The developer that plans to revamp a pair of former correctional facilities on Indianapolis’ near-east side for housing, retail and entertainment uses has modified its vision for the project due to structural issues with one of the buildings.
The project, known as the Cole Motor Campus, is expected to repurpose the Jail II and Arrestee Processing Center buildings north of East Washington Street and west of Interstate 65/70. The $120 million concept from 1820 Ventures was selected by the city in late 2022, following an extensive proposal process focused on reuse of the structures, which are considered historically significant.
But a 62,000-square-foot portion of Jail II is now set to be demolished, after problems with the structure were discovered ahead of internal demolition work. The area in question in the eastern wing of the building was used for storage during the building’s time as a jail, and did not house inmates.
Jeremy Stephenson, principal of project developer 1820 Ventures, said the move to tear down that portion of the building follows extensive consultation with engineering firm American Structurepoint, which conducted a full study of the space, as well as the city, the state and National Park Service, which has purview over historic buildings.
“The ability to rehabilitate it was a huge, huge challenge,” Stephenson said. The state and National Park Service “have both given a recommendation that the building should just come down. They feel its structural issues are beyond any reasonable repair at this point.”
The city of Indianapolis owns the buildings and will pay for the demolition, according to Hannah Thomas, chief communications officer for the Department of Metropolitan Development. The budget for the project is not to exceed $5 million, Thomas told IBJ.
The properties, which occupy 4.2 acres, have been controlled by the city since 1996, when they were converted to jail facilities. The 180,000-square-foot Jail II is at 730 E. Washington St., and the 100,000-square-foot Arrestee Processing Center is a block north at 752 E. Market St. The former correctional functions of those buildings have been moved to the Community Justice Campus in the Twin Aire neighborhood.
The buildings were originally built between 1911 and 1922 and were home to the Cole Motor Car Co. before it dissolved in 1925. Over the past near-century, the property has been used by a variety of tenants, including Service Supply Co., which was a prominent industrial fastener supplier in the mid-20th century.
1820 Ventures still plans to buy the buildings from the city.
Stephenson said because 1820 Ventures is seeking historic tax credits for the project, the land beneath the razed portion of the property would not be able to be developed with new vertical construction during the life of the tax credits. As a result, that space will instead be turned into a plaza and parking.
The demolition proposal is set to go before the city’s regional center hearing examiner on Jan. 25. While a recommendation from staff members of the Department of Metropolitan Development has not been made public, the step is generally viewed as a formality given the state of the structure and the recommendation of the National Park Service.
The structural issues have thrown a wrench into the rest of 1820’s development plan, Stephenson said.
The Jail II building had been expected to feature 110 to 140 mixed-income apartments, along with a rooftop deck, fitness center and 15,000 square feet of early childhood education space. The Arrestee Processing Center was expected to feature a 60,000-square-foot concert and event venue from the operators of The Vogue in Broad Ripple.
Now, the event venue is set to be a separate project on an undisclosed parcel nearby, which would be new construction rather than repurposing an existing structure. 1820 Ventures would construct and own the facility.
Stephenson said 1820 is still in conversations with The Vogue owners Eric Tobias, Scott Kraege and Andrew Davis about operating the new space, which would still have a size of about 60,000 square feet.
In the concert venue’s place at the Arrestee Processing Center, which 1820 is calling Cole North, would be dozens of apartments and the early childhood education space. The total units planned for each building have not been finalized, but each is expected to have a mix of market-rate and below-market-rate options, ranging from studios to three-bedrooms.
Stephenson said the Cole project is now expected to cost about $85 million, but combining it with the planned entertainment venue will bring the company “very close” to the original cost of $120 million.
The city has pledged $15.5 million in tax-increment financing bonds for the project.
The changes to the project—which are still in their design stage with local architects DKGR and Meticulous Design—come as the city continues infrastructure work along Market Street, which cuts between Cole North and Cole South, the Jail II building.
It also comes as 1820 Ventures opens its 103-unit Gathyr apartments project at Elevator Hill, which is adjacent to Cole Motor. The company also plans to start another apartments project on the former Angie’s List campus east of I-65/70 in the next 12 to 16 months, Stephenson said.
Work is also underway to secure additional retail and office tenants for Elevator Hill, including for the diner space, 1021 E. Market St., which has been vacant for several years.