As vacant land in Carmel becomes scarcer, city leaders and developers are eyeing office parks and their expansive parking lots as prime spots for redevelopment.
Parkwood Crossing, which includes eight office buildings on approximately 50 acres southeast of I-465 and U.S. 31, could be one of the first to be transformed. Philadelphia-based Rubenstein Partners, which acts as the fund manager for a real estate fund that owns Parkwood Crossing, has been working with the Carmel Redevelopment Commission and other partners on a plan to create an urban village along Carmel’s southern border.
Preliminary plans call for a mixed-use town center that straddles College Avenue. Designed by city planner Jeff Speck, whose work in Carmel includes the Monon Greenway through Midtown and the future Monon Square, it would include office, housing and retail elements, parking garages and recreational and entertainment opportunities at an amphitheater, green space and pickleball courts. Many of the existing buildings would remain, but they would be surrounded by new construction rather than parking lots.
“I love the master plan that Jeff Speck put together. It’s a really nice introduction, in terms of a gateway to the city of Carmel,” CRC Director Henry Mestetsky said. “Having this project at 96th (Street) and College (Avenue) shows the continuing investment happening in Home Place and around the Home Place area.”
The city annexed Home Place in 2018 and plans to begin reconstruction of College Avenue, the area’s prime north-south roadway, as a boulevard with roundabout intersections this year. The dialogue between the CRC and Rubenstein Partners about redeveloping Parkwood Crossing began after the city alerted Rubenstein Partners about the upcoming road work.
According to Brian Simel, Rubenstein Partners vice president, the company was already looking to reinvest in its office properties to better match evolving needs of the workforce.
“We are trying to stay ahead of that curve,” he said. “One of the ways we’re doing that is by looking across our portfolio for opportunities where you can densify through mixed-use, particularly in the suburbs. We’ve found a mix of uses tends to add some fresh energy as opposed to a traditional 9 to 5 environment.”
Parkwood Crossing seemed a perfect fit for redevelopment, Simel said, as Carmel had already seen success with mixed-use projects elsewhere, such as in the Midtown area along the Monon Greenway.
“We see a lot of different opportunities across our portfolio, but Carmel jumped toward the top of that list,” Simel said. “We see all the momentum downtown, and none of that happened by accident. It happened because of strong pro-growth leadership in the city. That’s one of the main things that attracted us to Parkwood Crossing to begin with.”
Speck said he is excited to be part of building on the success of previous transformation projects in Carmel.
“(Parkwood Crossing) is one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “The idea of turning a purely car-centric office park into a walkable town center is something that many communities need, but few have accomplished. Where better than Carmel to show how it can be done?”
Rubenstein Partners does not have a projected timeline for upgrades to Parkwood Crossing, as its plans are preliminary and it is seeking partners with residential, hospitality and retail expertise to help make them a reality. Mestetsky said he expects the city would support the project by issuing bonds, which would need approval from the city council.
‘Not shy about investing’
Soon after acquiring Parkwood Crossing in 2016, Rubenstein Partners began updating the campus and added an $8 million, 14,000-square-foot amenity center with a fitness center, gourmet cafe, tenant lounge and wrap-around deck.
The company has also invested in new amenities at Lakefront at Keystone, an office park east of Keystone Avenue and south of 96th Street acquired by Rubenstein Partners in 2017. Upgrades included an indoor amenity center, an entertainment venue housed in a floating barge on the park’s 38-acre lake, a waterfront walkway and lakeside outdoor retreat area.
“We rarely buy anything without a clear vision of how our ownership and investment will translate into a better experience for current and future tenants,” Rubenstein Partners Vice President Brian Simel said. “What we’re talking about at Parkwood would be a logical extension of everything we’ve done to date.”
Learn more at RubensteinPartners.com.