New apartment complex planned for Central State campus

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Mary Milz/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - A new 144-unit apartment complex is planned on the site of the old Central State Hospital along West Washington Street. Carmel-based Pedcor Companies plans to break ground on the $15 million project in July, with the first of seven buildings opening in the spring of 2012.

The complex, to be called "Steeples on Washington," is phase one of a multi-phase development called Central Greens. Mike Higbee of Strategic Capital Partners and Charlie Garcia of Garcia Construction are the developers of Central Greens, having bought the Central State site from the city four years ago.

The new apartments, along with a clubhouse, swimming pool, playground and carports, will go up on eight acres just north of Washington Street. The master plan for Central Greens calls for more housing, commercial/retail space, a recreational area and cultural village down the road.

While Higbee and Garcia hoped to begin development sooner, Higbee said the economic downturn put plans on hold, but they're now ready to start moving forward. So are several people who live nearby.

Bob Miller lives a few blocks away. "It'll be nice to have something over there, nice to do something with it," he said.

Central State served as a facility for the mentally ill for 146 years before closing in 1994. Since then, the many old buildings on the 144 acre-site have sat locked and vacant. The IMPD horse patrol is housed on the grounds, along with the Indiana Medical History Museum.

Larry Keller, a 40-year resident of the area, was excited to hear something was "finally" happening.

"That's going to help the neighborhood a lot," he said. "I think it will bring more attention to the neighborhood by bringing more people over that way," said Keller.

The Rev. Mel Jackson, president of West Side Community Ministries, agreed. Jackson said the economically depressed area has struggled and hasn't seen much new construction in years.

"The fact that this community is looked at for new development is important," he said, noting that new, affordable housing was "welcome news."

Pedcor Companies, which built much of the Carmel Arts District, has built numerous apartment complexes, but Pedcor Vice President of Development Craig Lintner said this was the first one in a more urban setting.

"We're always looking for things that are unique," he said. "And there's such a strong need for affordable housing in the area."

Linter said rent will range from $350 to $650 per month for the one- to three-bedroom units.

Asked about the large investment in an area which hasn't seen much, he said, "We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't think it was the right area."

Jackson said he hopes the new development prompts others to also think about the near west side.

"We need every job, every new stick and business initiative. It's good for the city and especially this community," Jackson said.