Milhaus touts tech-focused offices, 450 residential units for Mass Ave site

February 12, 2016

One of five developers vying for Indianapolis Public Schools’ prized 11-acre property along Massachusetts Avenue downtown is proposing to build 450 residential units and office space dedicated to tech-related firms.

Plans submitted by Indianapolis-based Milhaus Development LLC call for a mix of condominiums and apartments, in addition to office and retail space, totaling 825,000 square feet of development. The site currently houses a former Coca-Cola bottling plant and an IPS bus yard. 

IPS, which closed the bidding process for revamping the site on Thursday, received six proposals, including two from Milhaus. The school district wants to select a developer and have a purchase agreement signed within the next few months.

Milhaus President Jeremy Stephenson declined to divulge the costs of the firm’s two proposals, which he said were similar in scope and use except for differences in parking. He did reveal Friday that the office space would be focused on tech-related firms.

Stephenson said that he’s working closely with principals of venture studio High Alpha—including former ExactTarget CEO Scott Dorsey—to identify potential anchor tenants in the tech sector.

Founded in June, High Alpha occupies the 14th floor of Circle Tower downtown and creates and grows enterprise-software companies. Stephenson, a High Alpha investor, said High Alpha could be the anchor tenant, or Milhaus could tap another for-profit or not-for-profit in the tech sector.

"It would be inaccurate to report that they are moving there,” he said, referring to High Alpha.

“They are working with us to identify the right tenants for the space to accommodate the growth of the tech industry, whether that is for companies specifically, for non-profits in the industry they are engaged with, or some combination, including themselves," Stephenson said.

Dorsey declined IBJ's request to comment on the project.

Besides Milhaus, submitting bids for the IPS site were Strategic Capital Partners, Hendricks Commercial Properties, Hageman Group, and the team of Browning Investments and Flaherty & Collins Properties.  

Strategic Capital’s plans, which the firm released near the bid deadline, call for a $220 million mixed-use development including 140,000-square feet of retail space and 90,000 square feet of office space.

In addition, 500 market-rate and 75 affordable apartments units would be built, along with 30 townhomes, a 150-room hotel, a YMCA daycare, a 75,000-square-foot park and 1,600 parking spaces.

The school system is declining to make the bids public until next week but hopes to finalize a deal at either its March or April school board meeting, said Abbe Hohmann, who is coordinating the proposal process for IPS.

“We’re very grateful that there’s continued interest from the development community in this site,” said Hohmann, president of Site Strategies Advisory LLC. “We’re excited because we think it’s a great development opportunity for the corridor and the city.”

Incorporating the historic, 285,000-square-foot former Coca-Cola plant into the plans appears to be an attractive option for redevelopment. The art-deco landmark built in 1931 was designed by the local architectural firm Rubush & Hunter.

Both Milhaus and Strategic Capital want to save the building.

“It’s got a unique mix of historic components that can be done and preserved fully in the right way,” Stephenson said of the IPS property. “It’s a site that has neighborhood characteristics that we understand and appreciate.”

Milhaus has brought aboard Core Redevelopment Group to help it navigate the historic aspects of the Coca-Cola building. Core transformed the old Bush Stadium on East 16th Street into Stadium Lofts.  

Milhaus is very familiar with the Mass Ave neighborhood. It is building a 42-unit apartment project on a surface lot on the southeast quadrant of where Mass and College avenues intersect with St. Clair Street. South of that on College it built the Circa apartment project.

Other developers submitting proposals either didn’t return phone calls for comment or declined to share details about their bids

The IPS property sits within the downtown tax-increment financing district, which was expanded in 2012 to include the bottling plant site. The site houses IPS’ bus maintenance operations, which will be consolidated into other locations.


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