IPS board postpones vote on proposals for Mass Ave site

The selection of a proposal to redevelop downtown property on Massachusetts Avenue owned by Indianapolis Public Schools won’t be made Thursday as originally planned.

An outside committee tasked with reviewing six proposals was slated on Tuesday to make a recommendation to the IPS Board of School Commissioners for the 11-acre site. Commissioners, who were expected to vote on the recommendation on Thursday, instead decided to push a vote to next month’s meeting. The committee did not make a recommendation on Tuesday.

Commissioners postponed the vote after a few members expressed concern about not having enough time to review the bids, said Abbe Hohmann, president of Site Strategies Advisory LLC, who is coordinating the bid process for IPS.

“We had the public meeting [on March 8], but it wasn’t a deep dive into the bids,” she said. “They just felt like they hadn’t had the opportunity to adequately review the bids in order to make a decision.”

Commissioners could vote on a recommendation at their April 28 meeting.

IPS has received six proposals from developers, including two from Milhaus Development LLC. Others were from Mass Ave Partners (a partnership of Strategic Capital Partners and Schmidt Associates), the team of Browning Investments and Flaherty & Collins Properties, and Hendricks Commercial Properties. Hageman Investments also submitted a bid, but it didn’t meet specifications and no longer is under consideration.

The proposals, which range in cost from $106 million to $260 million, typically call for a mix of office and retail space, in addition to housing. Two proposals include hotels.

To view all of the proposals, click here.

The IPS parcel, bounded by College and Massachusetts avenues, currently houses a former Coca-Cola bottling plant and an IPS bus yard. All of the proposals call for incorporating the 285,000-square-foot Coca-Cola building, or at least its ornate art deco façade, into redevelopment plans.

Except for Hendricks, all of the bidders also are seeking city subsidies ranging from $6.5 million to $28.6 million to help offset development costs. The Hendricks proposal requests a $2.4 million subsidy for site remediation, but it's not clear whether the city or another public body would provide it.

Whether the city would agree to provide a financial subsidy remains to be seen.

“We have had multiple conversations with the city and have been able to get an idea of their sense of the property and the subsidy question,” said David Rosenberg, IPS operations officer.

Rosenberg said that although city officials were still hashing out their own recommendation for assistance, he didn't think requests for subsidies would kill the project.

A statement from the spokeswoman for Mayor Joe Hogsett didn't specifically address the question of subsidies.

“In the weeks since the proposals were announced, the city has been engaged by IPS leadership to assist in determining the best long-term use of this unique property," said spokeswoman Taylor Schaffer. "While conversations are ongoing, it is clear that any development on this site must be a transformative, fiscally-responsible project that strengthens the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The site sits in the district represented by City-County Councilor Zach Adamson, who is encouraged by the commissioners’ decision to postpone a vote on the property until next month, he said, particularly since he’s yet to have any conversations with IPS officials.

“They need to know what criteria [the City-County Council] is looking at,” Adamson said. “They can’t be the sole arbiter of what makes sense for that property. It needs to be a two-way road.”

Rosenberg at IPS said commissioners also postponed the vote on the property’s redevelopment to give them more time to receive feedback from neighborhood residents, “since this is such a critical piece of property for the city.”


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