How this developer is helping Indianapolis reclaim economic prosperity

Thirty city blocks, 12,000 potential jobs, and a blank, urban canvas long for a community revival. Thanks to Ambrose Property Group, lead by President Aasif Bade, that urban resurgence is on its way. The projected $1.4 billion development received its name Friday - Waterside; creating an opportunity for another district to make its mark on this great city. On this episode, we sat down with Bade who spoke about how any commercial real estate company can create success within their own community.

Show Notes:

MATT:

A city skyline cannot exist without a property to build on, a design to construct, or a vision to bring to life. Here in Indy, 30 city blocks of blank canvas space exists on the city’s southwest side, ready to welcome a development that will last for generations to come – adding another dimension to Indy’s skyline. So how can a commercial real estate company most effectively create success? Ambrose Property Group shows us how - Let’s get to the podcast…

||ROI MUSIC PLAYS||

MATT:

Welcome to another episode of the ROI Podcast presented by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, I'm your host Matt Martella alongside Associate Dean Phil Powell. If this is your first time tuning in to the ROI Podcast, we are glad to have you. We put out a weekly episode that helps organizations make better business decisions. For those of you who enjoy our show, it would be such an honor to us if you could head to your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review. And finally, if you would like to get a hold of us, send us an email to ROI-pod, that’s roipod@iupui.edu.

Last year, the Indy Start released an article that names Indianapolis the 2ndmost resurgent city in the country – and that was according to realtor.com. The average home price in Indianapolis is just under $310,000. That’s a 20% increase since 2012. The city has also seen a 10% increase in population.  

PHIL:

And according to our own Kelley Faculty and Economists, Kyle Anderson, he stated in his economic forecast that the Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson economy added almost 25,000 jobs – a 2.3% increase since 2016 with signs of strong growth. According to Kyle, the blend of the low cost of living and the growing number of startups are the major factors why this urban resurgence is number 2 in the country. So as we work to acquire more corporations within our downtown environment, it’s up to the commercial real estate industry to get ahead of this growth because it’s those office spaces and apartment complexes that will support the ever increasing demand.

MATT:

On this episode, we sat down with the President of Ambrose Property Group, Aasif Bade – a Kelley Business School grad and commercial real estate expert who manages an impressive property portfolio that includes the old GM stamping plant on the city’s west side. Aasif shares the three keys for his real estate success.

Aasif Bade: We literally started the business in the height of the recession. We were able to capture some great opportunities in the real estate market at literally the bottom - this building we're sitting in today was purchased in 2011, it's right on the circle in downtown Indianapolis. What differentiates Ambrose from the beginning is the cultural mindset to, number one, focus on our customers, employees, and everyone that's involved with our business, and have a one-to-one people-focused mindset. Number two, we're always conscious of the environment: we operate from a community aspect. Number three, we remember what's happened. Some of the basic economic lessons we learned in the Kelley School of Business [are] not to get ahead of ourselves and remain cautious… every day, every decision we make, we recognize there's ups and downs in the economy, and while we've been successful doing business deals during the downturn, we recognize that it will probably happen all over again in the near future.

PHIL:

 (Aasif’s accomplishments, his presence in Indianapolis, any other thoughts)

MATT:

As commercial real estate leaders, or those looking to get into commercial real estate, the first key to success is, it’s all about timing.

Aasif Bade: We've probably made these mistakes too, the two are buying/selling too early and buying/selling too late. I know that sounds like a simple answer to your complicated question, but ultimately, real estate is all about timing. There's a lot of factors that impact everything, but we've benefited from incredible timing that I by no means had control over. While our firm had a hunch, we didn't know, we just happened to get into the business at the  right time, and I don't know if I would recommend to my 26-year-old self to do it all over again or not, it's worked out okay, but it's all about timing.

PHIL:

And it’s the timing that allowed Ambrose Property Group to purchase the old GM stamping plant.

  • History of the plant

     

    1. Employed 6,500 people during its peak
    2. 120 acres of land – or 30 city blocks
    3. What it means to the city
      1. The GM plant carries deep history with the city of Indianapolis

MATT:

The second key for commercial real estate leaders to success is to respect the city and the history of your property.

Aasif Bade: Indianapolis has had a great run over the last fifty years. Our city has been a model around the country for public, private, philanthropic partnerships, everyone here works very well together. We've had great mayors and governors of both parties, great leaders in the public sector and the philanthropic world all work together, and I think we have a reputation around the country for that. People like to do business here and come here to be in this community. With respect to the GM stamping plant. We try to recognize and appreciate the history of that site. It has been primarily a manufacturing employment center for well over 100 years. That speaks to us because we think about the families and generations of people that have worked on that site - they earned a living and literally there's been generation after generation that's done that. A lot of the neighbors in that neighborhood and adjacent ones [have had] families have worked on that site, and [perhaps going as far back as] great-grandparents who did the same. I learned an acronym a very long time ago from one of my mentors, and I probably use it daily: STEP - See The People/See The Properties. I especially use that one when we are over-analyzing some type of project - there's a lot of times where I say we should just go for a walk to the GM plant. After going through 20 pages of design documents, I'd rather just go touch it, see it, and feel it. We're in real estate, it's a visual business. I heard a saying this morning that downtown is a state of mind, and in a lot of ways, we're in the people business and place business. A lot of that is state of mind and much more subjective than objective. I think seeing the people and properties are important - sometimes drawings on paper or in conference rooms get you so far. I encourage myself and others to get out of the office and explore that state of mind.

PHIL:

  • Aasif’s projected project cost: $1.3 Billion

     

    1. Plans to invest $550-million into site over next 15 years
    2. Plan includes some 2.7 million square-feet of residential, office, commercial, hotel and retail assets
    3. He estimates 12,000 permanent job creations when fully developed
  • See the People/See the Properties – give your reaction
    1. Why it’s important for city
    2. Why it’s important for people
    3. How it can affect your image as a property owner if done wrong

MATT:

Once we understand that it’s all about timing, educate ourselves about our property so we can embrace a deep respect for our property’s history within the city, the third key for commercial real estate success is to involve the community throughout the development process.

Aasif Bade: Our goal is to engage with the community, neighbors, other organizations, the public at large, and public enterprises. We feel a huge weight of responsibility on what will happen there, and we also recognize that just like in the past 100 years, we know may not be around for the next 100 years, and we're just trying to handle it properly for the years that we're directly responsible for it. As you may be able to tell, the GM stamping plant is an enormous project and it's really important. A lot of focus is usually placed on the numbers, the dollars, how big it is, how long the project will last, how many square feet it'll be...the moment for me that crystallizes it and gets me sentimental is number one, having been born and raised in Indianapolis, it's a big point of pride to me to be able to be the owner and developer of that, shaping 30-35 city blocks of downtown Indianapolis… having conversations with folks today who live within eyesight of that property who inherited their home from their parents and also whose family worked at the GM stamping plant. They wanted us to develop it and they encouraged us to continue the pursuit even after 8 years of going after it and not getting it multiple times. They wanted to engage with us and they gave us recommendations of what they thought should go there. That engagement with real people who don't own any part of the development, yet have so much more ownership over it from a state of mind perspective than I ever will, having that relationship and encouragement is what gets me excited as opposed to the physical assets. It goes back to passion. I like to talk to people, to see things develop, have relationships, and have an impact with the community at large. That relationship with those folks, having hired someone on purpose on my staff in this office whose sole job is to engage with the community, report back to the team, and always be in touch with the community, we think that's how the community will continue to get better and how it's gotten to the point it has because of so many people that came before us doing the same thing over the number of decades.

PHIL:

  • Comment on “these people don’t own any part of property, yet have so much more ownership from a state of mind perspective.”

     

    1. It’s importance to tie the community together
    2. Why owners should not ignore the people who have more “state of mind ownership” then they do
    3. However, also understand everyone cannot be made happy – yet we can be respectful

MATT:

So let’s recap… Ambrose Property Group, led by Aasif Bade, not only started a successful commercial real estate enterprise in the midst of a terrible recession, but also acquired a major piece of Indianapolis history through their recent purchase of the old GM Stamping plant on the city’s southwest side. Through Aasif’s real estate journey, he gave us three keys for his company’s success that us as leaders can embrace to better our organizations. The first key, it’s all about timing. Not only was the timing in his favor when he founded Ambrose Property Group, it was also timing that allowed his company to seal the deal with the old GM plant. It may have taken over eight years and multiple offers, but the timing in which he made them paid off. The second key is to understand the history of your property and embrace a deep respect for the people who have more of a “state of mind” ownership of your land. For Aasif, his property gave generations of families the jobs necessary for their success. As he works with developers, he constantly reminds himself, “see the people/see the city,” of that history to better shape the Indianapolis skyline. Finally, the third key is to involve the community inside developmental planning. It’s impossible to make everyone happy, however it’s the people who will work on your sites, live on your sites, and even travel for leisure to your sites. Allowing the community to have input on your development gives them a major share in feeling like they own that property, which in turn gives them a sense of pride that will one day etch your company’s building inside the minds of families for generations to come.

This has been another episode of the ROI Podcast presented by the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. I’m your host Matt Martella, alongside Associate Dean Phil Powell – where we work hard to bring you a weekly podcast that helps organizations make better business decisions. We’ll see you next week.

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