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The Ready Electric property is the last large undeveloped parcel in Clifton. (Click to see full size.)

The Clifton neighborhood, with its strong restaurant scene and wide variety of retail, is the urban Louisville neighborhood where everyone seems to want to live these days.

Which is why an Indianapolis multi-unit residential developer is considering a 100-plus unit complex for the former Ready Electric property, 2030 Frankfort Ave. at Bellaire Avenue.

The parcel is the last large undeveloped ground in Clifton.

Last night, Indianapolis-based Milhaus Ventures executives and Louisville zoning attorney Glenn Price, with Frost Brown Todd, tested the waters at an hour-long neighborhood meeting.

The consensus from residents was: We want you to replace the vacant Ready Electric, but we want an unobtrusive residential development with retail, one that fits into the character of Clifton.

Price, along with Greg Martin, vice president of development for Milhaus, showed the 50 or so people who met at The Clifton Center an outline of how the proposed four-story, 102-unit apartment complex would be oriented on the 1.6-acre property.

Martin said projected rents would range from $800 per month for a studio apartment to $1,400 for two-bedroom units. Target demographics include young singles, newly married couples, empty nesters and students, he said: “We expect to have very few families.”

In an interview after the session, he declined to give an estimated value for the project, saying Milhaus Ventures only has a contract on the land and is in the initial stages of due diligence. The property, which includes 2008-2032 Frankfort, is for sale for $1.35 million.

If a deal is struck, Milhaus executives told the crowd, construction could start in August or September, with the development completed in 2015.

Neighbors’ main concerns were parking and the impact a large development would have on the already densely populated area.

One attendee was frank: “Our neighborhood can’t handle 100 units. That’s way, way too much. It’s far fetched to think our neighborhood could hold a development that big.”

Others were more amenable. “I’m delighted someone is going to replace that eyesore,” said businesswoman Judy Champion.

“I know you have to make a profit. But if the density could be scaled back, I’d welcome it,” added Champion, who owns 20th Century Furnishings at 2023 Frankfort Ave.

A number of people at the meeting referred to the existing Clifton Lofts as a project that had soured them on developers’ promises. Residents take much of the street parking in front of businesses, and developers failed to follow through on getting a turn signal at the side street, according to residents.

One attendee called Clifton Lofts “a tipping point … something that looks like it was dropped from space” into the neighborhood. Residents asked Milhaus executives for a plan that reflects the historic character of the neighborhood, which has a number of 19th century homes and buildings.

Martin said the point of yesterday’s meeting was to survey neighbors, then try to “align everyone’s interests” to refine the apartment design.

Milhaus Ventures builds mostly in the Indianapolis area, with 17 projects completed since 1999, according to the developer’s website. The firm also has projects in other states including Florida and Oklahoma.

Most of the Indy projects are contemporary apartments in or around downtown, or in Carmel, about 4 miles north of the downtown Indianapolis.

The integrated firm – owner, developer, construction contractor, and property manager – tends to operate on a far larger scale than most comparable Louisville firms.

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Rendering of the Artistry development Milhaus is working on in downtown Indianapolis

Last year, Milhaus finished the first stage of its Artistry development in downtown Indianapolis, then announced a $32 million expansion of the urban apartment complex for a total of 500 apartments. The firm is seeking LEED certification for the buildings.

From the website:

Located in Downtown Indianapolis, Artistry is transforming an existing two-story structure into a five-story icon of mixed-use development. This first phase of a 6-acre master plan will include 258 apartment units and 68,000 sf of commercial space. Parking will be provided within the building and in the existing parking garage across Market Street to the north.

In Louisville, the proposed Clifton complex will have to negotiate zoning and parking issues including:

• Approval: The Clifton Architectural Review Committee (ARC) must approve based on the Clifton Historic Preservation District guidelines.

• Access: The property is land-locked; ingress/egress for the property is Frankfort Avenue. There is no back alley because of the CSX railroad.

• Parking: A minimum of 1.5 parking spaces will be required per apartment unit.

• Zoning: The site is zoned C-2 for commercial – not residential – use. The site is within a Traditional Marketplace Corridor in the county land use plan and within the Clifton Historic Preservation District.

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Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

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