A Look Back at The Irvington Lofts

By Nancy Larner Ruschman

Remember the former Indy East Motel? If you do, you might recall what an eyesore the structure was, not to mention the crime and other troublesome elements it attracted. In 2006 the city revoked Indy East’s license to operate, and finally shuttered it in 2009 due to an extremely high number of police runs and neighbor complaints on this nuisance property. Here’s how a blighted property became a popular, affordable living space.

Photo courtesy of Bill on Flickr, at https://goo.gl/VvhRoJ

Photo courtesy of Bill on Flickr, at https://goo.gl/VvhRoJ

From Indy East to Irvington Lofts

A few years after Indy East’s closing, Irvington Development Organization (IDO) stepped in and purchased this property at 5855 East Washington Street from the county, and in 2011 received the green light from the city to demolish the structure and build a proposed 50-unit apartment complex, which was pivotal for the ongoing redevelopment of the Irvington commercial district.

For those who might not be familiar with IDO, our mission is consistent with the transformation of the Indy East Motel into the The Irvington Lofts. We “work for the benefit of Irvington by cultivating positive business development, promoting the unique character of our neighborhood and enhancing the quality of life for residents and visitors.” IDO accomplishes all of this with only one employee and a volunteer board made up of Irvington residents and business owners. Given our mission, we saw a fantastic opportunity to replace a blighted site with a new structure that would bring investment to the Irvington community.

Photo courtesy of One 10 Studio

Photo courtesy of One 10 Studio

And invest we did. IDO received Section 42 tax credits for the site, which sweetened the pot for project investors. Various partners, through Great Lakes Capital Fund (now Cinnaire), invested $8.7 million in the new apartment building, which offers primarily one-bedroom apartments balanced with a few studios and two-bedroom units. Additionally, Franciscan Health redeveloped the 50-year-old doctor’s office to the west of the apartments with some of the same partners. These two properties represent an $11 million investment.

Investments in the Irvington Business Corridor

In addition to working on The Lofts, IDO brought increased interest to the business corridor and new business blossomed in the heart of Irvington. With The Legend and the former Dufour’s already serving as solid anchors in the commercial district, Starbucks opened in 2007, and soon after Jockamo opened, followed by Black Sheep in 2010 and Ossip in 2012. Black Acre, a true game changer in Irvington, opened in 2013, and from there several additional businesses opened their doors between 2013 and 2016, most of which have flourished.

From 2012 to 2016 IDO completed Phases 1 and 2 of the Irvington Streetscape, plunging another $2.9 million into the community. IDO also facilitated an additional $2.5 million in public infrastructure in Irvington in just the past two years. The improvements in Irvington have moved beyond the business corridor to include a rise in home values as Irvingtonians have seen the median assessed value of their homes climb to $90,000, an increase of $8,700 over the last six years.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Lawrence Banning

Photo courtesy of Margaret Lawrence Banning

The Section 42 tax credit financing (see sidebar for more info on this topic) helped to make possible a number of desirable features that make The Lofts extremely energy efficient and sustainable: a community garden, a green roof, a cistern to collect rain water, a solar roof, and a permeable courtyard, in addition to meeting space that residents and neighborhood groups can use at no charge. The apartment opened its doors to residents in September 2012 and attained full occupancy within a few short months. Due to the tax credits, the rents are affordable for households making moderate income. Rents range from $270 to $675 depending on the unit and each household’s income. The property is managed and maintained by the highly reputable Mark III Management Company, and the waitlist now stands at up to two years out.
The current leaseholders at The Lofts include 44 individuals who live alone; four single moms (one child each); one married couple, and one roommate pairing. Approximately nine leaseholders fall in the 18–30 year age range; 21 in the 31–50 age range; and 14 are over 50 years of age. The tenants appreciate the easy walkability of the location and access to frequent bus service. With 50 dedicated parking spaces, there is consistently plenty of open and available parking.

Time, Patience, and Finally, Successcrafts party

The Lofts development took an enormous amount of time, patience, and savvy to pull off. It took many partners (see sidebar) and months of planning, revising, negotiating, and compromising. The original project plan went through several revisions in order to adjust to conditions in the field and meet the requirements of government regulators and investors, as is the case with any development project.

IDO and Irvington Partners LLC own The Lofts, and IDO serves as the property’s long-term owner to ensure that the apartments will remain an asset to the community for many years to come.

Potential Development of Additional Apartments

IDO continues its mission to improve the quality of life in the community and is currently involved in another potential development along Bonna Avenue with many of the same partners mentioned in this article. As with The Lofts, this development is going through several revisions, as the initial plan for the Coal Factory business development is no longer a viable option. IDO and partners have instead proposed an apartment development much the same as The Lofts, and it is tentatively name Coal Yard Lofts. IDO continues to seek public input on this proposal and recently hosted its third public meeting (on January 10). The development team presented the revised drawings and specifications and invited community input on the project.

IDO’s hope is that this development will be much like the very successful Irvington Lofts development. Now that The Lofts is holding a two-year waitlist, the need for additional moderate-income dwellings is a much-needed commodity in the Irvington community.

Want more information on Irvington Lofts or wish to add your name to the waitlist? Contact Jenni Scales at Mark III Management at 317-356-2460.

For more information on the potential new development on Bonna Avenue, please contact Antone Najem, antone@thirdstreetventures.com, or Margaret Banning, 317-260-0669, margaret@irvingtondevelopment.org.

Section 42 versus Section 8 Tax Credits

The Irvington Lofts was financed by selling tax credits from the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA). The residents who live in Section 42 units must be income- and program-eligible. The rent that a resident will pay is capped at a fixed amount (subject to cost of living increases) and includes utilities which are the resident’s responsibility. In rental assistance programs such as Section 8, the resident’s rent is based on 30% of his/her income, and the remaining adjusted portion is funded by the federal government. The Section 42 program is not a government-subsidized rental program. Since the inception of this tax credit program, there have been over 150 Section 42 projects developed in Indianapolis alone.

IDO’s Operations

IDO is funded from individual donations, memberships, grants, fundraisers and project administration monies. Project admin dollars are funds that are built into the cost of the project and paid to the developer (IDO) to manage the project.

Partners on The Irvington Lofts Apartments

IDO and Irvington Partners LLC own The Lofts. Other partners on this project included:

  • Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA)
  • The Marion County Commissioners
  • The City of Indianapolis
  • Great Lakes Capital Fund
  • Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC)
  • First Financial Bank
  • ONE 10 STUDIO Architects
  • McKinley Development.

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