Design firm embraces downtown’s St. Joseph neighborhood

Phanomen Design founder Loree Everette and architect Brent Roberts like the energy they find in downtown’s St. Joseph neighborhood. (IBJ photo/Chad Williams)

Phanomen Design

934 Fort Wayne Ave.

Owner: Loree Everette

In 2020, not long after social unrest shook downtown Indianapolis and cities across the country, Phanomen Design owner Loree Everette applied a message to the windows of her building: See the good.

Her office, at 934 Fort Wayne Ave., is in downtown’s St. Joseph Historic Neighborhood, roughly a mile north and east of the center of downtown where much of the unrest took place.

Still, Everette thought the message could be inspiring for her neighbors and her neighborhood, a diverse place where people of different races and cultures live and work together.

“I thought I would have it up for just that period” when the pandemic and the racial tensions seemed to be getting people down, she said. But she’s left it up. “I like it so much. I think we need more messages like that. … We all need to see the good.”

And Everette certainly does in her part of downtown.

She’s had her office in the neighborhood about a decade, originally on College Avenue close to Massachusetts Avenue. But when her company—which designs restaurants and retail spaces—outgrew it, she started what turned out to be a four-year search for a new office.

Everette knew she could find something larger and cheaper on the outskirts of the city. But that didn’t seem right.

“We just feel very connected to especially this part of town, the St. Joseph neighborhood,” she said. “It’s like a small town within a large city.”

And being downtown was important for business, she said. Many of her clients—which include Cunningham Restaurant Group—are active downtown, and being in the center of the city means she and her team can get anywhere quickly.

So when she was approached about buying a building with an adjacent parking lot just a few blocks away, she grabbed it.

The Phanomen team—now 12 people—moved in about 3-1/2 years ago, just before the pandemic. And while the employees worked from home for a while, most missed the ideas and energy that come from in-person collaboration and were eager to come back.

Since then, Everette said, she’s seen only positive changes in her part of downtown. The Bottleworks District has continued to expand. More businesses are moving into the Circle City Industrial Complex not far away. And the restaurant and retail options nearby are increasing.

In fact, Everette’s biggest concern about downtown has nothing to do with the typical complaints involving homelessness, safety or cleanliness. It’s that living downtown has become so popular it’s unaffordable for too many people.

Downtown is “becoming very gentrified, and it’s becoming a little homogenous,” she said. “And that’s not what ignites a city. You need economic diversity. You need racial diversity. You need different people coming together to make a rich city. And if we just price everyone out of that, I think we’re going to lose the soul of the city.”•

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4 thoughts on “Design firm embraces downtown’s St. Joseph neighborhood

  1. I agree with Lorree and Mike C.
    The balance in diversity costs a great deal of cash. When it comes from the government the cost gets spread across a broad spectrum (higher taxes). In that case, those upper end investors may sooner or later be pressed, thus being forced to cut back on speculative development.
    The plan is uphoric and takes plenty of humanistic programs to weave together diverse cultures. So as Mike says, sounds great. I’d like to see more of the internal network.