Indianapolis neighborhood striving for LEED status

Champions of urban revitalization had reason to cheer last month when billionaire investor Warren Buffett helped cut the ribbon on the East Village at Avondale apartment project on Indianapolis’ east side.

But environmentalists should be equally pleased to learn that leaders of the related $150 million neighborhood redevelopment that includes Avondale are shooting for it to achieve LEED status.

The U.S. Green Building Council created the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification program to encourage green-building concepts in construction projects.

Plans for the 100-acre revitalization fronting East 38th Street where the crime-ridden Meadows complex once stood show lots of green space, bike and walking trails to encourage connectivity and energy-efficient buildings.

What’s unusual about the Avondale project, at least in central Indiana, is that any LEED certification it receives would be designated for the entire neighborhood instead of the more typical standard building.

“I think having a LEED-certified neighborhood in the heart of our city will not only demonstrate that environmental protection and urban revitalization can be done hand-in-hand, but such an endeavor will likely strengthen the economics of revitalization, too,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.

The developer of the project is a joint venture of Chicago-based Strategic Capital Partners, Mishawaka-based The Sterling Group, the not-for-profit Meadows Community Foundation Inc., Buffett’s Purpose Built Communities, and the city of Indianapolis.

“I think we’re at the front edge for this in Indianapolis, and I think we’ll see more of it,” said John Neighbours, chairman of the Meadows Foundation, regarding its effort to achieve LEED status.

Strategic Capital Partners received $19 million in tax credits that were sold to Chicago-based National Equity Fund to help finance construction of the $27 million, 248-unit apartment complex. It is being built on about 15 acres that Strategic Capital placed under contract in 2010.

East Village at Avondale is the first phase of a larger, $150 million development that is to include additional housing—both apartments and single-family—and retail fronting 38th Street.

The new apartment units feature high-efficiency Energy Star appliances that can help residents save on utility bills.

Much of the eco-friendly activity will occur at the neighborhood’s community center designed by the Indianapolis-based A2SO4 architectural firm. Construction on the $17 million, 70,000-square-foot facility could begin this year and be completed in June 2013.

LEED expenses associated with the project are estimated to be less than 1 percent of the cost of the building, said Rodney Byrnes, Strategic Capital’s vice president of real estate development.

The center’s parking lot will have premium parking spaces designated for car- and van-pooling in addition to others for fuel-efficient vehicles. Parking lots will be balanced with the neighborhood’s green space to limit the amount of storm-water runoff entering the city’s storm sewers.

Strategic Capital also is pursuing light-pollution credit by integrating day-lighting aspects into the design because, to be LEED-certified, a building’s energy-efficiency must be at least 10 percent above the norm. Designers of the center, however, are shooting for 14 percent.

The building will be constructed using recycled materials. Other materials will be manufactured within a 500-mile radius in order to cut down on fuel usage. In addition, all products such as caulks and paints within the building must fall below VOC (volatile organic compound) thresholds.

Recycling receptacles will be placed throughout the building to receive glass, plastic, metal, paper and cardboard, and storage will be provided for pickup.

“Sustainability has always been at the front of our minds,” said Byrnes of Strategic Capital. “Efficiency just makes sense.”

Outside, biking and walking trails will snake through the property with the hope that they’ll ultimately connect with Fall Creek Trail about a half-mile away. Byrnes said project leaders are in discussions with the city to link the paths to promote neighborhood connectivity.

Byrnes said Strategic Partners recruited A2SO4 to design the community center because of its experience with LEED projects. Both President Sanford Garner and Director of Operations Kevin Russell are LEED AP, or accredited professional, certified.

A few of its more recent LEED projects include the State of Indiana Forensics and Health Sciences Laboratories on West 16th Street and the Roger B. Gatewood addition to the mechanical engineering building at Purdue University.

Project owners and developers can apply to receive different levels of LEED certification, ranging from the basic “certified” to “platinum.” Strategic Capital has not applied for LEED certification yet and is unsure what level it will pursue, Byrnes said.

“But we don’t want to do just the minimum,” he said. “We’re going to do as much as we can with the resources we have.”

Building to meet LEED standards is becoming more prevalent in the Indianapolis area. Twenty-four projects have been LEED-certified, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, but another 117 are registered and seeking the designation.•

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