A nearly $38 million project to transform much of the abandoned P.R. Mallory site on East Washington Street into the home of Purdue Polytechnic High School and other tenants is finally moving forward.
The Indianapolis City-County Council's Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee on Monday unanimously approved a proposal to issue up to $15 million in economic development tax increment revenue bonds to help a development group called PR Mallory LLC acquire and renovate two buildings on the site. The proposal still needs approval from the full council.
Indianapolis Deputy Mayor Jeff Bennett said the project had the potential to make a “transformative impact” on the near-east side by reinvigorating a long-vacant property.
PR Mallory LLC is jointly owned by John H. Boner Center and Englewood Community Development Corp., which are acting as the developers of the project.
The redevelopment project has been in motion since at least 2016, when Mayor Joe Hogsett joined Purdue University President Mitch Daniels and former Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee to announce that Purdue Polytechnic, a local charter school, would renovate the building and operate there. But the renovation costs proved to be too high for just the charter school, which is currently operating out of Circle Centre Mall and soon will open a second location in Broad Ripple.
So, Purdue Polytechnic sought partners. The latest plans for the former battery factory site call for the renovation of two buildings: the main 120,000-square-foot administration building that would hold Purdue Polytechnic and the Paramount School of Excellence, and the 70,000-square-foot “bunker building,” which would hold Farm 360, a hydroponic growing operation, and other for-profit tenants.
The completed project could be home to 1,000 students in two schools in the administration building and about 110 full-time employees across the site, with an annual payroll of around $5 million, according to Bennett. The main building is expected to be complete in fall 2020 and the “bunker building” could be ready for tenants as early as this fall.
The $37.8 million financing plan would consist of $14 million in debt, $7.4 million from the federal New Markets Tax Credits program, $5.3 million from state tax credits, $4.4 million from historic tax credits, $3.4 million in grants, and $2.9 million in contributions from the Englewood CDC and John H. Boner Center.
The debt service payments on the bonds would be paid through expected tenant rents of about $1.5 million per year. Besides Farm 360, other potential tenants at the “bunker building” include a second culinary incubator space for Indy’s Kitchen and a bottling plant for Circle City Kombucha.
Joe Bowling, executive director of the Englewood CDC, said the project “has been a long time coming.”
“We’re not developers that do a project and walk away,” Bowling said. “I see this campus right outside my office window and just a block from where I live. We’re going to be on this project for the next generation. There’s immeasurable community impact from this project.”
Democratic Councilor La Keisha Jackson cheered the financing approval, saying, “This is the type of project the city should look to support.”
“This is a true testament to what community reinvestment and redevelopment looks like,” Jackson said.
The P.R. Mallory property has a storied history.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Mallory site—at 3029 E. Washington St.—hosted baseball fields where the Indianapolis Indians played their first games. It was later the site of Wonderland, an amusement park that was destroyed by fire in 1911.
General Electric built the main building in 1921, but never moved in. Mallory bought it from GE in 1929 as a location for its tool-forging operation. Mallory, which later manufactured its trademarked Duracell battery there, expanded the complex in the 1930s and 1940s and employed 1,500 at the site by 1966.
Employment began to decline in the 1970s as Mallory sold off various business units. All that remains is CMW Inc., which bought Mallory’s electrical-contact manufacturing operation in 1978. CMW, which also produces high-density metals and welding products, employs about 100 people in buildings that were formerly part of the Mallory complex.