Buckingham withdraws plans for $70M project along Indiana Avenue

The majority of the project would front the north side of Indiana Avenue, northwest of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. (Image courtesy city of Indianapolis)

Local developer Buckingham Cos. has withdrawn plans for a controversial multifamily development near the historic Madam Walker Legacy Center following community pushback.

The firm had planned to spend about $70 million to build nearly 350 apartments, a parking garage and retail space at 719 Indiana Avenue as part of a development agreement with the legacy center, which owns the property. The apartments had been earmarked for market-rate uses and students at IUPUI.

A formal withdrawal of project plans was filed Friday with the city of Indianapolis, but no reason was offered.

“Despite the best intentions of everyone involved and not unlike so many other worthwhile endeavors during this time, the pursuit of a feasible project was undermined by the impact of a once in a hundred years’ pandemic that took away the reasonable opportunity to complete the development at this time,” Buckingham said in an email to IBJ on Monday. “We appreciate the efforts and leadership of the Madam Walker Legacy Center and all the other stakeholders with an interest in this incredibly important site.”

The development, which IBJ first reported in mid-July, drew the ire of community groups concerned it would overshadow the Walker and risk further erasing the neighborhood’s historically Black culture.

Reached by phone Monday morning, Timothy Ochs, an Ice Miller attorney representing the developer in the matter, declined to elaborate on the decision—including whether the group is going back to the drawing board or if a community backlash played a role in the move.

“The petition has been withdrawn and we don’t have any further comment,” he said.

Leaders with Reclaim Indiana Avenue, a group opposing the project in favor of developments that it feels would be more in line with the neighborhood’s historic influences, told IBJ that Buckingham cited the pandemic and the community pushback as key factors.

The Indiana Avenue project is the second blow to Buckingham’s local development efforts in as many years. The firm called off a massive apartment development in Broad Ripple over neighborhood resistance in January 2019.

A representative for the Madam Walker Legacy Center did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

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21 thoughts on “Buckingham withdraws plans for $70M project along Indiana Avenue

  1. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with “Boss Hog” either. Fear of the Democratic unknown makes perfect sense.

    Why build anywhere in Marion county to be run by a dictatorship?

  2. This is too bad. Looks like a great development. What, do the backers of IN Ave think there is is a string of developers just lining up to take a crack of this?! Get real. Take what you can get. This was a top-quality development that most cities would kill to get. Shame on the neighborhood NIMBYs. This spot will now take DECADES to develop…if it ever happens. Shame on you NIMBYS.

    1. Real estate near the downtown is actually quite valuable. There’s also a Indiana Avenue Master Plan which tasks developers with developing projects to promote the area as a cultural district.

  3. First of all the NIMBY’s neighborhood has a right to decide on what they want in there historical neighborhood and I can assure you it will NOT TAKE DECADES for someone with a real interest in our community to ask us what we want and how we want it.

    1. Indeed, the NIMBYs have a right to offer input on what the development would look like, ideally through the forum of the Ransom Place Neighborhood Association. A sensitive developer who seeks to ingratiate himself/herself with the community would at least strive to accommodate some of those wishes within reason, in terms of not compromising on the IRR.
      .
      But the only way the NIMBYs “have a right to decide on what they want” to go into that property would be for them to purchase it themselves and initiate a design-bid-build on the site.
      .
      If we allow NIMBYs to dictate some development and design decisions without asserting the right of the property owner, eventually they will dictate all of them. And then virtually nothing will get built. IOW, more or less what this stretch of Indiana Avenue looks like now.

  4. Michael G you cant be serious.Thats prime real estate over there and i bet you’ll see something developed over there within your life time. plenty of neighboorhoods have fought agaisnt development that didnt go with the neighborhood. look at what Mass ave done when a developer wanted to have a large digital screen with floating fish. the historical society on Mass ave siad it would be a distraction and tkae away from the historical beauty. my point is,whats the difference here with this neighborhood? Theres countless examples of this. rethink 70 is another

    1. Yes, Mass Ave survived while the historic black neighborhood was bulldozed. Time it is reclaimed and any remaining portion preserved.

    2. Comparing a large digital screen with a sizable development is a bit of stretch, wouldn’t you say? That development still stood, without the fishtank. This development–not great aesthetically IMO (Indy has too many monotonous midrises) but perfectly decent in terms of mixed use and massing–was the first major multifamily in the immediate area in quite some time. The 4-story on MLK is not a big development. Now it’s toast.
      .
      This represents one in a series of honest attempts to invest in the area that have been quashed by local neighborhood activists out of fear of gentrification. Well, they’re likely to get the opposite of gentrification, as is evidenced by the sea of parking that comprises this triangular superblock. Only about 15% of the triangle is developed. And given the uncertain nature of urban economies in the wake of COVID and rioting, it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that the Mile Square is going to remain desired real estate.

  5. Shortsightedness is not what is nor will be in play here. The proposed development was plopped down in the midst of what is left of a once vibrant community. The future is better now that it is gone.

  6. American D is spot on. That area hasn’t been “vibrant” in 50+ years, and for most of that, has been the exact opposite. Took a quick look at the group opposing this and it’s very unclear exactly what they want, and more importantly, how it would be financed. It would be nice to keep this in mind next time they have their hand out for tax $, but of course we won’t

  7. Real estate near the downtown is actually quite valuable. There’s also a Indiana Avenue Master Plan which tasks developers with developing projects to promote the area as a cultural district.

  8. Some found it troubling that some Madam Walker Board members charged with preserving the treasured National Landmark were also poised to personally profit off the $70 million dollar deal, and also serve at IUPUI while on the board. The optics were troubling, and frankly seemed like a prelude for another national news roasting of Indianapolis. The city has worked hard to shed the “India-No-Place” image. We can do better, Indy.

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