first reported on the plans in a January story about J.C. Hart's $100 million bet on apartments in Hamilton County.

Luring J.C. Hart is a coup for Lawrence Village at the Fort, the 90-acre final phase of a decade-long redevelopment of the former Army base, said Kris Butler, executive director of the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority.

The roughly 700 apartment units within the boundaries of the old Fort Ben are more than 90-percent occupied, she said. The new apartments also will help feed demand for the retail and commercial components of Lawrence Village.

"I think things could happen fairly quickly for us," Butler said.

The Lawrence Village plan calls for a new downtown with shops, offices and public plazas mixed among condos, townhouses and apartments. The area to be developed is bounded by Post and Lee roads and 59th and 56th streets.

The project started last year with a $9 million installation of streets, landscaping, utilities, lighting, three parks, signage, rain gardens, raised median planters and entrance columns. More than 350 trees will be planted along streets featuring bike lanes, sidewalks and on-street parking.

Plans for the community were developed by the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority in partnership with Carmel-based Eden Land & Design Inc., the city of Lawrence and Indianapolis-based Browning Investments Inc.

Only about 73 acres remain of the 2,500 acres left by Fort Ben's closure in 1995. The Reuse Authority has led the efforts to redevelop about 500 acres.

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