On Oct. 3, the Lawrence Common Council unanimously approved plans for a $70 million, five-story mixed-use development building at Fort Harrison. Construction project is slated to begin mid-to-late 2023. Keystone Group representatives said similar projects typically take approximately 14 months to complete, but because of construction delays and material shortages, the project might take longer.
The developer, Indianapolis-based Keystone Group, plans for the development to have 248 luxury apartments with amenities and 25,000 square feet of retail, restaurant or office space, according to City of Lawrence officials. It will be at the corner of 56th Street between Lawrence Village Parkway and Melner Drive. Although the project doesn’t have a name, representatives from the Keystone Group said the naming and design process are in the works and they’re hoping to come up with a name that will accurately reflect and represent Fort Benjamin Harrison and Lawrence.
The project will be supported by tax increment financing, or funding generated from the property taxes paid by the project. Per the public approvals, 90 percent of taxes generated by the project will be used to support the tax increment financing, with the remaining 10 percent of taxes generated will be kept by the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority. City officials said the project is self-supporting and that taxes on city residents will not be increased.
“The bottom line is it’s on the Keystone Group to make this work, not the taxpayers,” said Jeff Vest, president of the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority.
Keystone Group is taking on all of the cost for the project and saved on the land purchase by buying it from the Fort Harrison Reuse Authority for $10.
Cori Korn, chief of staff for the City of Lawrence, said the project will help grow the Fort Ben and downtown area of Lawrence.
“(This project is) going to add value to the developing Fort Ben area because it will bring restaurants, it will bring additional retail and I think that was the growth in Lawrence that’s needed in addition to the housing that will be added with the apartment development,” Korn said. “
When the Keystone Group was looking to move to Lawrence, company representatives said they saw the city’s potential, especially in regard to how much it has grown in the last few years.
“We just had conversations about Lawrence and realized the opportunity and need there for (a mixed-used development), and so I think that was really the catalyst of how we could add what we do to just enhance this community,” said Jennifer Pavlik, senior vice president and chief of staff for Keystone Group.
Kelly Mulder, vice president of development at Keystone Group, said the project would enhance the accessibility of residents because of its proximity to downtown areas such as Fort Harrison State Park.
“I think that we also saw in that immediate Fort Ben area the development they already had going and underway, so being able to walk to places and that little zone certainly had that aspect,” Mulder said. “You can leave your apartment and walk to a restaurant or retailers or parks, so that was really important. And that’s something that we’d like to be a part of that fabric and continuing to build upon that growth.”
Vest, a lifelong Lawrence resident, embraces the project.
“(Projects like this) are types of things that 50 years ago the City of Lawrence never envisioned,” Vest said. “(Lawrence) was a bedroom community that people drove through to go to other various places. The Keystone Group’s project will be the most ambitious private undertaking that the City of Lawrence has ever seen.
“The goal for this project is what the FHRA envisioned when the board was created in 1995 and will anchor the final portions of the former military base remaining to be developed.”
Pavlik agreed, saying the project will enhance Fort Ben.
“We’re really excited to be (in Lawrence),” Pavlik said. “We do transformational neighborhoods and mixed-use projects, and to bring what we do best to the City of Lawrence and the part of Fort Ben I think is really going to complete the vision of this quarter. We just couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.”
The Naming Process
The Keystone Group has built similar mixed-use development buildings across Indianapolis. In 2017, it opene The Olivia on Main, named after one of Keystone Group owner Ersal Ozdemir’s daughters, in Carmel. Other projects by Ozdemir are named after his other children with Sophia Square in Carmel and Alexander at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
Now, Keystone Group is trying to find a name that fits the vibe of the Fort Ben area.
“(Keystone Group) has been doing a lot of research,” said Jennifer Pavlik, senior vice president and chief of staff at Keystone Group. “We’ve been meeting with the Historical Society, we’ve been talking to the For Harrison Ruse Authority, the (Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources) and others because we really want to make or find a name that really connects and really mean something to this neighborhood.”