Songbook Foundation to sell 107-acre Asherwood estate in Carmel

The Great American Songbook Foundation has decided to sell the 107-acre Carmel estate left to it by philanthropist Bren Simon.

The organization, which is headquartered in the the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, announced its decision Thursday in a written announcement promoting an upcoming auction to sell the contents of the massive estate.

The estate, known as Asherwood, was the former home of Bren Simon and late husband Mel Simon, the co-founder of Indianapolis-based shopping mall giant Simon Property Group, who died in 2009. The property at 10110 Ditch Road includes a furnished 50,000-square-foot main house, an 8,000-square-foot clubhouse, a 6,000-square-foot guesthouse, several other structures and two golf courses.

Bren Simon donated the property, which runs along the west side of Ditch Road between West 96th and 106th streets, to the foundation earlier this year in a gift valued at more than $30 million. The foundation said it planned to leverage the estate to help it establish a major museum in central Indiana.

Foundation officials said the estate could hold promise as a site for the museum, but concerns emerged over how the organization would keep up with expenses associated with maintaining the massive property.

Since then, foundation leaders and a 10-member committee formed by its board of directors have been consulting experts about what to do with the property. The project team consulted with accounting and law firms, museum professionals, residential developers, golf course operators, high-end restaurateurs, and parks and recreation departments to identify the best uses for the property.

“We have said from the beginning that the possibilities for this site are endless, and that is still true,” Executive Director Chris Lewis said in written comments. “For our organization, the path most consistent with our mission and the intent of Mrs. Simon’s gift is to maximize the value of the property and leave its future uses to other businesses or organizations that specialize in those fields, provided that their plans also represent the best interests of the neighboring property owners and the broader community.”

The Songbook Foundation is now seeking formal proposals from real estate brokers with national experience to oversee the marketing and sale of the real estate. The brokers hired would advise the foundation on the best way to sell the property—either as a whole or in divided parcels.

simon asherwood 258pxThe contents of the Asherwood estate will be auctioned off on Nov. 17 and 18. (Image courtesy The Great American Songbook Foundation)

Officials said "the sale proceeds will help to ensure the financial future of the Songbook Foundation, currently housed at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel, as it pursues a permanent home for its vast collection of memorabilia, sheet music, recordings and personal items associated with the creators and performers of America’s timeless popular music."

The Songbook Foundation, founded by famous performer and preservationist Michael Feinstein, works to preserve and curate artifacts related to creators, performers and publishers. It maintains an archive of more than 100,000 items related to pop, jazz, Broadway and Hollywood music at the Palladium, where it also presents small public exhibitions in its gallery space. The exhibit gallery takes up 500 square feet in the center and the archives use 4,000 square feet.

Foundation leaders hope to eventually open a freestanding museum.

To prepare to sell the property, a major auction will be held Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, where collectible antique furniture, artwork and other personal property from the main house and other structures at the site will be sold.

The Songbook Foundation has hired Guernsey’s, a New York-based auction house that managed sales of items associated with John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana and Elvis Presley, to conduct the auction. Approximately 1,000 items will be for sale.

In recent weeks, the foundation has opened the estate to the public. The Simon's two private golf courses are open to the public through Nov. 4, so long as foursomes are willing to make a tax-deductible donation starting at $1,500. 

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