Historic downtown building poised for overhaul

November 30, 2010

A minority-owned engineering and architectural services firm will spend almost $2.3 million renovating a century-old building at Delaware and Maryland streets that it bought to house its local headquarters.

DLZ Indiana closed on the purchase of 157 E. Maryland St. in September and expects to begin construction in late December, said Mark Jacob, a vice president at DLZ who runs the local office for the Columbus, Ohio-based firm. The total project cost, including the purchase price, is $3.3 million, he said.

When the project wraps up in August, the firm will have a headquarters with 31,000 square feet of office space, more than double the size of its current office. DLZ will occupy the basement and the entire second, third and fourth floors of the four-story building. It will eventually occupy the entire first floor but initially will find another professional services firm to lease a 2,900-square-foot, street-level space .

DLZ will move from 14,900 square feet it leases in the Century Building, at 36 S. Pennsylvania St. Jacob said the firm has been a tenant in the Century Building for at least the last decade and has been a downtown renter of office space for more than 30 years.

It has applied for a property tax abatement that is expected to save the firm almost $66,000 over the five-year term of the abatement. Develop Indy, Marion County’s economic development organization, has recommended that the abatement be approved. Final approval is expected from the Metropolitan Development Commission Dec. 15. DLZ said in its abatement application that it will add six people to its local staff of 54.

It also plans to seek LEED Silver Certification, an environmental designation. A complete overhaul of the building, including reuse of existing building materials and a water-use reduction system, is expected to help it achieve that designation. Jacob said completely recasting the building’s interior makes it possible to do such things as install the heating and cooling system in floors rather than ceilings, which is more energy efficient. The building also will have facilities to accommodate employees who wish to bicycle to work.

The building is located in the historic Wholesale District, where building improvements require approval of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. That approval, which came in November, required some compromises in the firm’s pursuit of an environmentally friendly headquarters. For example, rather than replace the building’s historic windows, DLZ will install thermal glass in the existing frames.

The firm has been looking for a downtown building to buy for four or five years, Jacob said. Some properties it considered, including the building at Washington Street and Virginia Avenue that now houses Broadbent Cos., were too big. Others were too small or too far from the heart of downtown.

Jacob said owning and renovating a building gives the firm an opportunity to hire minority-, veteran- and women-owned contractors for everything from construction to building maintenance. “We want to use as many minority -wned firms as possible in this project.”

That is the firm’s way of giving back economically to a city where its business has grown steadily over the last 10 years. The company’s Indiana headquarters is in South Bend. It also has locations in Burns Harbor and Fort Wayne.

It employs more than 300 people in Indiana who work primarily on government infrastructure projects. Among its projects is a new juvenile corrections facility in Pendleton, a correctional complex in Elkhart and the LaPorte County Jail.

DLZ is the lead consultant for the wastewater and stormwater management programs of the city of Indianapolis. Jacob said the stability of government contracts gave the firm confidence it was OK to invest in a headquarters building.

Built in 1909, DLZ’s new headquarters was designed by the firm Rubush & Hunter, a prominent firm at that time that also designed the Murat Centre, the Madame C.J. Walker Building and the Hilbert Circle Theater. The first tenant in the building was Kothe Wells & Bauer Co., a vegetable canning business.   

The building has been occupied since 1989 by Marion County Community Corrections, which operated a work release program on the building’s second, third and fourth floors until February 2009. Those floors are vacant. The first floor is being vacated this week when Community Corrections moves a processing center to the former Lawyers Title building at 140 E. Washington St.


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