Thursday, March 12, 2009

Under-construction apartments burn in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS – Fire gutted a luxury apartment complex under construction a few blocks from the Statehouse early Thursday, with bright flames consuming part of the six-story complex and gray smoke billowing across the downtown skyline.

No injuries were reported.

The $28 million Cosmopolitan on the Canal complex was considered a total loss, Fire Department spokeswoman Rita Reith said. The cause of the fire, which broke out around 3:30 a.m., was not determined.

Jerry Collins, president of the developer, Flaherty & Collins Properties, said the complex was fully insured and he plans to rebuild.

The three interconnected buildings sat beside a pedestrian walkway-lined canal near several other residential and office buildings. Terri Dusenbery and her husband, who live nearby, briefly fled their condo out of fear the fire might spread.

"Our bedroom was bright orange and I thought, `What is going on?'" she said. "So I got up and looked out, and the fire was so intense our window was hot."

The project included 218 apartments, a parking garage, a canal-side cafe, a fitness center and 20,000 square feet of retail space, and the company had hoped to begin renting units in May.

About 125 firefighters brought the fire under control, said Reith. A portion of the structure collapsed and firefighters were still working on the smoldering structure hours later.

Mayor Greg Ballard said firefighters kept the flames from spreading to adjacent buildings. "It's a remarkable job how they got in there to do this," he said.

The upper floor of the nearby Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana headquarters sustained some damage, Reith said. The building is a 1879 Italianate home that the organization restored and expanded in a $2.1 million project, according to the group's Web site.