Design of $50M Mass Ave apartment project wins approval

The $50 million Montage on Mass apartment and retail project proposed for the site of a downtown fire station and credit union has cleared a major hurdle.

The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission on Wednesday evening approved the design of the five-story, 236-unit development. The building features about 37,000 square feet of retail space at the Massachusetts Avenue’s intersection with North New Jersey Street, near Old National Centre.

Developers J.C. Hart Co. Inc., Strongbox Commercial and architect Schmidt and Associates are set to build the project, which finally is ready to move forward, in part, after months of delays.

Yet to be approved by IHPC is a plan for a “digital canvas” on the building that already has been reduced in size from its original design. The commission likely will consider the design of the electronic-mesh art display early next year.

Developers separated the design of Montage on Mass and the art display when presenting plans to IHPC so the project could move forward without final approval of a billboard design.

IHPC agreed to delay discussion on the electronic display until January, in hopes that the City-County Council will take some sort of action on the digital billboard issue at its Nov. 9 meeting.  

Digital billboards are banned in Indianapolis, though the billboard industry has been negotiating to get the prohibition lifted.

Complicating matters is a federal suit filed by a local billboard firm against the city of Indianapolis, claiming a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision makes the city’s sign ordinance unconstitutional.

Montage on Mass is part of large land-swap deal involving the city.

Work cannot proceed until Fire Station No. 7 and the credit union vacate the property. As part of the land swap, the fire department’s headquarters is set to move into the existing American Red Cross building at 441 E. 10th St., on the same land where a new fire station is being built.

The Red Cross should move to 1510 N. Meridian St. by the end of the year, once its $9.9 million, 24,000-square-foot headquarters there is finished.

Also, a new credit union will be built to the west of the existing Firefighters Union building at 748 Massachusetts Ave., near College Avenue.

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