From concrete to commercial: How one community is breaking a 30-year development drought

“One of the things we’ve realized over the last several years is that we really need to ‘dense up’ this area with more housing. This is 2.5 square miles of concrete – there’s plenty of parking and plenty of retail space, but very little residential space,” said Mary Clark, Executive Director of the International Marketplace Coalition (IMC). “In order to make this more of a mixed-use community, we need to change that balance.”

For more than 30 years, there were virtually no commercial or residential developments in the International Marketplace community of Indianapolis. Now, thanks to a small nonprofit that leads economic development efforts in the area, two new projects are underway to create a combined 42,000 square feet of new commercial space and almost 190 new units of housing.

IMC has a 10% developer stake in two local projects bringing both residential and commercial space to the neighborhood. Both received IFF loans to cover predevelopment expenses.

First, there’s Hanna International Lofts – a mixed-use project that will include 60 units of market-rate housing as well as 27,000 square feet of commercial space. Expected tenants include a Haitian restaurant, Mexican coffee shop, and African American bakery – adding to the community’s national reputation for international flavor.

The second project is an independent living center for seniors called Pyramids at 35 Hundred. It will include 130 units of housing as well as 15,000 square feet of commercial space targeting tenants that primarily serve seniors. Anticipated tenants include a grocer, optometrist, and dentist.

“We’d like to be an affordable alternative to downtown. We’re providing what the community needs, but not pricing out the people who are here,” said Terri Skipper, IMC’s Director of Economic Development. “Downtown is great, but not everybody can afford that lifestyle. We’re really trying to create a village here. Something that’s family-centric, walk-able, bike-able, and just very live-able – a community that’s got all the amenities without the premium pricing.”

This is the first time IMC has taken on the developer role. An out-of-state property owner was referred to IMC by the city, and IMC was ready with ideas.

“He did some research on us and really wanted to be a part of the international community that we’ve been building here,” Clark said. “When we told him there hadn’t been any new commercial development in this area for 30 years, he loved the idea of filling that gap. We talked about IMC doing some of the local legwork, and I thought – ‘Well, if we’re going to do this, I think we should be a 10% partner.’ He loved that idea too, and our partnership was born.”Both projects broke ground in April, and both are expected to open in spring of 2019.

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