Mass Ave project gets go-ahead

This four-story building designed by Axis Architecture + Interiors has been approved to replace the former Dean Johnson building at the corner of Mass Ave and Walnut Street.

Plans for a significantly redesigned four-story building proposed for the corner of Mass Ave and Walnut Street have been approved by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission.

The developers, 646 Mass Ave LLC, returned to the IHPC on June 6 to outline the changes to the plan frowned upon by the commission two months earlier. Changes included:

  • Addition of an underground parking garage.
  • Shift from an all-white appearance to one dominated by gray brick.
  • Fewer balconies, with the remaining ones featuring metal railings.
  • A “separation” at the building’s midpoint.
  • Additional fenestration on the Walnut Street corner.
  • Additional detail, including larger, more regularly spaced windows and balconies, added to the rear façade.

The structure designed by Axis Architecture would replace the 1996 two-story building which for many years housed Dean Johnson Design and the Dean Johnson Gallery, and then Axiomport. The 1996 building was also in the news in 2016 when a plan to relocate the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to the building was torpedoed by what were described as significant structure issues.

At the April IHPC hearing, commissioners had raised many concerns about the original design, including its bright-white façade, its strongly horizontal design, and how it fits in with its Chatham Arch surroundings.

The approved project will feature first-floor commercial space and condominiums on floors two through four.

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