Private foundation planning Carmel HQ

The Indianapolis-based Liberty Fund plans to build a campus-like headquarters on the Meridian Street office corridor in Carmel—if officials approve a couple of notable exceptions to the city’s development guidelines for the area.

Liberty Fund wants to erect a 61,300-square-foot facility on largely wooded property at the northeast corner of Meridian and 111th Street. The multi-story building, designed around a central courtyard, would house the private educational foundation’s library and archives in addition to office space and meeting rooms.

Liberty Fund headquarters rendering, CarmelLiberty Fund's new headquarters is designed around a central courtyard. Click to enlarge. (Rendering courtesy of Rowland Design)

Founded in 1960, Liberty Fund has 50 employees and expects to add as many as 16 in the coming years, according to paperwork filed with its application for a development-standards variance. 

Carmel requires buildings with Meridian Street frontage to be at least 38 feet tall and have three occupiable floors; the minimum height for buildings along Pennsylvania Street—the eastern border of the 9.8 acres Liberty Fund has under contract—is 26 feet.

But Rowland Design’s plans calls for a shorter building: The two-story façade along Meridian would be about 31 feet, construction drawings show, and the portion fronting Pennsylvania would be less than 16 feet tall.   

Following the current standards “would result in a significant amount of unused and/or vacant space; increase construction costs unnecessarily; and prevent the owner from developing a campus environment that optimizes the use and benefits of the property,” the application said. Project costs were not disclosed.

As designed, about 60 percent of the building’s total area would be on the first floor, exceeding the 40-percent maximum for the office corridor. Liberty Fund also is asking to reduce the number of required parking spaces (from 245 to 115) and eliminate a mandatory loading dock.

Approving the parking waiver “will allow Liberty Fund to save a significant portion of the existing mature trees on the site, which should have a positive impact on the use and value of adjacent properties,” the application said.

Carmel’s Board of Zoning Appeals is expected to take up the variance requests at its July meeting. Once that’s resolved, the Carmel Plan Commission will review the development plan and other details like lighting and landscaping.

A construction plan submitted with the variance application showed a pedestrian trail cutting through the woods, two sculpture gardens and a retention pond/reflecting pool visible from the two-story library, which would overlook the highway.

The building also includes 8,500 square feet of below-grade space to accommodate a portion of Liberty Fund’s archives and a “mechanical tunnel.”

Liberty Fund reported expenses of $22.2 million on revenue of $20.6 million in the year ended April 30, 2013, according to its most recent federal tax filing. The fair market value of its assets at the time: $309.6 million. The foundation is located in the Woodland Center II office building at 8335 Allison Pointe Trail.

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