A Gateway Project for the Virginia Avenue Corridor?

It’s been 16 months since it was first reported that the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) was considering a move from their original home at Senate Ave. and Vermont St. to Fletcher Place.  The potential location was an intriguing mixed-use development called Fletcher Place Arts, to be located on a piece of land along Virginia Ave. between Norwood St. and McCarty St.  The developer, Craig Von Deylen of Perkins VonDeylen Architects, proposed 56 1BR apartments with garage parking and 8,700 sq.ft. of commercial space along the Virginia Ave. frontage.  This would place the project directly adjacent to the forthcoming Cultural Trail Southeast Corridor.  A second floor office suite would have been designed specifically for iMOCA to relocate.

A rendering of the proposed development released in June 2009.

For whatever reason, these plans never panned out and the development stalled.  Craig Von Deylen purchased the Murphy Building in Fountain Square in November 2009, and iMOCA instead reopened there in December 2009.  That move was dubbed “Temporary Contemporary” at the time, a nod to the move being a stepping stone to permanent space at Fletcher Place Arts.   Regarding the Murphy Building space,  a piece from December 2009 on the Discover Fountain Square website notes:

The new space is in the Fountain Square neighborhood, just down the street from iMOCA’s future permanent home, a 6,500-square-foot exhibition space on the second floor of a new building at the corner of Virginia Ave. and McCarty Street.  The new building is planned to open in Spring 2011 and is a project of local architect and developer Craig Von Deylen.

The Fletcher Place Arts plans have just resurfaced — now dubbed the iMOCA Arts Building — as the developers are seeking rezoning before the MDC Hearing Examiner tomorrow (10/28/10, 1pm, 2nd Floor Public Assembly Room).  The staff report includes new renderings for the proposed development, and the project has apparently been revamped a bit.   Originally reported by IBJ to be a five story project, it appears to have been trimmed down to four stories, and the design has been given a complete overhaul:

Renderings of the proposed development, looking west (top) and south (bottom).

Elevations for the proposed development at Virginia Ave. between Norwood and McCarty Streets.
Siteplan for the proposed iMOCA Arts Building

The design has clearly changed for the worse.  Whatever dash of design edginess there was in the ’09 rendering has been washed away.  The siteplan may show it to be urban in form, but we now see an architectural design that’s one step away from a suburban hospital.  Where’s the pizazz?  In a letter included with the rezoning report, the developers call this, “A Gateway Project for the Virginia Avenue Corridor.”  If they think so, they missed the boat — this ain’t making much of a statement.

What do you think?

Comments 21

  • It’s extremely bland and not worth noticing. Agreed in that this is a missed opportunity for creating some style.
    I guess it goes back to my argument that developers want to build IN a stylish city, but they’re averse to actually making it that way.

  • Yes, you’re dead on. My first thought was suburban hospital. I generally like PVA’s work, but this is a dud, especially for a contemporary art museum.

  • The renderings remind of the Fall Creek YMCA that was recently demolished to make way for the Avenue development. The lack of windows and vast blank spaces of what appear to be EIFS are truly disappointing when compared to the past design.

    When I think of contemporary art, I think of lots of glass, and arching ceilings. Not that there needs to be a formula, but I don’t look at this and think contemporary at all. I think of something that would be in a new industrial park in the suburbs, or along an open stretch of freeway.

    Take it back to the drawing board folks!! Make us proud to have IMOCA and a nice apartment.

    • “The renderings remind of the Fall Creek YMCA”

      I had the exact same thought! Given that they were able to create the very nice design at first, I’m guessing that this change has more to do with Craig-wearing-the-developer-hat. But even if that is the case, he could still do so much better.

      I still commend Craig on purchasing the Murphy Building and developing on this site; but he is missing an opportunity to make a great statement.

  • There may have been a “sky plane” problem with the earlier design. In the Regional Center there is a limit on building height directly adjacent to the sidewalk; the facade must step back from there. Also the original design had limited views from the apartments.
    I wonder if pulling the upper stories back might also be an attempt to provide skylights for the first-floor galleries.
    My comments above really address only the “massing” and “form” issues. There also seems to be objection to the “color” and “texture”. But again: if skylighting is to be provided for the gallery below, it’s not suitable to have bright primary colors on the upper facades that would impact art shown below. (In this, I’m thinking of the bright blue panels on the Boner Center on East 10th, and the bright colors shown in some of the renderings for the New Caravelle Commons on East 16th.) Also, the RC Design Guidelines point designers to the existing downtown color pallette of brick, stone, aluminum, and glass…well-represented here.
    That said, the current design doesn’t seem to have the usual PVA “zip” (the new development around the corner at College & Fletcher does). I wonder how much accommodation of Fletcher Place is reflected?

  • Good comments Chris. There may be other factors at work, especially interaction with the neighborhood associations.

    I was thinking, if you put this design down in front of people with no name associated and asked what they thought, I think most would say something like “Eh, nothing dazzling but they’re using the whole site and it interfaces with the coming Cultural Trail. B- infill — it’ll work.” In a way, that’s exactly what The Trailside is.

    But when you slap the name “iMOCA” on it and when the developer calls it a “Gateway Project”, I think that’s where people’s expectations change. Suddenly B- infill isn’t cutting it.

  • I agree that the design has definitely taken a turn for the worse. It does look like a suburban hospital/suburban hotel. For the Museum of Contemporary Art to be located there…I would expect a much more groundbreaking design…then again, this is Indianapolis. It seems we are afraid to push the envelop in terms of architecture. It really is disheartening to see more and more of these types of development which lack any sort of identity and uniqueness. Indianapolis seems to be stuck in its little bubble of average architecture…hopefully we can get some fresh new blood eager to push for more innovative design work.

  • if that were the case, they could have did a throw back to classic brick architecture that can be found all around downtown. Stuff that isnt dazzling, but also looks right at home pushed up to a sidewalk and invites people in because it looks like brick buildings that have been constructed for 100 years.

    This does none of that. I fight the urge to create a spoof of it, with a big heat exchanger on top spewing steam because thats the only thing missing from this that would make anyone believe that its NOT a hospital.

  • Yea the design itself is weaker, hopefully with the Di Rimini fiasco currently happening some redesign will be required. Regarding the blank faces … i think you have a real opportunity with these obstacles to shine in a way i think would make downtown far more livable, and that would be to utilize the space for street art displays. i think similar art displays would work ideally well for the convention center wall, certain sides of 3 mass ave. you could add a lot of color, a lot of inspiration, and a much better vibe to the street, by just giving artists a space to do there thing.

  • OK, another reason to laugh out load in Indianapolis!!! When I first saw the renderings, my first reaction was ‘hmmm, another Indy medical complex?’ And then I read all of the replies that confirm yet another bland piece of architecture—THAT WANTS TO HOUSE IMOCA!!!!! A Gateway? Seriously? Is that a one story lining Virginia Avenue, or are the plans rendering me blind? While spending some time in Grand Rapids, MI this past week, I was hit with something pretty harsh. Here’s a Midwest city significantly smaller than Indianapolis, yet all of the new architecture (although nothing great) seems to be not just a bit, but a lot better than the bland, conservative/institutional crap you get here. It’s amazing what people’s agenda here is: Short term $$$$$$$.

    I’m glad most of us are on the same page about this. Unbelievable!

  • Great point, Curt…proposing that Indy should adopt a more ‘NON-DESIGN’ approach to it’s architecture. It would be unpretentious, affordable, uniquely vernacular, and most importantly…INVITING and BEAUTIFUL!

  • Money. The tall part is an L-rectangle, the short part takes the less manageable triangle.

    It’s not a tall building in comparison with the street width either. If IMOCA is supposed to be a serious contemporary museum, than it needs a serious work of architecture. Before or after, this is not. It’s a regular developer infill building, regardless of pizazz.

    Our city is deprived of pieces of architecture that are critically important to the profession. Some people don’t care, but if you want to be a city that is respected for your architecture, than you need to actually respect the discipline.

  • It’s doubtful iMOCA will be involved whatsoever in this project, kids—take it from someone on the inside. What it takes for iMOCA to be “groundbreaking” and “dazzling” (or whatever edgy term you want to assign to a museum of contemporary art in Indy), it take members (yeah, like you that pay to join) and donors. This city has no propensity, unfortunately for all of us, for this—as the last 10 years of it’s struggling existence has proven. Unless someone steps up (not possibly you), we’ll just have to schlep up to the Big House on 38th Street (Max Anderson loves this, BTW). It’s a punch in the throat…trust me. I know.

    • Thanks for the comment anon. I’m fine with an up-front and honest request for donations, but if iMOCA needs money, I doubt that making the critics of this building feel guilty about their criticism will do the trick.

  • All I have to say is look at other contemporary art museums around the country…really paints a telling picture for Indianapolis architecture. The one example I immediately thought of is the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland. They recently released the design of their new museum done by Foreign Office Architects. This is cutting edge architecture that makes a statement that a contemporary art museum should.


    • Anon, it’s obvious IMOCA does not have the financial support. We do understand economics here. What I don’t understand is the poor marketing by this architect/developer about selling this piece as IMOCA’s future home. This project will be built probably, but why house a contemporary museum in such a building…just smells pretentious. If you don’t have the money, THAN ADMIT IT!! All this building suggests is that J. VonDeylan is a developer first. It also suggests that this town is run by uneducated neighborhood association groups that have one agenda MOST of the time: to keep Indianapolis bland, suburban and lifeless. In this instance it’s a shame because this lot is more prime than what most peple would think:
      1. The site sets between the freeway and Virginia Avenue which offers a perfect context to develop a contemporary design. (especially from the highway…it’s good to showcase good architecture to outsiders who even just drive thru our town!)
      2. Architecture could act as a gateway to one of the more thriving districts in Indy at the time
      3. Cultural Trail construction will be complete next year
      4. The need for unique and affordable housing in all of downtown
      5. The exposure and accessibilty to downtown, Fountain Square and Mass Ave.

      When is this town going to quit using ‘lack of budget’ as an excuse for our bad architecture. Creativity is there to do affordable urban/contemporary infill. the creativity needs to help sell this as an option. It’s almost 2011…architects shouldn’t have to work that hard to change the culture. The myth that contemporary architecture has to be expensive is just that.

  • Why does Louisville have better new architecture than Indianapolis?

  • Just to keep things in check, two things should be noted:

    1. iMOCA signed a “letter of intent” in Sept. ’09 to move into this project. However, it’s anybody’s guess how binding that is.


    2. We don’t actually know why the design changed. I would not necessarily blame neighborhood associations. That article linked above also indicates that Deylen had an endorsement from both Holy Rosary and Fletcher Place Neighborhood Associations for the ORIGINAL design.

  • Regardless of why the design was changed, and who was to blame for it or the new one, SURELY something better could be designed that says Modern and Contemporary… assuming IMOCA does not even end up in the building, who really wants to live in a building that looks like a hospital or college dorm? I’m sure the neighborhood (downtown and Fountain Square) would appreciate something more aesthetically pleasing.

    • Let’s just say the RED TAPE is a much larger part of the procesws than actual design. At the end of the day, the 70’s college dorm will cost as much as the contemporary IMOCA gateway. But the outdated dorm just feels good because it’s safe for a certain number of narrow minded people who control things. What a joke.

  • Update on the rezoning case for this project: the Hearing Examiner continued the case to 11/18/10.

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