Proposed Meijer store would displace historic homes

The retail chain Meijer hopes to build a store north of downtown near 16th and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. streets as part of a mixed-use project by Opus Development Corp. But the plan is raising concerns of historic preservation advocates.

The store would anchor a project that would take about 2.4 acres the developer hopes to buy from the city. Minnesota-based Opus has offered to pay $600,000 for the vacant piece of land and has until the end of the year to seal the deal by purchasing a series of homes in an adjoining neighborhood, before a city-imposed deadline.

The city is not offering any tax abatements or other incentives to entice a sale, said John Bartholomew, a spokesman for the city's Department of Metropolitan Dvelopment. The city had sought bids for the vacant property and accepted the one from Opus.

Opus is trying to purchase dozens of homes in the nearby Flanner House district, with plans to raze the homes to make way for its project. But convincing the residents to sell their homes could be difficult. Bartholomew said the city also will not impose eminent domain to assist the developer.

Another hurdle: The neighborhood landed Thursday on the historic preservation group Indiana Landmarks' annual "10 Most Endangered" list due to the threat of redevelopment. The organization said 35 of the 181 homes in the neighborhood could be razed as part of the Meijer project.

Calls to officials at Opus and Meijer were not immediately returned Thursday morning.

Homes in the Flanner neighborhood were built between 1950 and 1959 through an unusual cooperative aiding African-American families that couldn’t secure conventional mortgages. More than half the houses still are owned by the builders or their descendents, Indiana Landmarks said.

At the southern end of the neighborhood, the vacant Phillips Temple, built in 1924, also is in danger of being demolished and also landed on the Indiana Landmarks list. Indianapolis Public Schools, which owns the structure, wants to demolish it for parking.

The city selected Opus’ bid over one submitted by Indianapolis-based Douglas Realty Group, which offered to buy the property at the minimum bid price of $497,250. Douglas Reality said in its proposal that its contract to purchase the Clear Channel property that borders 16th Street would “ensure proper, adequate and acceptable access to and from the major thoroughfares.”



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