The winning bidder of the sprawling estate owned by late Indianapolis businesswoman and philanthropist Christel DeHaan is trying to rezone the lavish property for an opulent interior design gallery, restaurant and showroom operated by high-end furniture company RH.
Attorney Timothy Ochs, a partner in Ice Miller’s Indianapolis office, represents Colorado-based M Development. The development company is partnering with RH, which would operate on the site as part of a proposed rezoning.
The proposal would open the property at 4501 N. Michigan Road to the public, Ochs said, adding that the new use of the property is intended to be respectful of the area in which the estate is located and the natural setting that surrounds it. The estate is located on the former grounds of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Maur and is next to Butler University and Newfields.
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Ochs declined to disclose the winning bid amount. He said M Development had partnered with RH on a similar project on Chicago’s Gold Coast.
“The seller, which is an entity that Christel DeHaan had created, actually put the property up for sale,” he explained. “They started an RFP (request for proposal) process and my client’s bid was selected as the winning bid.”
The property is currently under contract. The rezoning application is due to be heard before the Metropolitan Development Commission’s Hearing Examiner on May 12.
“It’s a big change, so everyone was very interested in what was going on,” Ochs said. “It’s the type of ownership, in and of itself, that drives interest in this regard.”
HR officials met with neighborhood groups and community stakeholders on Monday to go over details of the plans.
“I certainly hope they support this use because we believe it’s an ideal use for this property,” Ochs said. “This house was built by Christel DeHaan, and she built it for herself in a way that only someone of her means could build and quite frankly maintain.”
Famously wealthy, DeHaan co-founded the Indiana-based timeshare company Resort Condominiums International and has funded global education and poverty relief initiatives.
She passed away in June 2020.
The estate spans 150 acres in Indianapolis
The private estate was put on the market in January and listed on Encore Sotheby’s International Realty for $14 million. The estate covers over 150 acres.
DeHaan’s mansion spans approximately 42,000 square feet. It has 7 bedrooms, 10 full and 7 half baths, as well as an indoor pool, spa and outdoor pool, tennis court and billiard room.
The home also features gourmet and catering kitchens, cathedral ceilings, and a butler’s pantry. There is also a private lake as well as outdoor terraces and courtyards.
“It’s, frankly, a spectacular setting,” Ochs said. “It’s even a cut above what you’re probably seeing online.”
Not your average showroom
An RH restaurant would be set up inside the existing house on the estate, he said. The rest of the house will be filled with furniture, paintings, and similar RH items. The company will lead design consultancy and services that will run outside the home.
“Furniture in the house is for display only,” Ochs said. “When someone orders furniture, it comes from a fulfillment center for HR that’s separate and apart from the house. The house isn’t even used for that.”
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He added that everything in the exhibition hall will be exchanged about twice a year to provide a new experience for visitors.
“The rezoning has been filed. The intent is to clarify that no new improvements are being built on the property. There are just going to be some interior renovations for the restaurant. No new structures,” did he declare. “The intention is to conserve and maintain all existing landscaping and retain all natural natural areas.”
Long concealed by high walls, under new ownership the property would be open to the public during business hours.
“People could come there. They will be there 24/7. It will be open for business and people to come. It’s like any other establishment in that regard. walk around the house and see how it has been decorated and furnished.”