The design may appear unremarkable to some, but at least the developer was maximizing potential in an area in which new development would have been unthinkable a decade ago. The fact that its location on Central Avenue puts it on the eastern edge of Fall Creek Place (most of the neighborhood stretches to the left in the photo/rendering above) made it that much more audacious. Alas, reality rears its head and fails to live up to expectations. As of the fall of 2009, this is what we see at that busy corner:
The sign announces a fall 2008 opening, but in actuality the “repurposed” Lincoln Park Shops has only been finished a few weeks. Aside from the date listed, the rest of the sign accurately captures what we see there today:
Pretty much a strip mall. My first reaction when I saw this was bewilderment and annoyance at how the community could allow this. I would hardly marvel at whether the City’s Department of Metropolitan Development would allow it, because it typically approves any project regardless of its negative impact on urban character. But wouldn’t at least someone in the area want to see something better go up at this intersection, especially considering that it’s just a few blocks from the dapper Douglas Point Lofts? For that matter, wouldn’t the developer want to maximize the property’s potential IRR through higher density as well as remain competitive to the superior retail offerings in the neighborhood?
The simple story here should surprise no one: Teagen Development, Inc. stumbled into the dreadful timing of a faltering market cycle and could not get financing for a project with the ambition (and expense) of a four-story, 26-unit condo development, after the demand for condos—and home sales overall—plunged. So he downgraded. The result, however, isn’t the garden variety, suburban strip mall, despite the abundant parking along both
No, what we see here would not pass muster in the suburbs, at least by today’s standards. The roof and (I’m pretty certain) the siding are both made of corrugated tin.
The fenestration on the front, particularly the recessed portion, isn’t open or contiguous enough to appeal to many retailers.
And the rear of the building doesn’t allow vehicular access, inhibiting good opportunities for the unloading of merchandise.
This is more akin to the type of strip mall one might see in a rural or unincorporated area, where both the lack of regulation and a less discriminating customer base would foster far more lenient design standards. Suburban strip malls are so abundant these days that they have adopt a fresh, reasonably tony design to attract tenants. Will the repurposed Lincoln Park Shops achieve as much? It already has secured a yoga studio—no doubt the perfect urban tenant that demands considerable GLA without a need for window frontage or merchandise.
I must now put an end to the criticism and supply some historical context that explains why this might have been a very shrewd decision on the part of the developer. Thankfully, this jerry-built storefront is not new or original construction. It’s an old building that previously hosted the Tim and Avi’s salvage store, and though I have no photos of its previous appearance, a pretty good representation exists on Google Street View. The developer reclad the structure, upgraded the piping, added the windows, and poured the asphalt lot to the east and north sides. Ultimately the changes to the existing structure were modest; it probably only required a basic renovation permit, but it certainly didn’t need to be vetted for complying with urban character—in terms of massing, the structure remains the same as before. Though it was never what he envisioned for the site, one has to respect the fact that he had carrying costs, and the longer he let the building sit unoccupied, the more it could deteriorate. Some critics may charge that he could have reinvented the project as apartments, but most condo developers have no intention of being property managers. Banks may have been just as hesitant to finance an apartment in a location still perceived as risky. The developer might also have been able to renovate the old warehouse with personal equity or a significantly lower loan-to-value ratio, since he was able to forego demolition costs, among others.
Instead of new construction, the neighborhood gets urban adaptive re-use, a compromise resulting from the relentlessly sour economic circumstances. The fact that the developer chose lightweight and relatively low-cost materials for his renovation of the old warehouse suggests that the current manifestation is not a permanent one; even the website suggests that
Were the decisions that led to the demotion of
Local blogger Dig-B reported last year that this site, too, once held promise as a condo conversion but has since fallen off the map completely. The intersection may see its day in the sun in just a few years. Even if the prolonged depression has significantly curbed the public’s appetite for condos, it shows no sign of stifling the appeal of urban living; most apartment developments in downtown Indy are continuing progress, and a few new ones have begun in recent months.
Investigating the full narrative arc behind the underwhelming