Whitsett proposes 86-unit downtown apartment project

The Whitsett Group LLC is planning to expand its portfolio of affordable and mixed-income housing with an 86-unit development at 1010 Central Ave.

The $7.2 million project, to be financed with affordable-housing tax credits, involves retrofitting the three-story former Central Restaurant Products building to accommodate 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments. A loading dock that projects from the north side of the building would be razed and replaced with a four-story structure housing 36 one- and two-bedroom units.

Because the property is in the St. Joseph historic district, plans must be approved by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. IHPC is scheduled to hear the proposal at its March 2 meeting.  

Whitsett Group will find out Feb. 24 if the state will award tax credits for the project. It needs that approval and IHPC’s nod before closing on the purchase of the building, which is owned by ADLI Development and was listed most recently with Ambrose Property Group for $2.4 million. The 68,000-square-foot building had also been offered for lease.

ADLI is owned by Rick Weinstein, who once owned Central Restaurant Products, a wholesaler that moved to Georgetown Road in 2005 and was sold in 2009.

Whitsett principal Joe Whitsett said he hopes to close on the purchase of the building in early June and start construction in time for a June 2012 opening.

To qualify for the tax credits, the majority of units in the building must be priced for renters who qualify for affordable housing. Those units—68 spread between both buildings—would be priced at between $375 and $750 a month. The remaining 18 units would rent for between $950 and $1,200 a month.

Whitsett said all of the market-rate units would be in the existing building, which opened in 1900 and for decades was a clothing factory. “It has great architecture,” including large, exposed beams and high ceilings, said Whitsett.

Whitsett Group has been a prolific developer and acquirer of affordable housing since its founding in 2007. It owns or manages 336 mostly one- and two-bedroom units in seven developments in Indianapolis, Lafayette and Michigan City, according to its website. The majority of units—212—are in Indianapolis. It has another 283 units under construction, 216 of which are here.

The Central Avenue project would add to that total and give Whitsett a larger presence in the downtown neighborhood it has operated in since December 2009. That’s when the company bought the troubled 707 E. North Street building, which was under construction and slated to house around 20 condos priced in the million-dollar range. Whitsett bought the building out of foreclosure and converted it into 40 apartments, some of which rent for market rates. The firm’s offices are on the top floor of the building.

Apartments in the 707 building are fully leased. Whitsett said 1010 Central would target the same demographic—primarily downtown workers.

“The downtown rental market is very strong,” said Whitsett. He said the building on Central is in a prime location because it is adjacent to the historic, residential neighborhoods of St. Joe and Chatham Arch and close to Massachusetts Avenue.

The architect for the project is Mark Smith of MAS Architects.

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