Latest plans for Mass Ave land swap hit snag

The Indianapolis Fire Department is headed back to the drawing board in its quest to build a new credit union as part of a land-swap deal to clear the way for a $43 million apartment and retail development on Massachusetts Avenue.
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Its plans called for a new credit union with a drive-through to be constructed on part of the parking lot to the west of the existing Firefighter’s Union building at 748 Massachusetts Ave., near College Avenue.

As part of the project, the fire department also wants to build a two-story addition onto the east side of the union hall and construct a 31-space landscaped parking lot to the north at 658 E. St. Clair St., where a vacant lot fronts College Avenue.

(You can see renderings of the credit union and firefighters union hall by clicking the first and second images on this page, respectively. The third image is an  overhead view of all three projects.)

swap firhouse union hall smallIFD presented the plans Wednesday evening to the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission, which expressed concerns about the drive-through and the construction of a parking lot on such a high-profile piece of land. After some debate, the commission took no action on the department's request, which seeks zoning variances. (The union owns the land on which the credit union would be located.)

“This is a considerably significant intersection, and we’re going to see a parking lot—something that in my heart of hearts, and as a practicing landscape architect, we try to avoid doing,” IHPC member Joann Green said.

The fire department’s filing said the credit union's drive-through would be integrated into the building and have a brick “knee wall” on the property's west side to help screen the drive-through from the adjacent homes to the west.
swap overhead view small
Indianapolis-based Lamson & Condon Inc. is the architect for the credit union building, which would be two stories and constructed entirely of brick with stone accents.

Entheos Architects, also of Indianapolis, designed the two-story addition to the firefighters' union building.

The credit union operates independently of the fire department and, unlike the department, owns the property on which its current building sits at 501 N. New Jersey St., adjacent to IFD’s headquarters at 555 N. New Jersey St..

The deal calls for the credit union to transfer ownership of its property to the city in exchange for the construction of the new credit union. IFD would take over the local headquarters of the American Red Cross at 441 E. 10th St.—about four blocks from the existing IFD complex at the intersection of Massachusetts, and North New Jersey and East North streets.

The jockeying ultimately sets up construction of a five-story project with about 235 apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space on the 1.45-acre Mass Ave site to be vacated by the fire department headquarters and credit union.

City officials say the project, which will receive TIF revenue, will connect sections of Mass Ave and attract an influx of new residents.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is building a new headquarters at the former home of the Payton Wells car dealership at 1510 N. Meridian St.

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