"Sometime's doing the right thing, ain't doing the right thing!" -Sgt Hondo/Samuel L Jackson, SWAT
I imagine that is how the owner of the Northview Shopping Center located on Indianapolis' far north side on 86th street is feeling these days. The shopping center is a throwback to what I am guessing is 70's construction architecture. As you can see from the photos, it is a structure that is devoid of any head turning character. It is an uninspiring gray brick structure with green accents, it is setback from the street and the tall trees that border the street it lies on, effectively cut it off leaving the structure saying loudly, "I AM HERE! COME IN! Please?"
In an attempt to channel my inner American Dirt, I offer a bit of a precursor to this story. It started last winter (i think, it was before my now 10 week old son was born) when my wife and I were in the Target Shopping Center located on 86th street. The Target shopping center is a moment's drive down the street from the Northview Shopping Center is as you would expect from a suburban big box store, is located waaaaay off the street, and is accompanied by a modern looking strip mall. It is within this strip mall that our story begins to take shape.
Cord Camera is located in this modern strip mall. Cord is a purveyor of camera equipment as well as a store that offers some scrapbooking and other activities. They carry everything you would except to find in a store of this kind. The reason that we entered the store this day, was because Cord had moved here recently from it's prior location at the Northview Shopping Center. My wife and I struck up a conversation with the associate behind the counter and apparently he was a person in a position of decision making power because he relayed a story about how Cord, who had been located for many years in the Northview Shopping Center, wanted to renovate the exterior of the building to try and attract higher foot traffic into it's retail store.
The owner of the shopping center, did not like this idea. According to the associate, they wanted to pull down some of the signage and awning work that adorns the side of the building, and put up some more colorful and what I'd call "head turning" features onto the building. The shopping center owners said no. The associate at Cord told us that the owners of the shopping center wanted to maintain the older feel of the building, and denied any radical alterations to the exterior of the building. So, Cord moved. In doing so, they also managed to lock in a low rent at their new location due in part to the recession hitting at this time and rents being at an all time low. Also, they are now adjacent to a Hallmark store that gets a lot of traffic as well as Target which attracts a shall we say, not as cheap shopper. In business terms, I bet they did a backflip when they locked this deal up.
As you can see from the photos in this blog post taken in mid June 2010, the old store front at the Northview Shopping Center still retains the Cord singage; which I will point out is also generic and devoid of the specific branding that Cord was "allowed" to put on the store front of it's new location. Obviously, no one has taken up residence in the old location. I remain skeptic that they will be able to find someone who carried as big a name as Cord without relinquishing some of their desires on the exterior appearance of the building. Also given that the owners haven't even sent anyone out there to take the old signage down to make their building look like it's open for a new tennant displays an air of laziness to me.
So, as I said in the opening of this post. Even though it is admirable what the shopping center's owners wanted to accomplish, Im sure that they are scratching their head trying to figure out how to fill the hole in their yearly budget and questioning the decision to not allow Cord to modify the building.
In a post over on the skyscraper city forums last week, I made light of the issues that middle class folks such as my family have to overcome to live downtown. It seems that every large city these days is looking for a way to densify their downtown urbanized area. This happens usually two ways. High priced condos are constructed and housing for low income people largely leaving the middle class out of the mix. Seems a bit unfair (but we live in this world) to me.
I inquired, since I am openly ingorant about why there aren't more people trying to lure the middle class downtown. Afterall, we shop. We buy groceries. We pay our taxes. To me, it seems like the demographic that you WANT to attract. And what is not to love? The answers I got made a lot of sense when I asked why this isn't happening. Someone owns a piece of land. Or a couple people own a couple pieces of land. A developer comes in and wants to build something, but it's not exactly easy to get everyone to the table. Nor is it easy to get them to all settle on a price for their property that would make it conducive to being called "an affordable middle class development". Next, if there are old structures on the property oft times it has to be submitted to a historical review. Then you have to get past neighborhood associations. In the end, what you get is a high price tag to develop a parcel of land. It seems that the general want of densification isn't stronger than the accumulation of personal wealth. And rightfully so. Can't say that I would be much different when it came down to selling off (or nearly giving away as it goes) a potentially valuable piece of property. Most of the time, affordable comes in the form of renting.
My wife and I would love to live downtown, but renting isn't something we have reserved ourselves to, and purchasing a condo is just a bit tough. We own a home now. It's nice but is north of downtown. We have a yard which is nice, but I can tell you that we would both love a city view with the benefits of living downtown.
Recently, I was turned on to something that is almost in our price range. That would be a current rehabilitation of an old five story apartment building in downtown Indianapolis. It is called The Shelton and is located in the 800 block of Delaware. Their website pitches a decent looking abode for someone just such as ourselves. I have to thank fellow Indy blogger American Dirt for turning me on to the property. After looking at their website, I decided I should stop by. This past Saturday after taking my Calculus final, I did just that. I will stop short of any more description and let the photos of the building do the talking. I will be watching this place as it rounds into shape.