For generations of residents on Indianapolis’s near eastside, P.R. Mallory and Company served as a community anchor and one of its biggest employers. Following the company’s departure in 1979, the factory site increasingly became a symbol of despair.
Decades later, neighborhood leaders who saw potential for the site to become a catalyst for revitalization championed a plan to rehabilitate the decaying industrial building for use as a twenty-first century educational facility.
“The community impact of this project is enormous,” says Indiana Landmarks President Marsh Davis. “It’s a heroic transformation richly deserving of our 2021 Cook Cup for Outstanding Restoration.”
General Electric built the factory in 1920-21, but most people associate the complex with P.R. Mallory and Company Inc.—a pioneer in electronics, electro-chemistry, and specialized metallurgy—which operated there from 1929 to 1979.
The complex sat vacant for more than 30 years following the company’s departure, its redevelopment stymied by environmental issues that eventually required demolition of a sawtooth manufacturing building and removal of 4,200 tons of dirt underneath to address a large underground flume.
Seeing an opportunity to spur growth in the neighborhood, leaders from the Englewood Community Development Corporation and John Boner Neighborhood Centers created P.R. Mallory LLC in 2018 and proposed a creative reuse and ambitious restoration plan for the campus: repurposing it to house two public charter schools, Paramount Englewood School of Excellence and Purdue Polytechnic High School.
“When we started the school, we wanted to be someplace where we could be part of a community,” says Scott Bess, head of schools for Purdue Polytechnic High Schools. “The vision for not just the building but the neighborhood really sold us on it.”
Along with the site’s significant restoration and environmental challenges, the $38 million redevelopment required a complex stack of financing sources that took years to come together, with support from the City of Indianapolis, Consortium Capital, Indiana Economic Development Corporation, LISC, MindTrust, Renew Indianapolis, PNC, JP Morgan Chase, and Indiana Landmarks. The team simultaneously nominated the site to the National Register and secured Federal historic tax credits, which require high restoration standards.
In adapting the four-story, 105,000 square-foot Administration Building, restoration architect Schmidt Associates incorporated original features with new elements that served the schools’ educational needs. A 1944 bunker building found new use as the home of Uplift Produce—a hydroponic growing operation—and Purdue Robotics. A smokestack and a guard shack were retained for future use.
“This award recognizes the army of people who played all sorts of important roles at critical points in time,” says James Taylor, John Boner Neighborhood Centers CEO. “This is a tenacious neighborhood that knows how to organize when it needs to organize, and when we get that energy behind something, it’s kind of unstoppable.”