Indiana State University Newsroom



Resident Advisors: Students creating plan for luxury apartment developer

December 6, 2011

As Indiana State University senior Doug Gehrke interviewed for a management position on a school project, he mentioned his particular interest in a specific project - one that will turn heads in the latest effort to resuscitate an abandoned downtown Terre Haute building.

Gehrke is the leader of a group of ISU students working with Radio City Lofts, a real estate development company that is renovating a downtown Terre Haute structure, originally built in 1910 and known as the TWI building, but for the last several decades has stood abandoned. Radio City Lofts is transforming the site into 16 luxury apartments that will stand just blocks away from Indiana State. Gehrke first learned of the project while interviewing for the leadership position with the Sycamore Business Advisors, an organization created by David Robinson and Art Sherwood, professors in the Scott College of Business.

"When I interviewed, Art had mentioned that there was this real estate development project, and that's something I'm interested in going into after college, so I figured it would be a great chance to get experience in that," said Gehrke, a senior majoring in business administration from Plymouth. "Plus, it seemed like the most interesting of the three projects to me."

The project is part of a senior capstone class offered for business majors to fulfill their graduation requirements. Each semester, the Sycamore Business Advisors work with local businesses and nonprofits on various projects that benefit the organizations while also providing students with business consulting experience similar to what they would do if they were working in a consulting firm.

"It's really interesting because you actually do realize that everything you've been taught in your classes before, you get to put them all together," Gehrke said, "and ... you get to see it in real-world settings."

Jason Widen, manager and co-owner of Radio City Lofts, approached the Sycamore Business Advisors after learning about the organization through various contacts at Indiana State who got him in touch with Sherwood. Soon after, the students were introduced to the project and on their way.

"Working with students was something that I already do independent of ISU," said Widen, who also runs the Leadership exCHANGE (www.globalleaders.info), a study abroad leadership program, "and I'm always eager to get involved with students' educational experiences."

The apartments in the renovated TWI building, will have an expanded feel and will prominently feature the structure's original brick walls, along with hardwood floors. The company's goal is to introduce Terre Haute to high-end luxury downtown apartments.

"This isn't reinventing the wheel, obviously," Widen said. "This is a similar concept that has happened at other kind of towns, but we're very eager and very optimistic to complete it."

The advising group is analyzing Radio City Lofts' business processes, and will create recommendations to improve them. The ISU students also are drafting a long-term plan that would outline the approach Radio City Lofts should take through the next several years.

The students at the end of the semester-long project will inform Widen and his business partners, who also are in real estate development, how they can improve their new endeavor. They have already discussed several items, but the advising group will make a final presentation at the end of the semester, which the group has at times found a bit daunting.

"We're trying to tell this professional what we feel he can do better with his company," said Mike Richmond, a senior marketing major from Alexandria, Ind., who is a member of the group working with Radio City Lofts. "Although he's been very successful doing what he's doing, we're trying to give him advice."

Renovations are already underway on the historic Terre Haute building. The new Radio City Lofts is expected to open in late spring of 2012, just a few months before a newly remodeled federal building located just a few blocks away will open as the new home of the Scott College of Business.

The building continues the surge of development downtown, which in the last half-decade has included the opening of the Hilton Garden Inn-Terre Haute House, Candlewood Suites, the Terre Haute Children's Museum, several restaurants and the new ISU Foundation and Barnes and Noble College Bookstore, all within several blocks.

And while downtown apartments already exist, Widen is confident that his particular style of apartment building that has proven popular in larger cities will catch on in the Wabash Valley.

"I think we're going to be the first at this type of development downtown," Widen said, "and we're really proud of that."

More information about Radio City Lofts can be found at radiocitylofts.com.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Syba-client-meeting-business/i-jwgprd5/0/L/112311sybameeting-8756-L.jpg (ISU/Tony Campbell)
Jason Widen of Radio City Lofts, center, talks with members of Sycamore Business Advisors during a recent meeting. The group of Indiana State University students are helping Radio City Lofts, which is planning to open a building of luxury apartments in downtown Terre Haute.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/TWI/i-kZcL8NW/0/L/IMG0085-L.jpg (Submitted Photo)
The former TWI building in downtown Terre Haute, which will be the new home of Radio City Lofts. A group of Indiana State University students in a group of Sycamore Business Advisors are helping the company.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/TWI/i-gtDkJXP/0/L/IMG0056-L.jpg (Submitted Photo)
The interior of the TWI building, which will be renovated to make way for the luxury apartments created by Radio City Lofts, which expects the building to open in late spring 2012.

Contact: Art Sherwood, associate professor, management, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2094 or Art.Sherwood@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.