6 Oct, 2017

Old Ford plant’s renaissance a hopeful sign for struggling near east side

From the start, it employed 250 workers (a workforce which later doubled in size) and turned out 60 cars a day — mostly Model Ts back then.

TWG plans to redevelop the old Ford Manufacturing Co. assembly plant at 1315 E. Washington St. into a mixed-use residential and retail complex.
TWG plans to redevelop the old Ford Manufacturing Co. assembly plant at 1315 E. Washington St. into a mixed-use residential and retail complex.
But its days as an economic anchor for the near east-side neighborhood are long past. The crumbling brick-and-concrete facade of the four-story, 200,000-square-foot main building — still showing its Ford Motor Company nameplate over the entrance — has been an eyesore for decades.

That could soon change.

TWG, an Indianapolis developer with a track record of revitalizing old buildings, is lining up final details of financing for the redevelopment of the massive building into a modern mixed-use residential and retail complex, which also will serve as its new headquarters.

TWG has secured a $4.65 million loan in the form of a federal Community Development Block Grant and is pursuing tax increment financing worth $3.8 million in developer-backed bonds from the city. It’s also seeking federal and state historic and industrial revitalization tax credits for redevelopment of the vacant building now owned by Indianapolis Public Schools.

The four-story, 200-square-foot Ford Manufacturing Co. plant at 1315 E. Washington St. is slated to be developed into 132 apartments, retail space and the new headquarters for the TWG development company.
The four-story, 200-square-foot Ford Manufacturing Co. plant at 1315 E. Washington St. is slated to be developed into 132 apartments, retail space and the new headquarters for the TWG development company.

“We’re planning to close this month on the purchase,” said Tony Knoble, TWG president. “We’re just working on the final details now.”

Construction could begin by February or March of next year, Knoble said, and the Ford plant’s redevelopment could open as early as the summer or fall of 2019.

The company also is reportedly in negotiations with Ivy Tech Community College to buy a building adjacent to the assembly plant that is currently used for the college’s automotive program.

Here are some highlights of the Ford assembly plant redevelopment:

  • The first floor will include 30,000 square feet for TWG’s new headquarters, 5,500 square feet of street-facing retail space, and 12 apartments. The remaining 120 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments will be located on floors 2-4.
  • Amenities will include a secure indoor parking and bicycle storage, 24-hour fitness center, resident coffee bar and lounge, and a rooftop deck with a barbecue grilling area, bocce court, chaise-lounge seating and a view of the Downtown skyline.
  • The apartment units themselves will include loft ceilings, large factory windows, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances and walk-in closets.
  • Slightly more than half of the 132 apartments will rent for less than the going market rate. For instance, 68 of the 750-square-foot, one-bedroom units will rent for $950 a month (80 percent of the average median income level); 30 one-bedroom units will rent at market rate ($1,100 a month); 31 two-bedroom, 1,150-square-foot units will rent for $1,375 (market rate) and the three three-bedroom units of 1,520 square feet will rent for $1,600 a month (market rate).
City-County Councilman Zach Adamson, who represents District 17 where the plant is located, is excited about the “much overdo and much needed” redevelopment of the old Ford plant. He said there have been huge barriers to redevelopment of East Washington Street, just east of Downtown, partly because the neighborhood is bisected by I-65/I-70.
This interior view of another TWG property at 800 Capitol Ave. is similar to how an apartment at the Ford plant redevelopment will look.
This interior view of another TWG property at 800 Capitol Ave. is similar to how an apartment at the Ford plant redevelopment will look.

“The most important thing is to finally see some development in the Downtown area that can break through the glass wall caused by the interstate,” he said.

He said the affordable-housing component of the redevelopment also should help maintain some of the “cultural and economic diversity of the area.”

The near east-side neighborhood, once home to middle-class families with good-paying manufacturing jobs, has fallen on hard times.

East Washington Street, once a vibrant retail area, is now pockmarked by vacant buildings, fast-foot joints and used-car lots.

The neighborhood of about 17,000 residents has nearly 25 percent unemployment, a poverty rate of 47 percent and one of the highest crime rates in the city. The typical household only makes about $22,000 a year.

A lineup of old Fords inside the old assembly plant, which opened in 1915. Ford assembled cars there, including many Model Ts, through the early 1930s.
A lineup of old Fords inside the old assembly plant, which opened in 1915. Ford assembled cars there, including many Model Ts, through the early 1930s.

And the surrounding neighborhood has seen redevelopment plans vanish into thin air before. Nearby Angie’s List announced a $40 million headquarters expansion in late 2014 that would have included the old Ford plant and created 1,000 new jobs. But the online home-repair ratings provider pulled out of that deal less than six months later, citing the Indiana General Assembly’s passage of the state’s religious-freedom law.

But there are signs of promise, including the neighborhood’s designation as a federal Promise Zone in 2015. The zone, bounded by I-65 on the west, Sherman Drive on the east, 22nd Street on the north and railroad tracks just south of Washington Street on the south, has secured nearly $10 million in grant commitments that have helped create more than 100 jobs.

Emily Mack, director of the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development, called the Ford assembly plant’s rebirth a “truly transformative and exciting redevelopment.”

“It isn’t every day that we see an adaptive reuse project of this size, especially in an area that hasn’t experienced investment in some time,” Mack said. “This structure … will soon serve as a neighborhood anchor and a catalyst for redevelopment east along Washington Street.”

Knoble said he expects strong demand for the apartments, once the project opens.

And he’s excited when he envisions the final product, after the success of some of TWG’s other redevelopment projects around town, such as the Meridian and Penn Street Tower.

“We love what’s happening on the east side. We want to move our offices there and we’re committed to that part of town,” Knoble said.

“We’ve tackled some old historic buildings. Hopefully, this can be a nice centerpiece for our portfolio.”

Original article here.