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Chatham Arch residential project set to move forward after legal battle

December 5, 2018
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The Vezolles project in Chatham Arch includes condos lining East Street south of Ninth Street. (Image courtesy Paul Vezolles)

A legal challenge to a proposed mixed-use development in the city’s Chatham Arch neighborhood will not be heard by the state’s highest court, paving the way for project to finally get under way after two years of delays.

The Indiana Supreme Court in late November declined to consider an appeal to a lower-court decision in a case involving the redevelopment of the 800 block of North East Street. The project will add more than 50 condominiums, retail space and a handful of townhouses and single-family homes to the historic neighborhood.

The high court’s decision not to intervene in the case means the development can move forward, and that David Pflugh, a Chatham Arch resident who lives near the project, has little legal recourse to delay its start. Pflugh, a local attorney, was one of several residents who initially opposed the concept when it was first proposed in late 2016 because a rezoning for the project expanded possible uses at the site.

The project at 855 N. East St., called the Chatham Park development, is headed by Paul Vezolles, a former Indianapolis resident who now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. The architect for the project is Chicago-based Booth Hansen, according to public documents.

Over the past two years, the project has jumped through multiple hoops on a neighborhood and citywide level, eventually winning approval from the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, which was the primary target of Pflugh’s lawsuit, along with Vezolles. Pflugh also sued Downtown Zoning Assistance Inc.

The suit took issue with the IHPC’s May 2017 recommendation to grant Vezolle’s request to rezone the area to a D-8 “dwelling district” designation, with variances that will allow commercial space on the property. Previously, the site had been zoned SU-7, which only allowed for charitable, philanthropic and not-for-profit use.

Each of the two courts through which the case traveled—Marion Superior Court and the Court of Appeals of Indiana—ruled Pflugh lacked standing in the matter.

The appellate court said while Pflugh's residence neighbored the property on which Chatham Park is being built, that did not make him an “aggrieved” party. The court also said he failed to establish financial reasons that would have granted him the ability to challenge IHPC’s original ruling.

The Indiana Supreme Court voted 3-1 against hearing the case, with Chief Justice Loretta Rush as the lone dissenter and Justice Geoffrey Slaughter abstaining.

In the two years since the project was announced, it has undergone extensive changes at the request of residents of the Chatham Arch neighborhood. Design changes include reducing the condominium buildings by one floor—eliminating several units in the process—and shortening the timeline for the project’s build-out.

Current plans for the project call for a pair of four-story buildings containing about 55 condominiums that range from 947 square feet for one-bedroom units, to two-story penthouses with nearly 2,000 square feet, to three-bedroom units with three-and-a-half-bathrooms.

The project, about three blocks from the Mass Ave district, also includes three duplexes of three stories split into six townhouses and six single-family homes.

Underground parking will also be built, according to site plans. The northernmost condominium building is expected to have nearly 2,200 square feet of retail space. One of the buildings, accessible by residents throughout the development, will house a fitness center and bike storage and repair areas.

Vezolles has considered redeveloping the property since at least 2009, when he bought it for nearly $828,000 from the former Day Nursery Association. Since then, the existing one-story, 16,000-square-foot building on the property has been used as the Todd Academy charter school, which has since ceased operations.

The project isn't the only that's been in the works in the neighborhood in recent years. Locally-based Milhaus Development, through its recent spinoff company Onyx & East, developed a 69-unit condominium complex on the neighborhood's north end that was completed earlier this year. The Park 10 project on East 10th Street between Park Avenue and Broadway Street is sold out, according to the Onyx & East website.

Along the east boundary of Chatham Arch, the Bottleworks project between Massachusetts and College avenues is in development, with plans to add hundreds of thousands of square feet in retail, office and living space to the corridor. Wisconsin-based Hendricks Commercial Properties bought the 11-acre tract, formerly a Coca-Cola bottling plant, from Indianapolis Public Schools with plans for residential units, a hotel, a cinema and a mixture of retail and office space.

Chatham Arch, which straddles Massachusetts Avenue, is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and includes historic homes that date to the mid-1800s. The area is bounded by North Street, Interstate 65, East Street and College Avenue.

A call requesting comment from Pflugh’s attorney, S. Gregory Zubek, was not returned. An email to Vezolles requesting an update on the project also was not returned.

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