Home-remodeling firm giving new life to vacant Carmel center

A Carmel company has purchased a vacant strip center in the heart of the city with plans to occupy more than half the space as part of a $1.7 million investment in the property.

Case Design/Remodeling Inc. bought the 14,520-square-foot building at 99 E. Carmel Drive, just east of South Rangeline Road and not far from Carmel City Center, out of foreclosure in August.

REW Case design rendering 15colThe revivified strip center on Carmel Drive will give Case a high-profile locale. (Image courtesy Case Design/Remodeling Inc.)

The home-remodeling company plans to move in June following a three-month build-out of its new space. Case Design was founded in 2003 by Larry Greene and leases 5,000 square feet less than a half-mile away, on West Carmel Drive.

Greene had searched the past five years for a building to buy with the goal of remaining in the area.

“We thought it was important to be on Carmel Drive and keep our visibility,” he said. “Being at the gateway of Carmel has been a big factor for us.”

The aging strip center was built in 1990 in part by Lauth Property Group and was purchased by an entity called Pine Tree Indiana LLC in November 2004. Pine Tree, which owned a portfolio of 10 retail properties, let the building fall into foreclosure in September 2012. Case Design bought it from Wells Fargo Bank.

The center’s largest and last tenant was a Fifth Third Bank branch, which left in January 2013 to reopen in a newly constructed building a stone’s throw away.

“With that City Center development, they’ve pulled a lot of tenants out of other people’s properties, and I think this was a victim of that to some extent,” said Joseph DiSalvo, an office broker at Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services. “It is a bit dated, but it still sits in a good spot.”

One of the more interesting aspects of the renovation is Case Design’s plan to convert the bank drive-through to a showroom by installing large windows in the bay areas.

The bank vault, complete with a 16-inch steel door and reinforced concrete walls, will be converted into a conference room.

Case Design has installed a new roof on the building with other exterior improvements to follow, including better landscaping and lighting, a repaved parking lot and lighted signage for tenants. The company also is seeking approval to install a “monument-style” sign to list tenants together on the same panel.

After Case Design takes about 8,200 square feet, or more than half the strip center’s space, four storefronts will remain, Greene said. Those spaces range in size from 1,100 to 2,900 square feet.

Greene has yet to sign any tenants, but he said the building is generating interest from a mix of potential office and retail users. Lee & Associates is the leasing agent for the property.

Rents will range from $13 to 17 per square foot, said Cindy Hoskinson of the Lee & Associates brokerage.

“Structurally, it’s very sound,” she said. “It’s not what Carmel’s looking for, not being right up against the street with rear parking. But it’s in good condition and it’s well-positioned.”

Case Design has 42 employees, including 17 designers. The larger space, compared with the company’s current digs, will give it room to grow, Greene said.

“It’s really going to have a new life,” he said. “It will be 55-percent leased on Day One.”

Kort Builders Inc. is the general contractor on the project, and Curran Architecture is serving as architect.

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