by Chris Bavender
Fall is a season of change. For the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation (MFCDC) this fall meant a move in October to the historic Stutz Mansion, 3190 N. Meridian Street.
“Our mission is connecting neighborhood partners to invest resources to help, serve, and rebuild a safe, affordable, and vital community. This move demonstrates a fulfillment of our mission,” said Leigh Riley Evans, MFCDC executive director. “Moving will raise awareness of the organization, introduce us to different stakeholders and funders, strengthen existing relationships, and create new partnerships to help us improve the Mid-North neighborhood’s quality of life.”
The transition to the new space was made possible through a partnership with The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. The museum’s related corporation Sidney Enterprises LLC purchased the mansion in November 2003.
“There was a tenant in the house years ago, and once their lease ended we started looking for another tenant,” said Brian Statz, the museum’s vice president of operations. “It took a while for us to find the right tenant, and we are happy that Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation showed an interest in the property.”
MID-NORTH RESOURCES HUB
Discussions between the museum and MFCDC occurred over several months. “During a strategic planning session, a new vision statement was formed with Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation as a hub for resources within the entire Mid-North area,” Evans said. “Concurrently, there were discussions about preserving and activating the historic mansion between The Children’s Museum, Indiana Historic Landmarks, and Mapleton-Fall Creek. Relocating to a centralized space within our Mid-North area seemed to logically address both.”
Statz said MFCDC’s reputation in the community made it an ideal tenant for the Stutz Mansion. “They are a well-run organization with a history of providing positive contributions to this area,” he said. “Having an organization like Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation located in the Stutz house will provide another positive use at the corner of 32nd and Meridian streets, following the improvements made by St. Richard’s Episcopal School and R + B Architects in the Glossbrenner Mansion.”
Evans said the move doesn’t entail adding any new services or staff. “We will continue to focus on our key competencies of housing—rental and ownership, collaborative placemaking, and community and economic development,” she said. The organization’s 10-year commercial lease on the Stutz Mansion is renewable.
NEW CHILDCARE SERVICE
The move, however, did mean a vacancy at MFCDC’s former location at 130 E. 30th St. The organization listed it for lease or purchase, and Kid City USA, a childcare and early childhood educational provider based in Florida, bought the building. It will be the company’s second Indiana location; the other is in Jasper.
“We evaluated multiple offers and eventually determined that having an additional quality childcare service available was the best service for our neighborhood,” Evans said.
Audrey Bruner, Kid City USA’s CEO, said the decision to open in Indianapolis started with a call from her best friend, whose daughter, Adrienne Healy, is expecting a baby in December. Healy was having trouble finding “quality preschool early education in the area that didn’t have a lengthy waiting list.”
“It became apparent early on that there was a need in the area. And the building jumped out at us. It is just beautiful, with a lot of character. We looked at 20 to 30 buildings and fell in love with that building,” Bruner said. “We knew the build-out costs would not be excessive and so we were able to get in at a price point that makes us beyond competitive in the area and still have quality and character and charm.”
Bruner said another contributing factor was everything The Children’s Museum is doing in the area and all the other development occurring around it.
“It became really validating to us as we did our research and we just kept coming back to the building. It has great bones and it’s on a corner lot. Coming in with our reputation, it felt like a home run,” she said. “The adjacent property has been abandoned and we are hoping to acquire it as well and expand our playground and outdoor education center.”
Mark Dollase, vice president of preservation services with Indiana Landmarks, said a new tenant will mean the “building has a purpose and a responsible user.”
“When buildings fall vacant it not only has a negative impact on that structure but also a ripple effect in the entire neighborhood,” Dollase said. “Historic preservation and reuse of existing buildings is a more sustainable pattern of growth, and with diminishing available materials on our planet, reusing what we have must be made a priority.”
READ MORE: STUTZ HOUSE HISTORY
The East 30th Street building has always served a mixed-use function, Dollase said, including beauty shops and physician offices.
“As we discover that successful neighborhoods are more mixed use than purely residential or commercial, buildings such as this one reflect both a past and future opportunity to blend the two uses,” Dollase said. “In the early 20th century, it was just as convenient to walk to a corner store than to drive to one today. Going forward, whether through social services or other functions that the building may provide, hopefully it will benefit nearby residents.”
Kid City USA hopes to open by the beginning of January (Adrienne Healy is the franchisee) and will be able to accommodate 130 to 140 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. The new center will also mean 15 to 18 jobs with approximately 95 percent teaching positions, while the others will be kitchen, janitorial, and management staff.
As for MFCDC’s new home, the organization currently has a $60,000 matching grant opportunity for renovations of the historic building. “The grant from The Indianapolis Foundation, a Central Indiana Community Foundation affiliate, was approved in May 2017 to support the Stutz revitalization. It can be used to encourage other gifts, and we are still accepting donations to complete the remaining work,” Evans said. “We also received $10,000 from The Efroymson Family Fund for the same project.” A grand opening celebration is planned for December.