Developer zeroes in on troubled Irvington site

A developer that wants to replace a vacant Irvington motel with an $8.7 million apartment building could get permission as early as next week to clear the site for redevelopment.

Investors with ties to Meyer-Najem Construction Co. are partnering with the not-for-profit Irvington Development Organization to build approximately 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments at the site of the former Indy East Motel at 5855 E. Washington St.

The city revoked the motel’s license to operate in 2006 and shut it down in January 2009 over complaints from neighbors and law enforcement officials that the business was a magnet for crime. The site is considered key to the ongoing redevelopment of Irvington’s commercial district.

But the apartment project, which could also include ground-level retail or office space, can’t move forward until IDO gets authority from the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission to raze the old motel.

IHPC signs off on alterations to building exteriors in the Irvington historic district. It was poised to grant permission to demolish the motel at a hearing earlier this month, but the preservation group Indiana Landmarks asked that the decision be delayed.

Marsh Davis, Landmarks’ president, said his group is now satisfied that demolition is justified and has decided not to oppose it. “We just wanted to have a conversation about the project,” said Davis, who said his group hopes to provide design assistance.

Landmarks’ decision should clear the way for demolition to be approved at the Oct. 5 IHPC hearing, said Amandula Anderson, executive director of IDO.

Anderson said her group got a conditional deed on the property in late July from the office of the Marion County treasurer after no one bid on the site in a county tax sale. The treasurer’s office granted the deed on the condition that a development plan be finalized within a year and that the project is financed by selling state-issued tax credits. IDO is to pay the county $120,000 for the site once the project is financed.

An application for the tax credits is to be filed with the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority by Nov. 1. The development team expects to hear by March 1 if it has approval to sell the credits.

Tom Peck, executive vice president of real estate for Meyer-Najem and one of the partners in the project, said his group has been working with IDO on plans for the site for about 10 months. The group includes Antone Najem, a son of Meyer-Najem principal Anthony Najem, and could include other construction company executives, Peck said.

The project is being designed by One 10 Studio, an Irvington-based architecture firm.

Anderson said her group reviewed three unsolicited proposals for the site before deciding to endorse the proposal from Peck and Najem. Good News Ministries tried but failed to rally community support to turn the existing building into a shelter for homeless families, and local developer Chris Piazza proposed renovating the structure for live/work artist studios.

The apartment proposal stood out, Anderson said, because Meyer-Najem has been involved in other projects in Irvington and because IDO would have an ownership stake. That would be a first for 9-year-old IDO.

Redevelopment of the site would coincide with other projects that are transforming the east-side neighborhood’s commercial district.

Ossip Optometry bought a building at 5606 E. Washington St. in July and is to begin renovating it next month. It will house the upscale eyewear chain’s 15th retail store when it’s finished in the first half of next year.

Black Acre Brewing Co. has started renovating a 2,200-square-foot retail space just east of the Ossip building, where it plans to open a small brewery and tasting room. And a $2.9 million makeover of the East Washington streetscape is to begin next spring. That project, which was to have started this fall, will be rebid in November, Anderson said.


Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.