Bank seeks to foreclose on architectural firm’s HQ

KeyBank is attempting to foreclose on the new headquarters location that A2SO4 Architecture LLC has occupied only a few months, claiming the firm owes it nearly $1 million.

The Cleveland-based bank filed a lawsuit against A2SO4 on May 28 and is asking a Marion Superior Court judge to appoint a receiver to manage the property at 540 N. College Ave. during court proceedings.

A2SO4, one of the largest architectural firms in Indianapolis, in early April moved from Union Station to a former Catholic Church at the southwest corner of College Avenue and North Street, near the Lockerbie neighborhood.

The firm spent $1 million rehabbing the 11,000-square-foot building, which is larger than the 9,000 square feet the firm formerly occupied.

KeyBank loaned A2SO4 $1.1 million in February 2012, according to the bank’s suit, which says the firm and a related defendant have since defaulted on payments under the terms of the loan. The principal balance on the loan was $907,651 as of May 14. Including interest and attorney's fees, KeyBank is seeking a total of $925,301.

Reached by phone, Sanford Garner, A2SO4’s managing partner, said he is working with the bank to restructure the loan. A lawyer representing the bank did not return a phone call seeking comment.

This is not the first time in recent months A2SO4 has been accused of falling behind in payments.

In February, the state temporarily shut the firm down because it owed more than $43,300 in delinquent taxes. The Indiana Department of Revenue revoked the firm’s retail merchant certificate, which authorizes companies to withhold sales taxes and employee payroll taxes.

Garner said at the time that the state never should have closed his business because it’s not a retail establishment and doesn’t collect sales taxes. A February letter from the state to Garner’s attorney supported that contention.

The letter further said the department was satisfied with the firm’s commitment to address unpaid employee withholding taxes and would take no further action.

A2SO4 was founded in 2001 by architects Sanford Garner and Vop Osili, who are among relatively few black architects in Indiana. Osili left A2SO4 in 2010 to run for secretary of state and then sold his interest in 2011. He currently is an Indianapolis city-county councilor.

With 2011 billings of $3.4 million, A2SO4 ranked as the city’s 11th-largest architectural firm in IBJ’s "Book of Lists."

Garner has said 2012 was the firm’s worst year. He attributed the slump to a prolonged slowdown in the economy, coupled with an increase in outstanding client bills.

One client stiffed the firm on a $189,000 bill for a mixed-usedproject that ultimately “fell apart,” while several others each owed A2SO2 $60,000 to $80,000, Garner said.

That left A2SO4 unable to pay some of its project partners, including Indianapolis-based Heapy Engineering Indiana LLC.

Heapy filed suit in December against A2SO4 in Marion Superior Court, claiming the firm owed it $89,796 in unpaid invoices, in addition to $20,233 in interest and attorney's fees. That suit is pending.

A2SO4's design projects have included a parking garage for Eskenazi Health, the interior design for a series of five-story buildings to surround downtown's Barton Tower, and several projects at Indianapolis International Airport.

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