CNO seeks buyer for 78-acre Carmel office campus with vision to redevelop site

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CNO Financial

Carmel-based insurance and financial services company CNO Financial Group is looking for a buyer for its six-building headquarters campus who will lean into its vision for new residential and retail components.

The firm, which said in June that it would move its operations to the OpenLane Inc. building at 11299 N. Illinois St., has not specified an asking price for its 78-acre campus near U.S. 31, but it’s looking for a buyer interested in a wholesale redevelopment of the site.

Comprising more than 611,000 square feet of office space and 2,700 parking spaces, the corporate campus at 11825 N. Pennsylvania St. is in the process of being vacated, at least in part. CNO is being represented in the effort by Andrew Urban, senior vice president of occupier services for the Indianapolis office of Toronto-based commercial brokerage Colliers International.

Urban said the company’s relocation from its longtime home is expected to be complete by the end of May. CNO, the 16th-largest public company in Indiana, employs about 1,100 people in the state and approximately 3,400 workers company-wide.

CNO will lease about 100,000 square feet on two floors of the building owned by OpenLane, which was known known as KAR Auction Services Inc. until last year.

“As our workforce has evolved, so too have our workplace needs,” CNO CEO Gary Bhojwani said last June. “This new office space offers collaborative workspaces and amenities that support our business needs and enhance our associate experience. We are especially pleased to continue to call Carmel our corporate home, where we’ve had a longstanding history and deep roots in the community.”

No firm timeline has been set for when CNO would like to offload its headquarters—rather the company is “looking for the right opportunity.”

The sale offering consists of the following properties:

— 535 N College Drive, 139,337 square feet, constructed in 1999, office space, vacant;
— 540 N. College Drive, 75,130 square feet, 1990, industrial and flex space, vacant;
— 560 N. College Drive, 87,540 square feet, 1991, industrial and flexible use, occupied by CNO;
— 1289 City Center Drive, 101,265 square feet, 1997, office, 49% leased by a tenant through July 2027;
— 11799 N. College Drive, 105,241 square feet, 1987, office, 100% leased by a tenant through May 2028; and
— 11825 N. Pennsylvania St., 103,154 square feet, 1997, office, vacant.

CNO and its predecessor companies have been headquartered at the North Pennsylvania Street campus for nearly 35 years. The company traces its roots to 1979, when Stephen Hilbert and David Deeds founded Security National of Indiana Corp. The company changed its name to Conseco Inc. four years later and eventually grew into a Fortune 500 business and one of the state’s largest public companies.

Urban said the six structures on the campus occupy only 21% of the land that comprises the site—the rest is parking lots and undeveloped green space. As a result, he said, a buyer could “begin developing and adding value to the site immediately.”

The site is broken into three zones by Colliers. While the sites could be sold separately, Urban said the preferences is for them all to be sold as part of a single deal. It is expected many of the buildings would be razed by an eventual buyer, but Urban said there may be an appetite to continue operating some of the buildings as-is.

In any case, CNO is looking for a buyer that would focus on creating a mixed-use project offering for sale and for rent housing options like apartments, townhouses and condominiums, along with retail and restaurant space and office uses that could include life sciences or laboratory components.

Zone A, which sits along City Center Drive, consists of four buildings totaling nearly 394,000 square feet across 47 acres, which could lend itself to a large-scale mixed-use project. Zone B sits between College Drive and Congressional Boulevard, and is a single 139,000-square-foot standalone building on 20 acres, offering potential as a medical office campus or other mixed-use project. Zone C, the easternmost 105,000-square-foot office building sits on 11 acres and has a tenant for the entire space whose lease does not expire for several years.

Urban said that while CNO has a target in mind for what it would like to receive for the property, the company is not willing to disclose the figure publicly. The firm has received multiple unsolicited offers in recent months and expects to receive several more now that the property is formally listed for sale.

“There’s been a lot of background interest and a lot of people tracking this, so naturally that’s why we think letting the market determine [its value] makes the most sense,” he said.

The Carmel and Westfield areas have experienced consistent development and redevelopment in recent years, with about $3 billion in investment since 2018. This includes the continued development of Carmel City Center, Midtown and the Arts & Design District, as well as projects around Grand Park Sports Campus.

Near 96th Street, other office parks are also being weighed for redevelopment. For example, the city of Carmel and Philadelphia-based Rubenstein Partners are developing plans to transform the eastern half of Parkwood Crossing into a neighborhood consisting of office space, housing, restaurants, retail and recreation areas with a new street grid.

Landmark Properties has considered redevelopment of parcels at 96th and Meridian streets into a $150 million project that would contain as many as 600 market-rate apartment units in two eight-story buildings, 145,000 square feet of commercial space, more than 1,300 parking spaces and an 86-room hotel. It’s not clear whether that project, first pitched in August 2021, is moving forward.

Even so, Colliers’ Urban said he sees plenty of opportunity in the CNO property’s potential redevelopment.

“If you look at the demographic tapestry of the area, the site we think is going to be extremely attractive to both a local and national developer audience. There are a lot of national developers who have had Carmel on their wish list for a long time, but there frankly hasn’t been a site of this scale … that is prime for commercial, dense redevelopment,” he said. “When you think about where it sits, and you think about the scale of the site, it presents an opportunity to create a 21st century business neighborhood district.”

Urban is joined on the listing by Colliers brokers Tom Hadley, Aaron Snoddy and David Burden.

IBJ reporter Daniel Bradley contributed to this story.

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4 thoughts on “CNO seeks buyer for 78-acre Carmel office campus with vision to redevelop site

  1. Just what Carmel needs, more “dense redevelopment.” Carmel is becoming apartment city. Is that going to keep the quality of life draw that has made Carmel the place it is?

    1. Too many apartments eventually turns into a bad thing. Just remember when The Meadows were built on 38th Street that used to be a nice area. Eventually newer and better apartments get built and older ones have to lower their rates to keep occupancy up.

    2. Density is the only way most of these deals get done now with cost and rate pressure.

      Apartment living is not what it used to be with highly amenitized deals that feature street level retail and high degrees of walkability. Besides, you need the density to offset the corporate tax rates to keep your precious residential tax rate low.

      NIMBYs…………

    3. You guys and your simple mindset and fear mongering is immature as well as juvenile. Rent in Carmel is exceptionally higher than in Indy, so I doubt the undesirables that you’re so afraid of moving into Hamilton county will think twice about moving north. Plus Carmel has a reputation as a place that’s not very welcoming to outsiders from the city. It’s a known fact you’ll get pulled over quick in Hamilton county with Marion County license plates. Then there’s the fact that people think Carmel is racist, so with these factors alone you won’t see a huge influx of people from the city moving up to Carmel. Any apartment or condo built in Carmel will be set at market rate for the area and it’s a premium to live in Hamilton county compared to Marion County. So stop with your outdated talking points and fabricated fears.

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