One of the last buildings to be repurposed on the former Fort Benjamin Harrison campus in Lawrence is ready for tenants following an extensive renovation led by OnPoint Fort Ben LLC.
OnPoint is associated with Fishers-based developer Meyer Najem.
One of the final pieces of the development project was a five-year tax abatement, approved by the Lawrence Common Council Oct. 18 following a lengthy discussion and two votes.
The abatement was a sticking point for some councilmembers. Council President Tyrrell Giles questioned developers and Fort Harrison Reuse Authority representatives about how the abatement would benefit the average citizen of Lawrence.
FHRA President Jeff Vest said the tenants going into the building are established businesses in Lawrence that want to stay and add more employees. He added that the approximately $85,000 abatement is the total incentive over five years.
Meyer Najem Vice President of Development Dan Conners gave a presentation about the building project. He said the PX building is about 125 years old and was left vacant for about 20 years following the base closure in the 1990s.
Conners said the building was in rough shape when OnPoint took on the project more than two years ago.
“Going back to July of 2021, we’ve invested about two and a half million dollars into structural improvements,” he said. “These are things like, the roof was collapsing, and we’ve got new windows. We’ve got a lot of interior structural work … there were life-safety issues that would have to be addressed before anyone could ultimately occupy the building.”
Conners said that $2.5 million got the building to “shell” condition. Another estimated $1 million from Meyer Najem and the tenants will customize the interior to fit the tenants’ needs. He said the tax abatement will go toward reducing rent for those tenants.
During the council’s first vote on the tax abatement, Giles and Councilmember Rick Wells voted no. With some members absent, the vote was 4-2. A minimum of five votes is required for a motion to pass.
The council agreed to vote again, and Giles voted in favor of the abatement during the second round. He said he would like to see evidence of the benefits to Lawrence in future meetings.
“That was a change of my vote because I believe in business,” he said. “I don’t believe in abatements, and I pray that this will not cause a frenzy.”
According to documents included in the council meeting packet, renovations to the building included a new roof support system and roof, a new elevator, ADA accessibility improvements, all new doors and windows, structural improvements, a new HVAC system, new electrical service and a new parking lot.