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Plans for Ft Ben Harrison - 2006

162, 9/30/2006

Plans for Fort Ben Harrison

An Indianapolis firm has been hired to manage the final crucial stages in redeveloping Fort  Benjamin Harrison from a former military base to a bustling village at the heart of Lawrence.

Plans for the former installation at 56th Street and Lee Road include 1,000 more town homes and apartments, plus 100,000 square feet of offices and shops.

The Fort Harrison Reuse Authority said Tuesday 5 September 2006 that Browning Investments has been hired to complete the redevelopment, which began when the base was officially closed in 1995.

Planners envision a civic square and multistory buildings with the "New Urbanism" style in vogue in Carmel and other upscale communities across the country that are redeveloping their downtown districts.

It's a concept that developers said is already beginning to work for the former Fort Harrison on the Northeast side of Marion County.

Harrison by the Park LLC has renovated some of the 100-year-old military buildings into $200,000 condos and is planning construction next year on multi-story town homes with a higher price tag.

"People love living in a historic area with all the amenities," said Patrick Phillips, a managing member of the company.

Fort Harrison was a thriving military base before the closure and the abandoned buildings that followed gave it a negative property value of about $9 million. But the promise of a fresh start came within a year of the closure, when Fort Harrison was conveyed to the community for $6 million so redevelopment could begin.

Since then, about 1,750 of the 2,300 acres of the base have been turned into a state park and golf course. The remaining 550 acres were taken over by the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority.  So far, the authority has sold or redeveloped all but the last 115 acres, land destined to take on a village atmosphere.

In the past 11 years, the reuse agency has sold land for bank branches, pharmacies, a shopping center, restaurants and other businesses, including the Benjamin Harrison YMCA.

The authority says about $250 million has been invested. About 1,100 new jobs have been created -- roughly the same number of jobs lost when the fort was closed.

Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana has a large school building on the former base. There are nearly 1,000 new condos, town homes and apartments already built or created by remodeling old buildings, some of them selling for more than $300,000.

And the reuse agency has demolished and removed nearly 1 million square feet of old military structures.

Ehren T. Bingaman, executive director of the agency, said Tuesday that Browning Investments will help select private developers that will invest millions of dollars over several years in this last, large phase of redevelopment.

Browning will not buy any of the land or become a developer on the former base. The contract is still being completed, but the company will be paid on a fee basis for the services it offers.

"We'll help review the details in the master plan and then schedule a sequence for the projects and help select the developers who will actually implement the plan," said Dennis Dye, executive vice president of Browning.   Browning executives are scheduled to meet today with the Reuse Authority and others involved in the master plan. Then, a schedule and cost estimates will be prepared before developers and builders are asked to offer their proposals for available sites.   "Clearly by 2007, we'll begin to see the first phases and to realize the vision of where we want to go. I'd expect to see real development activities next year," Dye said.  Some concrete steps have already been taken to prepare for the final phases.  The old Hawley military hospital has been demolished to make way for a new commissary building. Brick walls for the massive new structure are going up.

Bingaman explained that the Reuse Authority expects to sell a $12 million bond issue within a month to pay for the new commissary and related expenses.  It's all part of a land swap so the authority can get 13 acres of prime land along 56th Street that will be in the heart of the new village center.  The old commissary and post exchange shop along 56th are still used by active, reserve and retired military members and their families to buy discounted goods.  The Army reportedly will forgive $3 million that the Reuse Authority still owes the federal government in connection with the conveyance of the property to the community in 1995. 

From the Indianapolis Star - 6 September 2006