Buckingham Cos. has revived plans to redevelop the massive Mohawk Hills apartment complex in Carmel, but the latest version of its Gramercy project takes a huge step back from the original dense, urban-revival-style plan the developer proposed six years ago.
That’s largely because Buckingham now plans to renovate, rather than demolish, the Mohawk Hills apartment buildings. After redeveloping most of the 116-acre area, Gramercy would have 1,276 residential units, 39 percent fewer than the company planned back in 2006.
Buckingham purchased the property containing 564 apartment units and a nine-hole golf course in 2004 from a Chicago group for roughly $30 million.
Gramercy was envisioned as a $500 million, Manhattan-inspired development that would play into the new-urban style of Carmel's City Center. The City Council had approved up to $20 million in tax-increment financing to pay for new infrastructure.
Buckingham shelved Gramercy in 2008 as the housing market entered its historic slump and Carmel began building six roundabouts along Keystone Avenue. The work would have interfered with access to Gramercy, which is at the southwest corner of Keystone and 126th Street.
Neighbors and City Council members who have seen the latest plan say they like Gramercy’s new suburban flavor.
“They have made great improvements,” said Eric Seidensticker, chairman of the council’s Land Use, Annexation and Economic Development Committee.
Keeping the 1960s-era Mohawk Hills buildings is a significant design change that will require the council’s approval, Seidensticker said. The land use committee will take it up in a special meeting Tuesday evening.
Seidensticker said he hopes Buckingham will commit to eliminating an access road that would have funneled traffic into the Auman/Newark area west of Mohawk Hills.
The original Gramercy proposal was controversial with residents of that neighborhood, located on the west side of Range Line Road between City Center and what would have been a massive redevelopment.
Carmel Mayor James Brainard in 2006 negotiated a 26-percent reduction in scale, but when the project was approved, Buckingham was still planning about 2,100 condo and apartment units, plus new commercial uses.
Buckingham’s new plans, which have lingered before the city’s plan commission for several months, are well-known to Auman/Newark residents, Seidensticker said. Most of those who’ve talked to him about it are happy with the changes, he said.
Seidensticker said he's looking for assurance that Buckingham's renovations will mean more than “re-skinning” the Mohawk Hills buildings.
The current Gramercy plan leaves the northwest corner of the site empty for “future development.” The original plan called for 50 new homes, so Seidensticker said he hopes to hear more about what might be built there instead.
Buckingham also has scaled down Gramercy’s commercial components. Just two of the new buildings are slated for retail use, and there’s no mention of a hotel or offices.
A Buckingham spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment, so it’s unclear how soon the company hopes to start work.