Fort Harrison’s last historic building up for grabs

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The Fort Harrison Reuse Authority put its last remaining historic building on the market this week, hoping to finally spark redevelopment at the former post exchange building after several failed attempts.

The 11,075-square-foot building, a two-story brick structure at 5745 Lawton Loop East Drive in Lawrence, was originally built in 1908 to serve as a post exchange, or PX, and gymnasium for soldiers stationed at Fort Benjamin Harrison Army Base. The building was later converted into a club for non-commissioned officers.

The space, which recently went through an interior demolition, is essentially a historic shell that could be redeveloped into a variety of uses, including retail or restaurant space, offices or residential.

“It’s kind of a blank slate,” said Aletha Dunston, the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority’s executive director.

After the 2,500-acre base closed in 1995, the state of Indiana acquired 1,700 acres to create Fort Harrison State Park. The Fort Harrison Redevelopment Authority was formed to redevelop most of the rest of the property into a mixed-use area now known as Fort Ben. The area includes a mix of historic and modern buildings and houses a variety of uses, including private homes, retail, restaurants and office space.

The old PX building is the last remaining historic building available for sale and redevelopment.

The Reuse Authority has not attached an asking price to the property because finding the right buyer is more important than gaining a certain amount from the sale, Dunston said. “I can’t reiterate enough that price will be only one aspect—and not the most important aspect—of what we evaluate.”

Interested parties are asked to submit a proposed purchase price; a development plan and proposed timetable for completing the project; evidence of financial capacity; and a request for financial incentives, if desired.

Total cost of acquiring and developing the property will likely run “well into the six figures” and will vary widely depending on what the new owner does with the building, Dunston said. “We understand that it’s going to be a heavy lift for someone.”

But the Reuse Authority is also prepared to offer incentives as part of the deal. “We’re hoping, in the call for offers, folks will tell us what they need to get it done,” Dunston said. “We’re willing to be creative.”

Dunston said tax abatement won’t be offered for the property, which is in a TIF district. But it is located in an Opportunity Zone, which offers certain tax advantages for investors.

Indeed, the recent interior demolition at the property, plus a newly-created public drive and parking area on the site, were part of an incentive package that the Reuse Authority offered to a previous prospective developer. That deal fell through, Dunston said, but the Reuse Authority decided to proceed with the work on the belief that it would make the property more attractive for a future developer.

The property has been through several false starts under numerous owners over the years, which is why it hasn’t yet been redeveloped.

Evansville-based Springleaf Financial Services of Indiana Inc. acquired the property out of foreclosure at a Marion County Sheriff’s sale for $140,000 in August 2011. Its previous owner, Virginia L. Basham, had also purchased several other historic buildings on Lawton Loop in 1996 and redeveloped them into 48 condos through her development firm, VLB & Associates. The company had not yet sold all the condos when the housing market collapsed in 2009.

In June 2013, Springleaf sold the property to Fishers-based Way of Life African Methodist Episcopal Church Inc. for $80,000.

In March 2014, the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority bought the property back from Way of Life for $200,000.

All proposals for the old PX building are due by 5 p.m. on Jan. 29. For more details on the proposal process, visit the Reuse Authority’s web site at

Speaking of redevelopment at Fort Ben, here are two updates on previously reported projects there:

— A groundbreaking took place Wednesday at the site of the future Tru at Fort Ben by Hilton Hotel at 9135 Otis Ave. The site is just north of 56th Street and Jockamo Upper Crust Pizzeria. Tru is a moderately-priced brand operated by Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. IBJ first reported on this project in March.

— And, on Monday night, the Reuse Authority approved the Indianapolis Public Library’s plans to build a branch on the northeast corner of 56th Street and Melner Road, just east of the Tru hotel site. The library says it expects to begin construction on the 25,000-square-foot building in August, with an opening in early 2023.

In other news, Athletic Annex plans to open its second store on Friday at 11591 Yard St., Suite 500, in Fishers. The locally owned specialty store, which caters to runners and walkers, will also continue to operate its Nora location at 1300 E. 86th St.

Finally this week, we have news of a new Culver’s restaurant coming to Glendale Town Center.

— The restaurant will be at 6111 N. Keystone Ave. It’s the same site previously occupied by the casual dining chain O’Charley’s, which closed the Glendale location in June 2019.

Culver’s franchisee Jeffrey Meyer of Noblesville, who operates 12 Culver’s locations in Indiana, Ohio and Georgia, said he plans to demolish the former O’Charley’s building and build a 4,500-square-foot Culver’s in its place. Construction should start in the next several weeks, and the restaurant is expected to open by June.

Meyer had acquired the O’Charley’s site in October 2019 for $1.7 million, but he had to work through some issues with O’Charley’s before he could move forward with demolition and construction.

Based in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, Culver’s is a fast-food chain best known for its burgers and frozen custard.

Culver’s joins a couple of other retailers that are set to join Glendale Town Center. On Wednesday, IBJ reported that youth-oriented discount chain Five Below and discount department chain Ross Dress for Less are also planning to open there.

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7 thoughts on “Fort Harrison’s last historic building up for grabs

  1. I’ve never been to a Culver’s before because all the locations I know of are far from my house and not in areas I regularly frequent, so I never think of it. It’d be nice to have one in an area I hit up at least twice a week!

    1. It’s an ice cream place that also has burgers, fries, chili, and chicken tenders. Think DQ, but with real ice cream/custard.