Troubled Keystone North Apartments to get $33 million remake

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- A troubled apartment complex in the Meadows area near East 38th Street and Keystone Avenue will soon get a remake.

IMPD’s Beat 25 at Keystone North Apartments ranks high on the department’s Social Disorder Index. Last week, a fire destroyed one apartment. In another, a mother was murdered and a father wounded in front of their children.

There’s one way in and one way out as off-duty sheriff’s deputies patrol the 328-unit complex with at least 40 vacant apartments.

Tiffany Reaves has lived there 30 days, has another 11 months to go on her lease, and wishes she didn’t.

“Actually, this was my last choice,” said the young mother, seated in a bus stop out front with her toddler son waiting for a ride. “I think it could use a lot of cleaning up. Right now it does have some roaches and mice so fixing up the community and everything will make it a lot easier for the kids and me.”

Maybe by the end of the summer life for Reaves and her children at Keystone North will begin to get better as Ohio-based Millennia, a company specializing in buying and turning around distressed properties heavily reliant on federal housing vouchers, intends to purchase the site for $14.9 million and then spend another $17.8 million fixing the place up.

Along with exterior repairs and renovations, each unit will be remodeled with new bathrooms and kitchens, plus appliances and major upgrades to mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems at a cost of $54,000 per apartment.

“If they’re able to fix it up this would be my first choice to live out here because it's close to my job. It's actually within walking distance. It would do a lot of good if they could fix it up,” said Reaves. “If your environment is more cleaner and more safer you want to make it more better and you want to keep it together.”

Neighborhood development specialists have seen other promises go unfulfilled at Keystone North, formerly known as the notorious Phoenix Apartments, for decades, but are hopeful Millennia’s plans succeed.

“For as long as I’ve known it it's been in decline,” said Darrin Orr of United Northeast Community Development Corporation who grew up in the Meadows community along East 38th Street 30 years ago. “Anything you can imagine negative, but you also have a lot of families who desire more and don’t have an environment that facilitates that.”

The dilapidated and crime-ridden Meadows Apartments are long gone, replaced with retail shops. Meadows Drive is now home to a pair of charter schools along with county health facilities while the former Timber Ridge Apartments site across the street from Keystone North remains barren and garbage strewn.

“It is at the rear of our development and it is the last element of blight in the area for the Avondale Meadows community,” said Orr. “A responsible landlord for the area would definitely become part of the community and would be visible. They would make sure that the repairs or the upkeep is consistent. They would make sure that the programs are available to their tenants so that this becomes a thriving part of the community.”

Millennia Executive Vice President Andrew Bailey said the new owners will call Keystone North Hubbard Gardens and beef up security to include surveillance cameras with a corporate security director located in Indianapolis.

Millennia owns and operates nine sites in Indiana, three in Indianapolis, and caters to residents receiving Section 8 housing vouchers while intending to make space at the newly renovated Keystone North location available to some low income neighbors eligible for tax credits.

Orr is guarded against unbridled optimism while awaiting his first look at the plans and the people who promise to make it happen.

“We’re hoping we can stabilize Keystone North,” he said. “That would entice or invite more investment, more developers will come out from restauranteurs to other business owners because if you don’t have that high volume of police runs, you won’t have the negative stigma that’s attached to a negative neighborhood.

“We would love to have it mixed rate because historically 100 percent subsidized housing developments haven’t fared well and that’s statewide, countrywide, so we would like to see it become mixed income so the residents have a chance to move up.”

Bailey said once the sale is finalized in August, Millennia will begin renovations with displaced residents temporarily moved to other empty apartments while awaiting improvements at their units.