Vacant downtown building targeted for restaurant

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A vacant building near the intersection of College and Massachusetts avenues that a local developer tried to raze for apartments could see new life as a restaurant.

Milhaus Development LLC had proposed demolishing the structure at 720 N. College Ave., across from its Circa apartments. In its place, the local multifamily developer wanted to build a five-story apartment building with 32 units and up to 65 parking spaces.

But Milhaus abandoned its plans after the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission said it wouldn’t support a total demolition of the building.

zink 720 college 225pxNow another developer has stepped forward, with plans to buy the property and convert it into a restaurant with the hope of attracting a tenant.

Indianapolis based Zink Architecture & Development received partial approval Feb. 4 from the IHPC, allowing the developer to at least move forward to stabilize the structure before returning to present final plans.

IHPC also granted Zink a variance to allow it to avoid offering on-site parking.

Zink declined to further discuss with IBJ its plans for the property. Site plans filed with the city show an outdoor patio to the north of the building where a six-space parking lot now sits (see and click image at top).

In addition, a rooftop deck would be built atop the one-story building that would house the restaurant.

The building is owned by Lyle Feigenbaum, who operated the Scholars Inn Restaurant and Lounge at 725 Massachusetts Ave. until 2010. He still owns that building, which is now occupied by Mesh.

Feigenbaum had considered remodeling the building at 720 N. College for a bakery before concluding the project would be too expensive. The property has been on the market for years, Feigenbaum told IHPC while expressing support for Zink’s plans.

zink rejected 720 college 225px“We’ve looked at the drawings, and we think it’s beautiful,” he said. “Quite frankly, we were just blown away at how wonderful an asset it would be for the downtown Indianapolis area.”

Closing on the sale of the property is contingent upon IHPC approval, Zink’s lawyer, Adam Cobb of Ice Miller LLP, told the IHPC. Receiving commission approval to at least stabilize the building helps to keep the deal alive.

“It’s a difficult and expensive property to develop,” Cobb told IHPC. “It’s literally falling apart as we speak.”

IHPC declined to grant Zink full approval of its plans largely because the tenant is still unknown.

“I look at the rooftop deck, and that’s great,” IHPC President Bill Browne told Zink representatives. “But you may have a use that has no interest in a rooftop deck, so you wouldn’t build it in the first place.”

The building, with a second level at the rear, dates to the 1890s, although several additions were made up until the 1930s. Many of the walls are crumbling, the second floor is in such poor shape that it’s too dangerous to walk on, and there’s no plumbing or electricity in the building.

Zink first presented its plans to IHPC for preliminary review in January. A two-story façade shown in the original drawings that fronted the single-level building has since been removed from the plans (see and click image at bottom).

Zink is receiving support from the Chatham Arch neighborhood, said Tom Schaefer, a resident of the Mill No. 9 lofts building just to the south of the building.

“A year ago this month I had my first dialogue on this property,” he told IHPC. “We’ve come a long way since then.”

The architect on the project is JT Designers Inc.

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