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
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
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
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, Success
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, email@example.com, or Margaret Banning, 317-260-0669, firstname.lastname@example.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 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.
By Heidi Unger
On the second Tuesday of 2017, Third Street Ventures and Blackline Studio presented the third version of the site proposal for the Bonna Avenue property. The design is a hybrid of previously presented designs, created with neighbor feedback in mind. The proposal (including any minor tweaks resulting from the community discussion) will be submitted to IHPC for approval, and the commission will hear the case on February 1, 2017 at the City-County building. Download the 2-1-17 IHPC Agenda and Coal Yard Staff Report PDF. (If you’d like to watch the meeting where this project was discussed, check out Irvington Development Organization on YouTube.)
First-floor commercial and community space
Community members (approximately 40 in attendance) viewed the new site plan, which includes a two-story, L-shaped, mixed-use building. The commercial portion of the building features a modern-looking brick and wood exterior, accented with a two-story trellis. The residential façade features gables and board and batten siding, a nod to the surrounding residential area. Apartment units cantilever outward from the main structure to provide additional space and soften the exterior look. The highest point of the building is two feet shorter than the adjacent commercial property on Ritter Avenue.
Residential units facing Bonna Avenue
The development, previously referred to as The Coal Factory, has been renamed Coal Yard Lofts, noting the urban feel of residential space with high ceilings and exposed duct work and the absence of industrial (factory) space in the building.
The building’s anchor is a 3,000 square-foot, first-floor commercial space and community room with glass overhead doors. The community room faces Bonna Avenue and the Pennsy Trail. The commercial space is designed for three business or retail tenants, such as a coffee shop.
The site plan includes 46 residential units. The parking area will contain spaces for 91 automobiles, which is higher than the 84 spaces required by city ordinance. IHPC will not require a parking variance. As mentioned in earlier meetings, an 8-foot privacy fence will border a portion of the irregularly shaped property.
Site drainage hasn’t been designed, but developers are committed to mitigating the drainage issues that have caused headaches for adjacent property owners. At this early stage, developers expect to include swales, potentially at the back (south) side of the building. Swales are a natural way to manage storm water. The site is also expected to include underground retention, most likely at the north end of the property.
Phase I of the environmental study is complete. If the project moves forward, a Phase II assessment will provide more detail about the scope of the work required. Developers would work hand in hand with the appropriate state and local agencies to meet or exceed any requirements for remediating site contamination.
The development team intends to use high-quality, durable building materials in accordance with IHPC recommendations and requirements, including brick, wood, and fiber cement products. Choices for exterior wood used on the building include a durable oak and ash product (depending on availability) or stained cedar. The building’s masonry stair towers will be constructed of charcoal-colored block, an architectural reference to the property’s former history as a coal yard. Galvanized metal and wire mesh railings will be installed on balconies.
The building currently occupied by Playground Productions and Black Acre Brewing will remain on the property and might at some point be sold to the current tenants. At this time, Third Street Ventures doesn’t intend to make improvements to that structure.
Regarding the upcoming milestones the project must pass, Craig McCormick of Blackline Studio says that his team is “confident about the design [which is subject to IHPC approval] and hopeful for the tax credits.”
The expectation is that IHCDA will notify applicants in late February of Section 42 tax credit awards. If the development team isn’t awarded Section 42 tax credits, Third Street Ventures might need to make changes to the site design. In that case, the developers would host another community meeting requesting neighbor feedback, and they would also be required to submit any changes to IHPC for approval.
Notes from 12/06/2016 Community Meeting Regarding Coal Factory Development
Irvington United Methodist Church, 30 North Audubon Road, Indianapolis, IN
Presenters: Jarod Brown and Antone Najem, Third Street Ventures; Craig McCormick, Blackline Studios; Margaret Banning, Irvington Development Organization
Margaret Banning mentioned that several people had asked about demographics and how Irvington compares to other neighborhoods. She referred neighbors to www.savi.org and www.indyvitals.org. These tools provide lots of useful data, including this info: Irvington is the 14th most dense neighborhood in Marion County, and that’s more dense than the county at large. The median assessed value of Irvington homes is $90,000, and in the last six years, that has increased $8,700.
Regarding Section 42 tax credits awarded by IHCDA, there have been approximately 150 Section 42 tax credit projects in Indianapolis since the program began.
The handout Margaret distributed also linked to these articles and studies:
- “Opposition to affordable housing in Tinley Park rooted in unfounded fears, experts say,” Chicago Tribune, https://goo.gl/qKbgyD
- “Does Federally Subsidized Rental Housing Depress Neighborhood Property Values?,” National Housing Conference, https://goo.gl/JUa9NL
- “There Doesn’t Go the Neighborhood: Low-Income Housing Has No Impact on Nearby Home Values,” Trulia, https://goo.gl/20qfw0
How does Section 42 differ from other rent assistance programs, like Section 8?
The residents who live in Section 42 units must be income and program eligible similar to residents who live in rental assistance developments. However, the rent that a Section 42 resident will pay is capped at a fixed amount and includes utilities that 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.
During the meeting, several neighbors mentioned how they were feeling about the proposed development. Some said they’re still anxious about the proposal and fast pace of the project, and uncertain that the residential component is right for the neighborhood. They suggested that a different type of development, such as an ice skating rink or commercial property, might be a better fit.
Other neighbors said they’re eager to move forward, especially because the property has been in such bad condition for a number of years.
Other neighbors expressed a neutral attitude and desire to hear more from the developers.
Craig McCormick reminded neighbors that while the pace of the project seems fast, there’s still a long way to go toward a finished development. He reminded neighbors that award of the tax credits won’t be announced before February. In order to give neighbors more time to provide feedback, and developers time to respond to that feedback, the next IHPC hearing has been moved to February 1st. He said it’s likely that work wouldn’t begin on the site before late 2017.
Neighbors who attended the meeting were shown two new proposals and asked for their feedback. Craig stated that although the drawings look finished, they’re simply mockups, not final.
Note: It’s important that neighbors understand that while the developers are working hard to create a product that neighbors are happy with, the plans presented in the meetings are subject to change, as almost always happens in a complex project like this when conditions in the field may dictate it.
Proposal A: This would be a brick, flat-roofed apartment building similar to many other apartment buildings in Irvington in the 1920s.
Proposal B: This apartment building has gabled roofs, more of a town home look that is somewhat consistent with surrounding homes.
Neighbors briefly discussed the merits of each.
The developers are committed to using high-quality materials, and IHPC supports that choice in any development. Although some neighbors find certain architectural styles too modern for the neighborhood, it’s important to understand that IHPC prefers work that is “of its time” and constructed with high-quality materials. IHPC doesn’t like architecture that mimics an older style. In regard to the look of this development, Craig said he thinks it’s important to consider context, scale, and rhythm.
Neighbors asked about some issues that had been discussed previously.
- Parking: The onsite lot is likely to include 91-93 parking spaces, which is much more than the city requires. A parking variance won’t be necessary.
- Drainage: The developers understand that neighbors oppose a retention pond. Storm water will instead be managed below ground, most likely beneath the parking lot, likely with rain gardens included on the property.
- Aisle size: The plan includes larger drive aisles to allow for semi-truck deliveries to the Black Acre Brewing facility.
- Fence: An 8-foot privacy fence in appropriate places on the property will prevent foot traffic to neighboring yards. However, the fence won’t screen visibility from the second floor of the apartment complex, just as a fence between existing residential neighbors wouldn’t screen visibility from two-story homes.
- Density: High infrastructure costs associated with the site mean that building single-family homes on the site isn’t financially feasible. The previous proposal for the property required an estimated $1.5 million investment, and unfortunately the project failed because that cost doubled to $3 million. The new developers have found a way to invest $7 million, but that plan requires the proposed density.
- Brownfield: Developers are engaging highly qualified environmental engineers and intend to follow all laws and protocols when mediating contamination on the site. Also, Irvington-based environmental consulting company Mundell & Associates owns the property adjacent to the site and was hired to work on the environmental assessment.
- Property management: A reputable property management company will screen potential renters and ensure that residents follow all rules on the property.
Irvington Lofts, another Irvington property that was developed and managed by the same entities as the group developing this property, includes a community room that is available to residents and neighborhood community-focused organizations, but it isn’t available to businesses and individual neighbors. If a community room is included with the new building, those same rules would apply.
A neighbor asked what will happen when the tax credits expire. IHCDA establishes requirements related to expiration of the tax credits on a case by case basis.
Neighbors again mentioned infrastructure problems (flooding and water pressure issues and phone utility boxes) in the neighborhood that are unrelated to the property on Bonna. Developers acknowledged that working with utility companies can be tricky and recommended that neighbors engage a liaison who can help them work with the utility companies to resolve these issues. Neighbors agreed that they would follow up.
Some neighbors again expressed distrust of community organizations, including IDO, HICC, and “the historical society.” In response to that, another neighbor recommended that concerned neighbors attend meetings and volunteer with those organizations to get a better sense of how they work. When a neighbor mentioned she would prefer that the people representing her actually lived in Irvington, others clarified that all members of our community organizations (IDO, HICC, Irvington Historical Society, IBA, and Irvington Garden Club) live and/or work in Irvington.
Neighbors asked who profits from the new development and whether community organizations will receive payment for their support of the development. Margaret explained that IDO is a co-developer that would receive a professional fee for services if the project goes forward as was the case with the Lofts apartments and the original Coal Factory proposal. Fundraising for IDO pays for the streetlights along the business corridor and the landscape maintenance. Margaret offered to share IDO’s financial statements and budget with concerned neighbors.
A neighbor asked about the future of the site if this proposal doesn’t work out and expressed concerns about values of adjacent properties if the site remains in its current state. Margaret explained that if this proposed development falls through, IBRE (the current property owner) would continue to look for a buyer until someone sees the potential in the site and is willing and able to make the investment.
Neighbors asked for data regarding value of properties adjacent to other Section 42 developments. Margaret said she was not able to find data that showed a decrease in properties adjacent to Section 42 developments (see previously listed articles and studies).
A neighbor who is also a city planner in Hamilton County spoke in favor of the proposal. He mentioned that he is aware of multiple Section 42 developments in Hamilton County, and they work well. He’s heard that some Irvington neighbors are concerned about crime but isn’t aware of an increase in crime near Section 42 properties.
As follow-up to questions raised at or after the meeting, here is some information about Irvington Lofts, which was built with a similar codevelopment agreement and benefits from Section 42 tax credits.
- Rents: $275 for a studio unit, $285–575 for a one-bedroom unit, and $675 for a two-bedroom unit.
- Demographics: Leaseholders include 4 single moms (1 child each), 1 married couple, 1 roommate pairing, and 44 individuals who live alone. There are approximately 9 leaseholders in the 18–30 age range, 21 in the 31–50 age range, and 14 who are over 50.
- Property management: Mark III manages the property and has an excellent reputation.
A third meeting to review the revised drawings will be scheduled in January, date and location to be determined.
For more information, contact Antone Najem, email@example.com or Margaret Banning, 317-260-0669, Margaret@irvingtondevelopment.org.
Dear Irvington Neighbors and Friends,
Irvington is such an exciting place to call home! When folks move here, we stay put because it is such a great place to live. When neighbors do decide to move, their houses are scooped up within days. We should be grateful that we live in one of the most vibrant, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods in Indianapolis. Plus, Irvingtonians are engaged. They care. They join organizations, get to know each other and are passionate about keeping it a neighborhood in the true sense of the word—a place marked by kindly concern.
Irvington Development Organization plays an important role in the fabric of our neighborhood. We exist to promote and nurture Irvington as a desirable place to live, work and conduct business. We have successes to back us up as doers, not talkers. Consider the Washington Street streetscape and the Irvington Lofts, two of our most visible success stories. IDO was instrumental in making those two projects happen. And, they have been incubators for other positive development in our neighborhood. The Indianapolis Department of Public Works recently identified $2.5 million in public investment in Irvington in just the past two years.
IDO also works in less dramatic ways—for example, it:
- Is the first stop for businesses that want to locate here.
- Organizes neighborhood clean-up projects. (October’s was a huge success!)
- Sponsors the Green Initiative to help us all do our part toward a more sustainable planet.
- Leveraged $1.2 million in federal funds for the recent curbs, sidewalks and re-paving project on Washington Street.
- Pays the monthly tab for the decorative street lighting in the business district.
Plus, we have plans for the future. We are working diligently to facilitate long-term redevelopment of high-value/high-impact neighborhood sites, such as Irvington Plaza and the old Foamcraft facility on Bonna Avenue. Since 2002, IDO has been doing, not just talking.
Please help by partnering with us to keep Irvington the place we proudly call home. How might you do that?
We have decided to draw on Irvington’s history to name our giving levels:
- $500 and up: Kile Oak Level (includes household IDO membership)
- $250-$499: National Road Level (includes household IDO membership)
- $100-$250: Ellenberger Park Level (includes household IDO membership)
- $50-$99: Washington Irving Level
Please join me in becoming an IDO supporter. We really appreciate it!
Coal Factory Redevelopment: IDO Community Update Meeting
Tuesday, December 6
Irvington United Methodist Church
30 N. Audubon Rd.
(please note the location change)
Irvington Development Organization is hosting the second in a series of meetings over the next couple of months before the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC) hears the rest of the items (variances, site plan, design, and demolition) in the proposed redevelopment of the Coal Factory property. This meeting will be a chance for the development team to show two versions of the project designs based on the comments from the neighbors in previous meetings.
To recap, IHPC voted to include residential and artisan and beverage/food production uses in the CS zoning of the property at their November hearing. They are scheduled to hear the additional items at their January 4, 2017 hearing unless it needs to be continued further out. No actual work can be done on the site until those other items are approved.
Please come with your ideas for how to make the project better!
For notes from the last meeting and additional facts regarding the Coal Factory Redevelopment, please click here.
Questions? contact Margaret at Margaret@irvingtondevelopment.org, 317-260-0669 or Antone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Irvington Development Organization
Irvington Development Organization, founded in 2002, works 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. Irvington is a historic community on the East Side of Indianapolis known for its winding, tree-lined streets and architecturally significant homes and businesses. To donate to IDO or become a member click here.