Surely, it’s happened to you, too. You’ll be making your way through some oft-traveled thoroughfare, as you’ve done at least 100 times before, and something grabs your attention and holds it for the first time.  such was the case on a recent trip down College on a particularly bright day. I pulled over to snap a couple quick pictures of these couple of homes on North College, while wondering what the story was with these.

Oftentimes, when researching a double like the structure above, relatives would live in both sides–perhaps siblings; perhaps parents and their newlywed children. Other times, one side was for a family and the other side used as a rental. I often wonder what the city felt like when all of these homes were filled in and filled with (as I imagine, anyway) love.

What a gorgeous couple of homes these are. Here’s hoping, wishing and praying that they are soon loved back to an extraordinary life. They could be absolute gems of the block!



18 responses to “Sunday Prayers: College Ave in the 3000’s”

  1. Jim says:

    Every time I drive down College, I get sadder the farther south I go. These are great examples of what makes me sad. I always hope that someone with more fortitude and money than me will bravely buy one and renovate it, and that others will be encouraged by this action and follow suit.

  2. joe says:

    I like to think back to the day when the streetcar was the main transport, the streetcar stop was the center of the neighborhood. Mothers walking to the store to do their shopping, kids waiting at the streetcar stops for their fathers to come home from work. A much simpler time.

    I got a little of that growing up near 49th and Penn when it still had the corner drugstore, grocery, dry cleaners, barber shop, beauty shop etc…..

  3. basil berchekas jr says:

    Unfortunately, candidates for the City’s obsession for demolitions primarily in Center Township…remember at a “younger age”, going past these houses when they were “prosperously” occupied…in fact, remember most of the “Near North Side” SOUTH of Fall Creek when although it was no longer an “upscale” area (not quite old enough to remember that phase of the Near North Side-translate “Herron Morton”); was at least densely built and occupied moderate to middle income…and the area of College Avenue shown here was basically middle to upper middle and even upper income, especially west towards Meridian, Pennsylvania, and Washington Blvd…

  4. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    I had friends in grade school and high school whose families lived on the northeast and southwest corners of the same intersection as the houses in your photos. The homes were all owner-occupied when we were kids. The double was once owned by a member of the Kassebaum family, who built the brick mixed-use building of the same name at 6325 Guilford Avenue in Broad Ripple Village.
    In 1977, the properties in the photo became part of the campus of Martin University, along with several other properties immediately south of it. In 1987, the school relocated to the Martindale-Brightwood area. However, Martin University still owns all of these properties on College Avenue — twenty-five years after vacating them. Perhaps some pressure could be put on the institution, either to clean up the properties or to sell them to people who will take better care of them.

  5. Tyson Domer says:

    I believe both of these properties are currently listed for sale – $85,000 for both. I recall that one is a 4-plex and the other contains 3 units per the BLC listings.

    By the way, the church just south of the Fairfield & College intersection (previously featured on this blog) between the old Big Fellas restaurant and the funeral home on the east side of College partially collapsed last weekend and was emergently demolished by Denny Excavating.

  6. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Thanks, Tyson. Yes, I noted on 7/8 that it had been demolished. Another one bites the dust.

  7. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    It’s interesting to note that both the property on College Avenue that recently collapsed (which is just south of Fairfield Avenue) and the properties on College Avenue that are the subject of this “Sunday Prayers” article (which are just north of Fairfield Avenue) are owned by church groups that appear from their websites to have some financial resources. Nonetheless, these property owners do not pay property taxes; they do not maintain their properties; and they allow their properties to sit vacant. I would be curious to know who foot the bill for the demolition of the long-abandoned building at 3449 N. College Avenue. If it wasn’t the owner, it should have been.

  8. basil berchekas jr says:

    The one on the right appears to have English Tudor styling, at least to the amateur me…

  9. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Well put, Sharon!

  10. basil berchekas jr says:

    Plus, I’m wondering how far church groups can go regarding not paying ad valorem taxes on property not being actively used for religious reasons, and wouldn’t they also be required to maintain property like other property owners…

  11. Joe says:

    I know that churches are limited to what can be tax free. The facility must be used for a religious purpose. The IRS is pretty strict on that. There are several cases where religious institutions have tried to pass off non religious used facilities including vacation homes for pastors and have gotten shot down.

    The thing to remember, the tax bill for unoccupied houses and buildings in those conditions is rather small. So having them on or off the tax roll in that condition does not make a real difference. What would be nice is for an angel investor in cooperation with the city to step in and start redoing those buildings. They have a great opportunity to become nice areas, they just need a hard kick start.

  12. Tiffany Benedict Berkson says:

    Didn’t realize that, Joe. I understood that churches can even have rental properties to generate income and didn’t have to pay taxes. Wish I knew a tax attorney that could fill me in on the particulars…

  13. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Even though the owner of a property is a church (or other religious organization), if the property is no longer actively used for religious purposes, it doesn’t seem fair that the owner can continue to be eligible for property tax exemptions. I suppose a church’s having rental properties could be rationalized, since the income supports the church’s work in its actual location. However, buildings like the ones being discussed here, which sit vacant for years and are poorly maintained, should not continue to qualify for tax exemptions year after year after year.
    Some of the most derelict looking properties in Indianapolis’ older neighborhoods bear signage indicating they are churches. It would seem that if religious organizations are relieved of paying property taxes, the least they could do is maintain their properties to a reasonable standard. If church-owned buildings aren’t being occupied and aren’t being maintained, they probably shouldn’t receive tax exemptions. I’m sure there are rules about what does and does not qualify; enforcing them is a whole other subject.

  14. Joe says:

    An additional question is how many of these structures that you are talking about are actively used as churches and how many are old storefront type churches that are long gone? This collapsed one is an example. Do we know who the owner is?

  15. Tyson Domer says:

    I do believe that the local PTBOA (Property Tax Board of Appeals) and the IN Board of Tax Review is looking more critically at tax exempt church-owned properties. For example, the Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation (MFCDC) manages 5 rental units (3 buildings) for the Our Redeemer Lutheran Church. Although the church owns the rental properties, they are not automatically tax exempt. In fact, these particular church-owned rental properties would *not* be tax exempt *but for* the fact that MFCDC rents these units to “hard to house” individuals. The church, of course, agrees that renting to “hard to house” individuals helps them to meet their mission. The point is that simply because rental properties are church-owned does not guarantee that they will be property tax exempt. It was actually very difficult for MFCDC to convince the PTBOA that these particular rentals should be granted tax exempt status. I think this is actually a good thing, but it does make it more onerous for active churches that are operating mission-oriented rental properties to put together a feasible operating budget; i.e one that doesn’t need to generate revenue to pay property taxes.


  16. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    I think most people could be persuaded that it’s acceptable for a church’s rental properties to be tax-exempt (whether a church manages its properties itself or has someone else manage them). The rental income obviously helps finance the church’s existence, so the remote properties can be rationalized as being an extension of the church. However, when a church-owned property sits vacant for years, and the structure is not even being maintained to minimum standards, I think the tax-exempt status on that property should be revoked. If the tax-exempt status on a property is allowed to continue when there are no church or church-supporting activities going on within it, that just makes it easier on the church to continue to do nothing about the situation. If a church lost its tax-exempt status on a vacant and/or derelict building, it would be much more motivated to get the property occupied, repaired or sold.

  17. Tyson Domer says:

    I agree that churches should meet minimum standards in order to retain their property tax exemptions. I will go out on a limb and suggest that there is very little political will to go after “problem churches” in socioeconomically distressed neighborhoods, especially predominantly black neighborhoods. I also believe that there is insuff

  18. Tyson Domer says:

    icient capacity to monitor and being enforcement action in all but the most egregious abuses of church-owned property tax exemptions.

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