Developer of government building sees potential for more

August 2, 2011

A real estate firm founded at the dawn of the Great Recession hoping to break into commercial development has landed its first project: a $4 million office building it will lease to the federal government.

Ambrose Property Group broke ground last month on a 13,000-square-foot building at Intech Park on the northwest side that will house about 75 Social Security Administration employees who are moving from leased space in the Lafayette Square Mall area.

The Social Security office could be the first of many projects Ambrose develops for the government’s General Services Administration. The firm is in various stages of bidding for 15 other government projects as close as Kentucky and Ohio and as far away as Texas and New York, said Patrick M. Chittenden, a vice president at Ambrose who is also one of its founders.

Chittenden said Ambrose spent 18 months getting up to speed on the government bidding process and assembling a proposal. “Hundreds of pages go into a bid,” he said, and the firm wants to put that experience to use to win other government jobs.

Ambrose found out last Dec. 31 that it was the successful bidder. At the same time it learned it had won another project in Muncie, but the government’s budget for the Muncie office was subsequently eliminated and that project is on hold.

The Indianapolis development, at 6745 Network Place, is being financed by M&I Bank. General contractor Shiel Sexton is to complete the building by December. Ambrose purchased the 1.5-acre site in March from an affiliate of Lauth Group Inc., which developed Intech Park.

The one-story building was designed by American Structurepoint. Chittenden said it will include several security features not found in a standard office building, such as shatter-proof glass and a secure perimeter that prevents cars from parking close to or crashing into the building.

Those security features, required by the government, are among the reasons the GSA didn’t simply lease space in an existing building, Chittenden said. They’re also why the GSA will pay more than market rent to lease the building over the course of the 10-year lease.

Chittenden said because it’s a project built for government, the construction wages it requires are higher. And the small size of the building means there are “not a lot of economies of scale” that can be realized. The government is also requiring that the developer pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification for the project.

John Merrill, managing director of the local office of CB Richard Ellis, said he’s not surprised Ambrose is pursuing government development work.

“The government sector has been one of the few where there’s any activity,” he said. “It’s one of the more active segments of the market. But I don’t know that there’s enough activity for anyone to specialize in that, especially if they’re based here.”

Ambrose was founded in November 2008 by Chittenden, who has a background in construction, and Aasif Bade, a former executive at Duke Realty. The seven-person firm isn’t relying solely on development. It also has brokerage and property management divisions.

Earlier this year, the company was hired by Brenwick Development to handle commercial sales and leasing for the non-residential portions of Village of West Clay, Brenwick’s massive housing development at 131st Street and Towne Road in Carmel. The project includes development sites for office and retail space.



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