Contest seeks downtown home design at affordable price

The demand for downtown apartments remains quite strong, judging from the high occupancy rate and many projects either under construction or in the planning stages.

But dwellings for sale instead of rent in the central business districtparticularly newly constructed single-family homes—are hard to come by. Those considered affordable to the average homebuyer are even scarcer.

That’s where Downtown Indy wants to make a difference, even if it’s just one house to start.

The not-for-profit this month launched a contest, IN_fill, Designed to the Core, calling on Indiana architects to design a single-family home that can be built on an urban lot for $225,000.

The idea sprung from the first Indy Rama home-tour event in fall 2015, which highlighted residences in downtown and near-downtown neighborhoods. Downtown Indy partnered on the event with the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis.

“What we realized was [many] people couldn’t afford them,” said Catherine Esselman, Downtown Indy’s real estate manager. “Where’s the market for mid-priced single-family homes within two miles of Monument Circle?”

In response, Downtown Indy teamed with the Indiana chapter of the American Institute of Architects to sponsor the contest. King Park Development Corp. also is involved and is providing a vacant lot on which the house could be built.

The site is at 1950 Cornell Ave., south of East 20th Street and west of the Monon Trail.

“On this side of the street, it’s opportunity after opportunity,” Esselman said. “Right now there’s nothing on this block. It’s already primed for construction.”

Esselman realizes, however, that designing a home that can be built for $225,000 could present a challenge. So Downtown Indy has engaged BAGI to determine whether the design entries can support a home in that price range.

King Park has agreed to partner with a builder to construct the home, Esselman said.

Downtown Indy figures show that in the past six years downtown has added more than 3,800 market-rate apartments but only 130 condominiums or single-family homes. Even at that rapid rate of apartment construction, downtown occupancy is still a robust 95 percent.

The challenge, though, is keeping renters downtown once they’re ready to own a home, Esselman said.

“How do we provide an easy next step for them, because we don’t want them to leave,” she said.

Entries for the design contest are due Jan. 27, with the aim of announcing a winner by Feb. 24. The winning entrant will receive a $5,000 cash award. This competition is open to licensed architects. Entry fee is $150 for AIA Indiana members and $300 for non-members. A related panel discussion about building affordable projects is planned for Jan. 12 at City Market.

Visit for more information and to download a registration form.  

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