Miller School sale moves to negotiation phase with city

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A proposal by Indianapolis developers to convert the old Greencastle Miller School building into senior housing units continues to go to the head of the class.

One of five proposals submitted to the city on renovation of the old school building last used as classrooms in 1980, the Milestone Ventures plan has won approval of both the Board of Works and City Council following action at the September City Council meeting.

The city groups have endorsed Milestone's proposal to convert the 522 E. Anderson St. structure into 30 senior living units --12 one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units for persons age 55 and up.

The units will be neither Section 8-eligible nor low-income, subsidized housing.

Old Miller School at 522 Anderson St. in Greencastle is expected to become senior housing following a real estate transaction being negotiated between Milestone Ventures, Indianapolis, and the City of Greencastle. A 30-unit development proposed by Milestone has been selected by the Board of Works and City Council to proceed to the negotiation stage.

City officials have now been empowered to negotiate a purchase price with Milestone on the building and nearly three-acre parcel of real estate adjacent to Greencastle's Robe-Ann Park. All five original bidders on the project offered in excess of the $40,000 appraisal the city had received on the site.

Chuck Heintzelman, one of the Milestone Ventures principals, said his firm's proposal would not only renovate the old school building but also add a completely new two-story addition to the southeast side of the structure.

It is expected that the existing one-story addition on that side of the building will be razed. It was last utilized when the site housed Area 30 Career Center.

"We were very excited to hear we have been selected," Heintzelman told the Council, adding that his company is under way with the second phase of Milestone Pointe, an apartment project located between Martinsville and South streets on Greencastle's southeast side.

Miller School is "a very solid building on the inside," Heintzelman told the Council, adding that the outside will need tuck-pointing to preserve the brick.

"Inside," the developer said, "there's not really anything overly historic or requiring restoration.

"And by being able to do some selective demolition (i.e., the one-story add-on) and build a new addition, we'll be able to put an elevator where we need it."

That would likely be at the junction of the old building and the new addition.

He also pointed out that "as many units as possible" will face Robe-Ann Park, offering a scenic attraction.

"It's an absolutely beautiful location," Heintzelman said.

The building was last known as Miller Education Center, used as the Greencastle Community Schools Central Office until those facilities were moved to Ridpath Primary School in 2010.

Besides the GCSC administration and maintenance offices, it also once housed the offices for Old National Trail and West Central Indiana Educational Service Center.

It won't be the first school building that Milestone Ventures has turned into senior living units, should negotiations reach fruition. The firm also successfully redeveloped the old Paoli High School in southern Indiana.

Councilor-at-large Phyllis Rokicki attended that school and took time to sing the praises of the Milestone renovation efforts at the recent City Council session.

Her Council peers were equally impressed by the artist's renderings of the Miller School site handed out by Heintzelman.

"It looks nice," Councilman J.T. Smith offered as he seconded Mark Hammer's motion to enter into negotiations with the Indianapolis firm.

"I'm delighted," longtime Greencastle resident and Third Ward Councilor Jinsie Bingham gushed over the drawings.

Hammer agreed.

"I think it's going to be a very good repurposing of that building," he said as the Council vote became unanimous.

Milestone Ventures is planning at least two public input sessions on the project. The first has been announced as set for 6 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Inn at DePauw.

If the project continues to progress toward closure, it will eventually need a special exception from the Greencastle Board of Zoning Appeals.

The developer will also ask for a variance on the number of parking spaces required. Strict application of city ordinance would necessitate 75 spaces.

Milestone is set to provide 50 off-street parking spaces (1.5 per unit plus five additional staff spaces), Heintzelman said.

The developer also will need to make application to secure tax credits for the senior housing project by Nov. 1. The proposal is contingent upon that happening (as it was with all five submissions), so the actual sale and transfer of property aren't expected until 2014.

Heintzelman said architect and engineering plans would follow in 2014 if the project timeline continues as expected.

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