Red Cross downsizes HQ ambitions, leaving extra lot

The new Red Cross headquarters slated to be built on North Meridian Street will be much smaller than originally proposed, leaving space for another development that also could be built on property acquired for the project.

The not-for-profit unveiled plans in October 2013 for the $10 million, 42,000-square-foot building to be constructed at 1440 and 1510 N. Meridian St. as part of a larger city land-swap deal.

But the American Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis in March began rethinking the scope of the project. It now says the building will be about half the size—24,000 square feet—of what it first proposed and be built on just one of two lots that it purchased from the city.

The Red Cross closed on the sale of the 3.3-acre site with the city earlier this month for $2.3 million. The city has loaned Red Cross that amount for the purchase as a “relocation advance.”
“We are going to build a smaller building on the south portion and are looking for partners to join us in all of that other property,” local Red Cross CEO John Lyter told IBJ.

The Red Cross had planned to build on two lots that have been cleared—at the former home of WXIN-TV Channel 59 to the south and at the former home of the Payton Wells car dealership to the north.

The local chapter scaled down its plans after receiving a directive from the Washington, D.C., home office to reconsider the size of the project.

Schmidt Associates in Indianapolis worked up the first design that since has been scrapped. The firm is no longer involved in the project and has been replaced by Perkins+Will of Chicago. CSO is serving as local architect.

Lyter told IBJ last week that the Red Cross still needed to obtain permits for the project and that the timing for groundbreaking was unclear.

The remaining land might lend itself to some sort of office project, said Kurt Fullbeck, the city’s director of strategic initiatives. That type of use is common along the near-north Meridian Street corridor.

“Obviously, we want to see as large a development on the Meridian Street corridor as can happen,” he said. “The good thing, with that scaled down, there’s the opportunity to put two buildings on Meridian Street."

Other land in the area also could be ripe for development. One block to the east, crews are clearing more property along Pennsylvania Street once occupied by Payton Wells and owned by local business leader Bill Mays.

A housing or mixed-use development could be built on the 1.2-acre tract on Pennsylvania Street, said Michael Osborne, president of Near North Development Corp.

“That’s a real opportunity, if we can help make that happen, directly or indirectly, especially with the Payton Wells property [on Meridian],” he said.

Meanwhile, the land swap deal involving the Red Cross calls for the Indianapolis Fire Department to take over the existing Red Cross headquarters at 441 E. 10th St.—about four blocks north of the existing IFD complex at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, North New Jersey Street and East North Street.
The city is paying the Red Cross $8 million for its property at 441 E. 10th St., which will house the IFD headquarters and a firehouse.

The final step in the land-swap scheme would have a team of local developers—J.C. Hart Co., Schmidt Associates and Strongbox Commercial—construct a five-story mixed-use project with about 235 apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space on the 1.45-acre Mass Ave site vacated by the fire department. The design of the mixed-use project still requires city approval.

City officials say the $43 million project, which would receive free land and a public investment from tax-increment financing revenue, would connect sections of Mass Ave and attract an influx of new residents. The real estate brokerage CBRE is working with the city to orchestrate the development and all the moves required to make it happen.

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