Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Office Space for Rent

The FHRA has vacancies in our building here at the Fort. It's great office space at 9120 Otis Avenue. . .close to Taylor's Pub and the local CVS. . .across the street from a Panera Bread, IHOP, Arby's, Subway, and Peppers Pub. . .and within walking distance from the Fort Harrison State Park.

There are two spaces available. One is 710 square feet and the other is 1,123 square feet. The FHRA pays for all utilities including water, trash and sewer. Rent is extremely affordable. If you're interested in seeing this space, give us a call at 377-3400.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Indiana National Guard to Build Lawrence Armory

I had the good fortune to meet with Adjutant General Martin Umbarger at the Indiana National Guard headquarters today. My purpose for meeting with him was to discuss their plans to build a new Armory out here at Ft. Benjamin Harrison and to see how this new development will benefit Lawrence.

I think there's no question that the new Lawrence Armory will be a huge benefit to Lawrence Village at the Fort as well.

The design of the new Armory is 95% complete. General Umbarger tells me that the construction bids open in January 2009 with the contract awarded by the end of February '09. They expect to break ground in April '09. It is their intention to do a Facility Dedication by May 2010.

The Lawrence Armory will be a headquarters for 4 units of the 76th Infantry Brigade (currently serving in Iraq.) The facility will house 61 full time soldiers and 397 part time traditional soldiers also called citizen soldiers. The Armory will cost up to $25 million and will be 110,000 square feet. It will be located on the north side 59th Street just within the boundary of Ft. Benjamin Harrison and directly to the east of the new PX & Commissary.

About 60% of the Armory soldiers will come from Indianapolis and nearby donut counties with 40% coming from across the state. Weekend drills will bring additional "strength" to Lawrence. All soldiers will be higher in rank since this is the headquarters for their units.

The Indiana National Guard is the State of Indiana's militia, authorized by the Governor in a time of crisis. The Guard supports the local government's public safety personnel, not leads them. It will be a huge benefit to Lawrence to have this Armory here in the event of necessary mobilization. Further, this Armory brings significant economic benefit as a result of increased expenditures of food, fuel, and other supplies.

And, did I mention that the Lawrence Armory will be yet another entity out here that will benefit from additional restaurants, retail, and whatever else the Village brings? (I think I just did.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Odds and Ends

Know anyone who would like to rent affordable office space in beautiful Fort Benjamin Harrison? The Reuse Authority has 700 square feet of space available on the second floor of Building 28 at 9120 Otis Avenue. Call Doris at 317-377-3400 if interested.

We've had to install a video surveillance system to monitor the gravel area on Wheeler Road. The gravel is the demolished PX & Commissary and is intended to be used for the new roads we plan to install in 2009. Apparently, some folks have been helping themselves to this gravel without asking.

The Reuse Authority is in a holding pattern regarding a Letter of Intent received from a local retail developer for prime real estate within the boundaries of the Village. More on this to follow...

The City of Lawrence and the Reuse Authority had a second meeting for skater dudes to see the design of the future Lawrence Skate Park. While the kids really liked the design, they had very good suggestions for making it even better. Schneider Corporation is proceeding with bidding this project out and if weather holds out, we hope to see it completed yet this year.

Mayor Ricketts and the Reuse Authority have reopened discussions with the Marion County Libary in the hope that we can work together to bring a library to the Village. Everyone is interested and are trying to determine the best way to be successful in this effort given the current state of the economy.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

There's a new sign in town.

Sitting at the corner of Lee Rd. and 59th Street at the Fort is a sign that says: Land For Sale, Master Plan Community -- Mixed Use, Contact the FHRA at 317-377-3400. It's a cool looking sign and pretty much says it all . . . We've got land to sell around here.

We've already had some callers, some of whom are questioning what we're doing, so I thought I'd share. A master plan for Lawrence Village at the Fort was created and approved by the FHRA, the City of Indianapolis, and the City of Indianapolis in 2006. The outcome of that is what's called a PUD or Planned Urban Development. This is a legal document that spells out what we can and can't do in the Village. The nice thing about this document is that we can be assured that all buildings will be around a common theme, landscaping will be awesome, and streets will incorporate bike lanes, wide sidewalks, and trees.

The even nicer thing about this plan is that it is a result of feedback from the community. It's basically what YOU want here at the Fort.

Lawrence Village at the Fort is intended to be a dense, walkable village atmosphere where people live, work, and play. Embedded within this 95 acre property, which is bordered by 59th St., Lee Rd., 56th St., and Otis, we'll have "pocket parks," which are small places to sit and read, throw a frisbee, or listen to a concert. We'd also like to incorporate public art, which is what the Village Art Committee is working on. (The committee meets again today at 4:00, by the way.)

The FHRA will have construction documents ready for bid by the end of this year, and we hope to break ground on the first phase of infrastructure in March of 2009. This phase will bring a new Wheeler Road, Otis Road, Merrit Rd. and Hawkins Rd.; one retention pond and one detention pond, buried utilities, tree-lined streets, and 6 foot sidewalks. Along with this development, we're working hard to attract businesses, residential, and retail. Which brings me to that Land for Sale sign.

We own approximately 50 acres of property that is for sale to developers and investors interested in making Lawrence Village at the Fort happen . . . soon. We're already talking to several people and receiving a lot of interest. (In fact, we're talking to one developer and have received a letter of intent to buy a parcel.)

The community got the ball rolling with their interest and feedback in creating a new town center. The FHRA is taking it from here toward the end goal of developing a great place for the community, businesses, and visitors to live, work, and play.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Skate Park & Stuff

We are having a meeting for all "skater dudes" and others interested in seeing the preliminary design of the new Lawrence Skate Park. This meeting is on Saturday, October 4 at 10:00 a.m. at the Lawrence Government Center (southeast corner of 59th St. and Post Rd.) The City and the FHRA hope the Skate Park is done by year end, but a lot depends on the temperature as it relates to pouring concrete.

The City of Lawrence DPW has approved the FHRA drainage plan for the future Lawrence Village at the Fort. Now, we're good to go with creating construction documents for the first phase of infrastructure which will involve a new Wheeler Rd., Otis Ave., and Hawkins Rd. We'll do sideswalks, landscaping and all underground utilities as part of this work, which is scheduled to begin in March 2009. This project should go out to bid following permitting by the end of the year or around the first of January 2009.

We've been meeting with several developers and people interested in learning more about Lawrence Village at the Fort and getting a lot of interest. At the time of this writing, we have at least 3 developers who are interested in buying some of the 50 acres we have yet to sell within the boundaries of the Village. Stay tuned for more news and information . . .

Friday, September 26, 2008

Monarch Beverage Comes to Lawrence

I just attended the groundbreaking ceremony for Monarch Beverage Company and am . . . like everyone else here in Lawrence . . . thrilled. This company has made a commitment to bring in 600 high paying, full benefit jobs to an area that is already redeveloping in conjunction with INDOT's work to develop Pendleton Pike into a beautiful 9 lane road. Monarch is building their 547,000 square foot facility on the 93 acres at where the old drive-in theater sat. [For the history of this theater, see Mayor Paul Ricketts who can give a wonderful history lesson on all things Lawrence.]

The FHRA is very excited about Monarch's investment in our community because it means more opportunity for the success of Lawrence Village at the Fort. Over 600 employees are going to need some place to eat, shop, and visit and this location is within a stone's throw from the Fort. (Of course, you'd have to have a pretty strong arm to do it, but trust me, it's close . . . at least within an easy 2-5 minute drive depending on the train schedule.) Lawrence is a great place to live because of our excellent schools and affordable housing so I can definitely see a growing need for more residential opportunities here at the Village as well.

Thanks to Monarch for selecting Lawrence and to Mayor Ricketts and his team for working diligently to bring them here!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Village Art Committee

We've have one meeting already with a team of extremely talented individuals who share in common the fact that they have strong ties here in the community surrounding Fort Benjamin Harrison. The goal of the committee is to determine the future artistic direction for the Village, whether it's in public art displays, community art festivals, or functional art (park benches, trash receptables, etc.) We've told the committee that the sky's the limit -- I mean, how can we even think about putting a ceiling to artistic endeavor?

Judy Byron, local artist and architectural illustrator will chair the committee, which will meet monthly. Others on the committee include: Ed Watson, Midwest Model Makers; Mark & Shelley Rice, The Studio; Leo Miller, Vision Ventures; Greg Beyerl, Sign Craft; Sandi Groth, Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce; Kevin Foster, Schneider Corporation; John Wolski, Ski Landscape; Randy Royer, Browning Day Mullins & Dierdorf; and Mayor Paul Ricketts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Very Long Process Indeed

In August I attended the Association of Defense Communities (ADC) annual conference in Monterey, California. Four weeks on the job, and you can imagine how over my head it felt to listen to the experts talk about successful projects, planned projects, lessons learned, and more acronyms than what should be legally allowed. (In fact, I’m recommending for next year they do a primer on acronyms before the conference starts.)

The one thing I heard all of these experts say is that redeveloping a military installation is a VERY LONG PROCESS. That made me feel a little better since the question I’m mostly asked is “Why isn’t anything happening out there at the Fort?”

There are 3 answers as I see it now that I've been on the job for ten weeks.

1. Community Leaders Change. Since the FHRA opened its doors in 1996, the Authority has had 6 directors, and the City of Lawrence has had 3 mayors. Not only that, the City Council has changed as has master planners and state government leaders. It’s no wonder that decisions once made became historical footnotes. The good thing is that each one of these directors, mayors, city councillors, and master planners laid the infrastructure for tremendous progress today.

2. The Economy Changes. The last market analysis was prepared in conjunction with the last master plan which was completed in 2006. Since that time, the residential market has significantly changed and gas prices are through the roof. While Indiana is somewhat insulated from the severity of the market down turn on the coasts, we might still wonder if anyone will take a chance on our project at this time. I am encouraged by the positive response of the many people with whom I've talked -- some of whom are very eager to become part of the Village development.

3. Things Take Longer Than Expected. Think about those home construction projects that take you to the hardware store so often that you truly get to know that “Ace is the place of the helpful hardware man.” Magnify those projects by 100 and you’ve got change orders, hidden surprises in Army dirt, questions that cause further research, and an overall reluctance to begin. The things is, the Lawrence Village at the Fort project is no different than the other military installation redevelopment projects across the country. Regardless of size and scope, these projects take time because of the nature of the work itself. All of the work that's been done to date has been necessary and certainly sets the stage for "dirt to be dug."

We’re taking baby steps toward progress. We've finally cleaned up the property by mowing the tall grass and taking care of the neglected areas. We've formed a Village Art Committee of local business owners and residents who have impressive experience in a wide variety of the arts. We've kicked off the Phase I Infrastructure project by beginning construction documents. Our goal is to have a contractor in place and ready for construction in March of 2009. The FHRA is working with the City of Lawrence to build a Lawrence Skate Park, which will be an awesome addition to the City.

I'll have more to report after this Friday's board meeting. It's my intention to keep the community informed of progress as it happens.