From cars to buildings, developer Turner Woodard finds ‘great joy’ in making old things new
Restoration projects are nothing new to Turner Woodard.
The 73-year-old developer recently turned to Carmel, where he is renovating three aging buildings and giving them new life. But he’s been doing it for decades in his hometown of Indianapolis, where he started refurbishing sports cars as a high school student before buying and refreshing landmarks like the old Stutz Automobile Factory and the famous Canterbury hotel.
From cars to buildings to painting on canvas, Woodard said the transformation process has long intrigued her.
“It brings me, my staff and my team great joy,” Woodard said.
“I never forgot”
Woodard, an Indianapolis native, graduated from Park School, now known as Park Tudor, before heading to college at the University of Denver. He dropped out after two years to attend the Jim Russell Motor Racing School in Southern California, where he met actor Steve McQueen.
“He was preparing to shoot the movie ‘Le Mans’,” Woodard said. “The insurance company required him to go to driving school before insuring the film.”
Woodard raced sports cars and IndyCars professionally, though he didn’t race his hometown’s biggest event: Indianapolis 500. His car restoration work helped fund his races, and it led to his career in real estate, as he began to buy properties and fix them. up too.
He renovated duplexes, apartments and warehouses before turning his attention to the former Stutz automobile factory, which went out of business in the 1930s. Woodard bought the 400,000 square foot building in 1992 and transformed it into a small business incubator before selling it in early 2021.
Seeking to take advantage of tax legislation that allows investors to avoid paying capital gains taxes after selling a property by investing in other real estate, Woodard began looking for his next restoration project. He searched throughout central Indiana before learning that the Rich Furniture building, which he had visited decades ago while shopping for lamps, was for sale in downtown Carmel.
“I never forgot the little building with its beautiful balconies, four-story atrium and glass elevator,” Woodard said.
Woodard purchased the building at 1030 S. Range Line Rd. in 2021 and set to work transforming it into boutique office space. He moved the bar from the Canterbury Hotel, which is now Le Meridien Indianapolis, to the lower level of the building, where he also exhibits artwork and several of his vintage vehicles. His office is on the top floor of what is now known as the Turner James Building.
“Being part of this new community (for me) is very invigorating,” Woodard said. “I still live in a beautiful old house we restored on North Meridian Street (in Indianapolis), and I kept my art studio downtown at the Stutz factory. I have other properties near Mass Ave and Virginia Avenue that maintain my connection and appreciation for Indianapolis, but my car is turning (north) out of my driveway now, and I’m happy about that.
Elsewhere in Carmel
With renovations to the Turner James building nearing completion, Woodard begins work on the transformation of two other recently acquired properties near the Monon Greenway in Carmel: the Keltner Business Plaza and the former Horton Fan Factory.
Woodard said he intended to restore the Keltner Business Plaza at 520 W. Carmel Dr. to its original design to house approximately eight tenants in 3,5000 square foot spaces. He expects it to consist mainly of offices near the front of the building with warehouses at the rear.
Plans for the former 80,000 square foot Horton fan factory building at 201 W. Carmel Dr. are not as clear, although Woodard is considering moving the Woodard Racing team there. Other possibilities include a manufacturing space concept, a last mile distribution center, storage for car collectors, or space for start-ups.
“It can take on a kind of Stutz feel,” he said. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
“Kissed” by city leaders
Woodard’s efforts to revitalize old buildings contrast with many other redevelopment projects in Carmel, including by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, to demolish and rebuild larger. Woodard said he wasn’t sure how his “adaptive reuse” philosophy would be perceived by city leaders, but he said so far they’ve been receptive to his plans.
“I wondered how some of my ideas would be adopted, but (city leaders) absolutely embraced them,” Woodard said. “The mayor and his staff and his team are a phone call away.”
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said city officials have welcomed Woodard’s investment in Carmel and have regular discussions with his team about his work and potential tenants.
“If an existing structure can be safely and efficiently redesigned and retrofitted for new uses, we certainly welcome that,” Brainard said. “The mix of styles and architecture helps give character to our city. Renovating buildings with history and adapting them to new uses, as Turner does, is just as important (as new construction) for a vibrant and livable downtown.
Woodard said he looks at 10 or 20 properties for every building he decides to renovate, and he doesn’t know if he’ll take on any other projects in Carmel.
“I get asked a bit,” he said. “At the moment we have our hands full.”
To learn more, visit TurnerWoodard.com.
“Back on the Track”
It has been several years since Turner Woodard raced cars professionally, but he still enjoys racing behind the wheel.
Woodard competes in several events a year within the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association, which he says “usually refers to cars, not drivers.”
“This is a very dynamic racing series for people like me who have been collecting these cars for years but want to get them back on the track,” he said, adding that his race shop would be in the former Horton fan factory building.
Woodard drives a March 1979 Formula Atlantic and a 1975 Chevron 2-litre sports car in SVRA races.
Despite his experience as a professional driver, Woodard said he is still getting used to maneuvering through all the roundabouts in Carmel.
“I’m still learning them and which way to be,” he said. “Coming from Indianapolis, it took a bit of getting used to, but you can relate to their benefits.”