Center Township Trustee seeking $4M for Mass Ave building in strangely quiet bid process

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The Center Township Trustee building at 863 Massachusetts Ave. (IBJ photo/Mickey Shuey)

The Center Township Trustee’s office on Monday concluded a week-long, quiet bid process for its five-story building across from the booming Bottleworks District development.

The structure at 863 Massachusetts Ave. was offered to bidders starting at $4 million, with no apparent restrictions on how the building could be utilized or redeveloped. The bid window began Aug. 9, with the trustee accepting offers postmarked through Aug. 16.

The building sits on 1-1/3 acres and was constructed in 1917. It was previously home to the Hogan-Schroeder Storage Co. and a bank. The township’s headquarters has been in the building since 1975.

It’s not entirely clear how many developers put in bids for the property—or how many were aware the property was being put up for sale at all. The trustee’s office declined to offer additional comment—including about how it conducted the bid process—beyond providing a copy of the request for bids.

No notice was posted on the trustee’s website, and at least five prominent Indianapolis developers and brokers told IBJ they weren’t aware the property was for sale.

As required by public statute, the invitation for offers was publicly advertised—in the Indianapolis Star on July 28 and Aug. 4. The bid notice included a stipulation that the trustee’s office is permitted to hire a broker if it doesn’t receive “an eligible offer” within 10 days of the document’s publication.

This is the second time in eight years the property has been listed for sale. In 2013, Trustee Eugene Akers received authorization from the township’s board to solicit offers for the building, but nothing ever came of the effort.

Meg Storrow, the board chair of the new Mass Ave Cultural Arts District—the registered neighborhood organization for the Mass Ave corridor—said she was not aware of the building being put up for sale until she was contacted by IBJ.

She said the organization would be interested in engaging with whomever ultimately buys the property.

“We hope that it will be developed responsibly, and we can engage with the developer to get an affordable housing component or workforce housing component to the project,” she said.

Hendricks Commercial Properties, which owns the $300 million Bottleworks District still under development directly across Massachusetts Avenue, also was not aware of the trustee’s effort to sell the building.

Gavin Thomas, vice president of Hendricks, said he was surprised the trustee’s office didn’t share its plans to offload the building with Bottleworks officials, but said the property could be an “interesting addition” to the district’s footprint.

“Sure, we would look at it—it’s right next to Bottleworks, so we’d be interested in it,” he said. “I can’t say what we’d do with it, but just the fact that it’s next door to what we’re working on, [means] we would obviously want to be part of that conversation.”

The owners of the Jungclaus-Campbell property adjacent to the trustee building indicated that even though they’d have an interest in the building, it’s likely out of their price range, given the effort already underway to revamp their property.

IBJ reported earlier this month the property is expected to be redeveloped as The Jungclaus Mill, which would feature new retail, restaurant and office spaces, along with public amenities, parking and some multifamily development. The project is expected to take up to 10 years to complete.

Bill Nagler, vice president of Junglcaus-Campbell and manager of the Mill project, said the acquisition of the township building isn’t likely in the cards for the project—although there’s some interest in acquiring the parking lot sandwiched between the Jungclaus and trustee properties.

“Who wouldn’t want to build a building there,” Nagler said. “But is it worth the time and money for us to try to get? We’re not in a position to make a bid for the whole parcel.”

A representative for the Riley Area Development Corp., which has expressed interest in more affordable housing for the neighborhood, didn’t immediately return a call requesting comment.

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5 thoughts on “Center Township Trustee seeking $4M for Mass Ave building in strangely quiet bid process

  1. While working for an architectural firm, we did some work there 10 or 15 years ago. It is an “interesting” building. It has its good points but is built like a block house and would need some extensive “reworking” to make it viable for anything beyond a “government” type building. They say you can’t put lipstick on a pig and I am not saying this is a “pig” but it is a very difficult property to work with unless you have some pretty extensive financial recourses to put into it.

  2. Never under estimate the way Township Trustees conduct the taxpayer’s business like its their own family business. Remember back when Gov. Daniels tried unsuccessfully to eliminate Trustees offices? Follow the money/nepotism.

    1. Indeed. The Keenan-Shepherd Report of 2007 recommended 27 ways to streamline government in Indiana, including eliminating township government. Counties could easily absorb the few duties that trustees still have. This is the last bastion of local nepotistic government, it’s a waste and it’s time for it to go. The same can be said for the township small claims courts in Marion County, which is the only county where they still exist.