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BICENTENNIAL: Four who made a difference: Commercial Real Estate

December 12, 2015
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William H. Block

1855-1928

William H. Block helped increase the size of the Indianapolis skyline in 1908 when he built an eight-story department store on the southwest corner of Illinois and Market streets as the flagship for his William H. Block Co. Block, born in Hungary in 1855, expanded the city’s retail district from Washington Street and capitalized on the thousands of streetcar passengers passing his store each day from the nearby Traction Terminal Building. By the time Block died in 1928, the store he founded downtown was among the city’s most profitable retailers.•

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Michael G. Browning

1947-

Michael G. Browning’s impact on his adopted hometown of Indianapolis has been significant and long-lasting. Since the Detroit native arrived in the Hoosier capital city in 1976, he has helped develop more than 4 million square feet of office space in the North Meridian corridor, including Penn Mark Plaza, Fidelity Plaza and the headquarters for Thomson Consumer Electronics. His Browning Investments Inc. helped develop downtown buildings such as 300 North Meridian, Landmark Center, Pan Am Plaza and the NCAA headquarters. Now retired from the firm, he continues to chair Visit Indy and serve as a director of the Indiana Sports Corp. while advising the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on track improvements.•

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Phillip R. Duke

1935-1986

Phillip R. Duke’s commercial real estate legacy encompassed everything from suburban industrial parks to the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing to downtown office towers. The Arsenal Technical High School and Butler University graduate dominated commercial real estate in the city during the 1970s and 1980s. He formed P.R. Duke Construction and Duke Development companies in 1972 and invested in Park 100, at the time a struggling 321-acre industrial park near Interstate 465 on the northwest side. Duke built three more industrial parks in the Indianapolis area and branched out in the 1980s to build industrial parks in Cincinnati; Decatur, Illinois; and Phoenix. In the early ’80s, Duke helped spur downtown’s renaissance with the development of One North Capitol, a $14 million office tower at Washington Street and Capitol Avenue. Duke also laid the groundwork for construction of the 28-story First Indiana Plaza at Ohio and Pennsylvania streets.•

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Otto N. Frenzel

1856-1925

Otto N. Frenzel oversaw construction of the city’s first skyscraper in 1913, the 17-story Merchants National Bank Building at Washington and Meridian streets. With his brother, John, Frenzel had purchased controlling shares from Merchants President Volney T. Malot in 1882 and turned the downtown bank into the city’s most profitable financial institution. Otto and John Frenzel expanded into other financial services, including Western Savings and Loan Association, National Trust and Safe Deposit Co., and Indiana Trust Co. Otto Frenzel served as longtime president of the Indianapolis Clearinghouse Association and was a member of the board that owned Claypool Hotel.•

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