Indianapolis closes on property key to Twin Aire redevelopment

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A strip mall central to Indianapolis’ vision for the neighborhood that is home to the new Community Justice Campus is now in city hands, after years of negotiations.

Health and Hospital Corp., the municipal corporation that runs Marion County’s health functions, closed on the acquisition of the Twin Aire shopping center Sept. 21, according to the city, after offering nearly $4 million for the 13-acre property on the near-east side.

The Department of Metropolitan Development will work with HHC to redevelop the location, said Ike McCoy, DMD’s principal program manager for real estate and land, at an Oct. 21 Twin Aire Neighborhood Coalition Meeting.

HHC has been in talks to buy the parcel since late 2017, after Indianapolis picked the nearby former Citizens Energy coke plant property for the new Community Justice Campus, McCoy told community members.

Initially, McCoy said, HHC wanted to develop a health care facility at the site, but by 2018, the plan changed. The new goal? Economic redevelopment.

HHC continued to negotiate with the property’s absentee former owner, Mervyn Dukatt—even though the organization’s central role in Marion County’s pandemic response meant delays in the acquisition, according to McCoy.

They already had a relationship, [and] they had already made contact with the property owner, who was hard to get ahold of,” he said at the meeting. Dukatt is principal at Chicago-based Mer Car Corp.

HHC had also already started its due diligence process, including an initial environmental assessment, so a transfer would have meant starting over. 

So what’s next? First up, what McCoy called “stabilization.” HHC has contracted a property manager to get holdover tenants back on leases and to create an improvements fund.

The fund would use revenue from the shopping center for small fixes, such as getting rid of the litter, trash and graffiti. As the fund grows, McCoy told residents, the money could go toward larger projects, like covering potholes, wrapping windows in vacant units, enclosing dumpsters and adding more lighting in an alleyway.

Indianapolis also has to conduct a detailed environmental assessment, featuring soil and vapor checks, to test for possible contamination, according to McCoy. That’s expected to be completed by March.

Meanwhile, DMD has begun putting together a request for information covering both the shopping plaza and a nearby former Twin Aire drive-in theater site, which would be redeveloped together. The city bought the 28-acre site in 2018 and has been waiting to get the strip mall under its control.

Both areas were featured prominently in a development plan created through the Great Places program, which Twin Aire was selected to join in 2016.

“These two sites collectively, the drive-in and shopping plaza sites, are kind of our greatest opportunity, I think, to spur private redevelopment and to accomplish the goals of the Great Places plan that the neighborhood outlined,” DMD Director Scarlett Martin told IBJ.

Once DMD reviews developers’ ideas, likely in the spring or summer, it’ll put out a request for more specific redevelopment proposals. The agency would likely be picking from the responses next fall, McCoy told residents.

As much as we want to have economic development take place in and near the site, it’s important that we take our time and that we end up with a development that matches both the needs of the community, and the needs of the city and county, generally, for the area,” he said of the timeline.

The Kroger will stay for the time being, since its lease goes until 2024. From there, the company has the option to renew up to five times, in five-year increments, according to leasing agreements provided to IBJ.

Southeast Neighborhood Development Inc., which convenes the neighborhood coalition, made an inquiry through a real estate adviser about buying the shopping center, IBJ reported, back in 2016. The group thought it was worth about $4 million, based on market research, but the then-owner countered with $6 million.

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4 thoughts on “Indianapolis closes on property key to Twin Aire redevelopment

  1. Good, and good that the Kroger is likely to stay.

    Now if only the City would do the same with the former Marsh plaza on Washington Street in Irvington…

  2. Explain to me again, why 5 minutes after HHC had title the property it was not transferred to the city? HHC has enough questionable fingers in enough pies all around the state to be spending my HHC tax dollars on this.

    I think is a very worthy economic development project and I can see why HHC got started on this path, but I don’t understand why they are STILL involved.

    1. The neighborhood would be a good place for an Eskenazi Health clinic; there’s a big chunk of vacant ground south of the Kroger (where a bowling alley was demolished) that is part of the shopping center tract. So I’d guess they might have wanted just that part, and it’s expensive/time consuming to split a parcel. Can’t split it off overnight.