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Buckingham gets rights to develop apartments

July 18, 2008

Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library officials last night voted 7-0 to pick Buckingham Cos. to redevelop the Ambassador apartment building adjacent to Central Library downtown.

The Indianapolis property management also was awarded two other nearby properties.

Renovations could begin by the end of September or early October, said Andy Klineman, Buckingham's senior legal counsel.

"It's just fantastic - we're thrilled," Klineman said of the decision. "We want to get going as soon as possible."

The company will buy the 60-unit Ambassador for $865,000. It plans to spend about $3 million to renovate the six-story building to create street-level retail and "high-quality, market-rate" apartments that would rent from $800 to $1,000 per month.

Buckingham also will buy two library-owned properties at 815 and 817 N. Pennsylvania Street - now home to a single-story building and two parking lots - for $620,000. The company has no immediate plans for those sites, Klineman said, but may lease some of the parking back to library staff members.

Throughout the bid process, Buckingham officials have emphasized that they want the Ambassador building and nearby sites to be part of a larger north downtown redevelopment.

The company's headquarters sits near the Ambassador building.

"We're going to look at it everyday," Klineman said. "You can bet it's going to be something we're proud of."

Two other developers bid on the sites.

Van Rooy Properties submitted a proposal for the Ambassador and the nearby lots. An independent developer, Edward D. Gutting, only bid on the Pennsylvania Street properties.

The Van Rooy proposal was similar to Buckingham's, but it differed significantly on the issue of parking.

Van Rooy listed two options for parking, but both involved access to spaces in Central Library's underground garage. Buckingham did not ask for space in the library's garage; Klineman said the company would build a separate parking structure for tenants nearby.

Trustee Tom Shevlot said Van Rooy offered a creative, interesting proposal. But, in the end, the library did not want to get involved in a long-term lease arrangement in its garage, he said.

Plus, Buckingham's bid more closely represented the library's request for proposals, he said, with fewer closing contingencies than Van Rooy submitted.

"The RFP as it was presented was followed," he said.

But the trustees' decision came as a surprise to some, given that the board tied 3-3 a month ago when the decision came to a vote.

Trustee Jesse B. Lynch, who was absent from the June meeting, said last night's decision makes sense, given the library's current financial situation.

"We needed to dump that property," he said, "because we're in financial straits."
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