The winning bidder of the massive estate owned by late Indianapolis businesswoman and philanthropist Christel DeHaan is attempting to rezone the palatial property for an opulent interior design gallery, restaurant and showroom operated by upscale home furnishing company RH.
Attorney Timothy Ochs, a partner at the Indianapolis office of Ice Miller, represents Colorado-based M Development. The development company is partnering with RH, which would operate at the site under a rezoning proposal.
The proposal would open up the property at 4501 N. Michigan Road to the public, Ochs said, adding that new use of the property is intended to be respectful to the area in which the estate is located and the natural setting surrounding 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 amount of the winning bid. He said M Development partnered with RH on a similar project on the Gold Coast of Chicago.
“The seller, which is an entity that Christel DeHaan had set up, actually put the property up for bid,” he explained. “They did an RFP (request for proposal) process, and my clients offer was selected as the winning offer.”
The property is currently under contract. The rezoning request is scheduled to be heard before the Metropolitan Development Commission’s hearing examiner on May 12.
“This is a big change so everybody was very interested in what’s going on,” Ochs said. “It’s the type of property though, in and of itself, that brings interests in that regard.”
RH representatives met with neighborhood groups and community stakeholders on Monday to go over the details the plans.
“I certainly hope that they’ll support this use because we think it’s an ideal use for this property,” Ochs said. “This home was built by Christel DeHaan, and she built it for herself in a manner that only someone of her means could build and quite frankly maintain it.”
Famously wealthy, DeHaan co-founded the Indiana-based timeshare company Resort Condominiums International and funded global education and anti-poverty initiatives.
She died in June 2020.
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 spans more than 150 acres.
DeHaan’s mansion spreads approximately 42,000 square feet. It has 7 bedrooms, 10 full baths and 7 half baths, along with an indoor pool, a spa and outdoor pool, tennis court and billiards room.
The home also features gourmet and catering kitchens, cathedral ceilings and a butler’s pantry. There’s also a private lake as well as outdoor terraces and courtyards.
“This is, frankly, a spectacular setting,” Ochs said. “It’s kicked out even a notch above what you probably see online.”
Not your average showroom
An RH restaurant would be installed inside the existing home on the estate, he said. The rest of the home will be filled with furniture and paintings and similar items from RH. The company will run design consultancies and services that run out of the out of the home.
“The furniture at the house is for display only,” Ochs said. “When someone orders furniture, it’s coming from a distribution facility for RH that’s separate and apart from the home. The home isn’t even used for that.”
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He added that everything in the showroom will be swapped out about twice a year to provide a new experience for visitors.
“The rezoning has been filed. The intent is to make it clear that there are no new improvements being built on to the property at all. There’s just going to be some remodeling inside for the restaurant. No new structures,” he said. “The intent is to keep and maintain all of the existing landscaping and keep all the natural areas natural.”
Long concealed by high walls, under the new ownership the property would be open to the public during business hours.
“People could come there. They’ll be they’ll be security present 24/7. It’ll be open for business and people who come there. It’s just like any other facility in this regard. You come and stroll around the house and look at how it’s been decorated and furnished.”