Developers gain preliminary city help to build new apartments, hotels downtown

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– From 1870 until last September parishioners worshiped inside the Bethel AME Church at 414 West Vermont Street overlooking the west bank of the downtown canal.

As one of Indianapolis’ oldest African-American churches, Bethel AME has a spot on a national registry of historic places.

It’s also crumbling from within, the roof leaks and the brick facade is buckling.

Where others see obsolete wreckage, Bharat Patel sees opportunity.

“When we build a beautiful modern building on one side and leave the historic structure inside of the core, it’s just going to simply enhance it. It’s going to become eye catching,” said Patel.

Patel’s Sun Companies convinced the church hierarchy to sell him the abandoned building, with its three-story bell tower and adjacent parking lot, so that he might build a wraparound hotel complex with bistros and retail space on the first floor.

“There’s going to be an Extended Stay Homewood Suites on the backside,” said Patel, waving to an empty lot to the rear of the church. “Along the street there on West Street is going to be a Hampton inn and Suite.”

Patel is pledging to gut and rebuild the inside of the church utilizing some of the altar structures for his hotel’s front desk.

“We’re going to have a series of meeting rooms between the church and the new structure and also the second floor of the church is going to serve as a conference facility,” he said. “We will build an L-shaped building behind the church and along West Street with a garage in between and some underground space.”

Patel said many of the proposed 200 hotel rooms will overlook the canal and downtown from his $36 million project with groundbreaking expected in August and opening set for January of 2020.

Closer to the heart of downtown, at the foot of Massachusetts Avenue, developers are going to build the Ardmore Project.

“We’re now going to develop the property into a five-story mixed-use development,” said Craig Von Deylen who along with Grishman Partners convinced the owners of a parking lot at New York and Delaware Streets near the Regions Building to sell. “It’s a $41 million project including just over 305 parking spaces and a subterranean parking garage, just under 20,000 square feet of retail space and then four additional stories of apartments.”

The top floor of the proposed building will feature two-story loft-style units.

Of the 126 apartments, nearly one-third will be set aside for renters of modest incomes.

With downtown Indianapolis’ apartment occupancy rate at 97 percent, Von Deylen is confident the Ardmore’s new units won’t sit empty for long once construction is completed by New Year’s Day of 2020.

“For the most part it’s going to bring in another high quality apartment project and we’re going to focus a little bit more on this project to empty-nesters because we want to attract more empty-nesters to downtown Indianapolis,” he said. “We can’t create the apartments fast enough to satisfy the demand.”

Von Deylen said residents are attracted to downtown due to its walkability and compact size and that he expects to see additional condominium development grow in the near future as mortgages become more attractive.

Both developers sought tax increment financing from the city that would capture some of the additional tax money raised by their improved properties and return those funds to the builder to pay off construction loans.

The council’s Metropolitan Economic Development Committee okayed the TIF portions of the plans. The full city county council must still vote its approval.

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