City delays decision on Broad Ripple project

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The Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission delayed consideration on Wednesday of a zoning change for a controversial apartments-and-grocery project in Broad Ripple.

At its Wednesday afternoon meeting, the eight-member Commission was scheduled to hear a request from Browning Investments Inc. to rezone two acres at the northeast corner of College Avenue and the Central Canal to accommodate the project.

However, two of the Commission’s members—Scott Miller and Tim Ping—missed Wednesday’s meeting. Two more members—Diana Hamilton and Bill Selm—indicated they needed to leave early, putting the commission below its threshold for a quorum.

Preferring that the full commission render a decision, attorneys for both Browning and opponents of the project agreed to a continuance for the agenda item after the meeting began at 1 p.m. The next MDC meeting is scheduled for Oct. 16.

Browning's plans call for a 35,000-square-foot grocery—earmarked for a Whole Foods—and 104 apartments on the two-acre site, which currently includes a long-vacant Shell station that faces College Avenue, as well as several low-rise apartment buildings.

The rezoning would allow retail uses on the site. Browning also is requesting a variance of development standards for outdoor seating, some architectural elements, and to build fewer parking spaces than required for a project that size. The firm's plan calls for a four-story garage with 340 spaces.

Opponents of the project have focused on its large scale, relative to the rest of Broad Ripple Village, and that Whole Foods is a national chain.

Among the opponents is Rudy Nehrling, owner of the nearby Good Earth Natural Foods. He said he's not worried about competition from the organic grocery giant. He said his concern is that Broad Ripple is losing its village character.

Broad Ripple is becoming home to more bars and more national-chain businesses, he said. “I've had a lot of people tell me that would be it,” he said of the Whole Foods. “That would be the straw.”


  • Article
    Forgot the link in the earlier post... http://www.ibj.com/article/print?articleId=41281
  • Read
    Samiam: Yes, obviously the project will contribute to the TIF if it is built. The point is that the by seeking a tax abatement instead of TIF funding, Browning circumvents TIF district stakeholders. Projects in TIF districts that are seeking any kind of property-tax funded subsidy should be accountable to those TIF district stakeholders. This is certainly reasonable because tax abatements granted to projects in TIF districts adversely affect the ability of that TIF district to support future projects. Since Browning is seeking a subsidy that affects the vigor of the TIF district, shouldn't they consult with TIF district stakeholders? By seeking abatement they avoid those conversations. While Browning has sought public input on design issues, there has been no formal public discussion or input sought by either Browning or the City on the issues of whether subsidy is appropriate (most believe it is) or, more importantly, what the public gets for the subsidy they provide. Let's start having that conversation. Browning is seeking public subsidy: OK, please share the development pro forma with the public. It's not enough to limit the conversation to "do you want this project or not" because there are a lot of savvy TIF district stakeholders that expect transparency and opportunity for input when public dollars are invested.
  • Explain
    The reason this project feeds the TIF even with a partial abatement is that as of right now this property is not doing anything for the TIF. Browning could just bank the property and zero funds would go into the TIF... which means other projects in the neighborhood wouldn't get done either. Simple logic says that something is better than nothing, which is what is happening now. And will continue to happen if a vocal minority wins this debate. BRVA, Midtown Inc., Councilor Barth. are not standing in the way. It's been vetted by the stakeholders, redesigned based on public input, etc. To say the "public" hasn't had input is simply not accurate.
    • Previous
      Here's the link to the IBJ story with comments from Deron Kintner (Deputy Mayor for Economic Development & Executive Director of the Indianpolis Municipal Bond Bank) and Michael McKillip (Executive Director of Midtown, Inc. which sponsors the Midtown Economic Council) on TIF subsidy. Both Midtown and Councilor Barth are concerned about appropriate TIF investment. Now Browning is asking for abatement instead. Note that when this story was published in May, it was a projected $17M project. Browning has since confirmed that the $25M project cost quoted most recently included more than just (the $17M -$18M -$20M) construction costs. Good food for thought.
    • The
      here is that by asking for tax abatement subsidy instead of TIF subsidy, Browning is skirting the stakeholders and taxpayers that should have a say when it comes to decisions that affect the viability of their TIF district. The ability of the TIF district to support future projects in "underdeveloped areas of the neighborhood" is directly related to property tax revenue. Less revenue = less capacity. Why is Browning asking for abatement instead of TIF? They are afraid of more debate - this time over how much subsidy is appropriate and what it should pay for. They don't want to be scrutinized ad the first TIF-funded project, so they are seeking an easier path to get public subsidy. It's a little bit sneaky. They should welcome the public input and debate. It's a pain, but generally leads to better projects.
    • Please
      Samiam: How does a tax abatement of any kind feed the TIF? It takes away from the TIF district. Partial abatement partially starves the TIF. The question is not whether the project should be subsidized; it probably should due to brownfield, parking and demo needs and desire for high-quality public space along canal. The question is whether or not TIF district stakeholders and taxpayers get to weigh in on the question of what kind of subsidy, how much subsidy, and what do we get for our investment.
      • Brilliant
        Great. Run off a premier developer to the suburbs where residents actually welcome new amenities and quality housing. The result: no funds get generated for the TIF from this property. Why is it so hard to understand that this project will feed the TIF not take money away from it? They are not asking for a full abatement just a partial. If you really want underdeveloped areas of the neighborhood to be helped then you would support this project.
        • dont rezone ripple
          they do not deserve a discount in any way. the tif funds are intended for under developed neighborhoods. broad ripple has 9 grocery stores and plenty of apartments already. dont rezone the land for this!
        • misuse of tif funds
          broad ripple has no shortage of grocery stores or apartments, while the tif funds are intended for underdeveloped neighborhoods. put this thing where its needed or make them pay for it out of their pockets.
        • Clean the soil
          If the ground under the old Shell station is too contaminated to allow people to live directly above it, should we really believe that there wouldn't be adverse health impacts for workers spending 40 or more hours per week on the site? Is there ongoing monitoring done for years to test the air? What about chemicals migrating eastward to pollute the air in the existing and proposed apartments? I would imagine that studies have been done by firms paid by the developer. Just wondering whether this all makes sense. Why not excavate the contamination and remove the actual risk?
        • @J
          J- your point being?
        • Value of
          And how did this become a $25M project? I thought it was $18M when originally proposed, and I haven't seen $7M in design changes. It's all just playing with the numbers to paint a picture of the future (tax revenue, tax savings, TIF revenue, bond capacity, etc.) that will prove to be fantasy. City needs to leave part of the decision on development subsidy to district stakeholders and taxpayers.
        • Property Tax
          "discount on the hefty taxes they will pay into the TIF" = tax abatement. Assuming a $25M project paying 3% property taxes, a 10-year property tax abatement (100% abated in year 1, 90% in year 2, etc.) would net Browning ~$4.1M and starve the TIF district of the same amount of revenue. Why establish a TIF district, then starve it of the very revenue that allows it to function as a development tool?
          • Paul K Ogden
            Again, Paul K Ogden accuses anyone who has a differing view from him of being a paid shill. Schtick is getting old, dude.
          • TIF
            Fact: Browning and the City expect TIF to be part of the project financing. Browning thinks brownfield infill with parking should be subsidized because it costs more to develop. Previous IBJ articles have quoted Derron Kinter mentioning expected TIF investment. The real question is this: How should this project be subsidized? Browning seems to realize that asking for direct TIF subsidy may rankle those who don't think it's necessary to provide subsidy for development in broad ripple, even though the increased prop tax revenue will allow the TIF district to support future projects in needier areas. So is Browning planning to ask for tax abatement instead? This would essentially bypass the Midtown Economic Council, which was organized by stakeholders across the TIF district to scrutinize and make recommendations to the City on TIF investments. Asking for property tax abatement short-circuits both the stakeholder review of potential TIF investment and the future tax revenue that would make future TIF-funded projects possible. If Browning wants subsidy, they should have to work with TIF district stakeholders. Asking for property tax abatement in a TIF district is ridiculous. The TIF district relies on property taxes.
            • Low information voters
              It's clear that almost no one who posts on here has actually heard a presentation from the developer or has the facts. Fact: they are not getting taxpayer dollars to do this project. They are getting a discount on the hefty taxes they will pay into the TIF. Those dollars will help to fund other projects. Without this project others won't happen. Fact: this is primarily a housing project replacing old, dilapidated structures. The reason there is space for a grocery is because the city mandated that retail be included. And also because housing can't be located on top of the old Shell property because of environmental issues. And I could go on about all the other positive attributes, but suffice it to say very few people seem to care about the facts here.
              • PR Machine
                It's laughable how the Browning/Whole Foods PR machine starts posting anonymous comments the minute IBJ puts up a story on the development. Of course, none of them mention the $5 million of our tax dollars that Browning/Whole Foods will be getting to do their development. Of course the commentators don't mention the major variances to the zoning laws that would be required. And of course there is no mention of the major traffic problems in Broad Ripple and how this will make an already congested intersection even worse.
              • Not getting it
                I have not seen any detractor, either editorially or in comments or facebook, even mention practically the *only* reason there is opposition to this plan. The plan uses urban renewal money to fund a development project that would go forward without it. You do not open a grocery store if it is not going to be profitable. You do not have to chum bloody water. The taxpayers are getting ripped off and are tired of business as usual. If you want to keep your head in the sand, at least have the courtesy to acknowledge the real issue and debate *that*.
              • Another wasted day
                As a bit of a clarification, if there were only four commission members left to vote, there would be no vote. The article makes it sound as if everyone agreed to a continuance, as if there was actually an option to have the case heard. There apparently was not. Irrespective of my opinion about the case, I feel sorry for all the people who have taken time off work and traveled downtown just to have their afternoons wasted because five of the nine MDC members couldn't fulfill their duties. It certainly doesn't encourage people to take an active role in their government.
              • Progress is necessary
                Why are people so against progress? The face of the city is changing and has been changing for quite some time now. And honestly, just now having a Whole Foods in one of the most progressive neighborhoods of the city still shows that we're moving slowly behind other cities. Seriously though, a Whole Foods is the last straw? Healthy food is the last straw? A high rise apartment building is the last straw? Broad Ripple can't survive on the bars alone, and believe me that's why it's thriving now. That 'village feel' ship has sailed. Indianapolis is no longer 'India-no-place'. And Broad Ripple is no longer a small village. If this project goes through there will be more to come that will enhance the youthful eclectic nature Broad Ripple eludes. More young urbanites will be attracted to the area and whomever doesn't like it will move out to the suburbs or a small town.
                • Rudy Nehrling
                  So this Rudy Nehrling guy is just now complaining about all the bars and national chains in Broad Ripple? What a joke this guy is. Where was he when Killroys, Brothers, Starbucks, McDonalds, Three Dog Bakery, all the banks, Kroger, Marcos Pizza, Firehouse Subs, etc opened???
                • BR Character
                  We lived near BR for about 10 years; and, while there's a lot to love about it (Art Center, Monon), there's a lot to not like. Early morning walks on BR Ave. on the weekend greeted us with the smell of dried vomit and cigarette butts on the sidewalks and stale beer from the bars. We stopped walking as far south as BR Ave. because of that unique "character".
                • @ Kenny
                  Kenny - who cares?
                • Build it already
                  Would love to see that corner be something other than what it's been. And I have to agree with the other comments here about Broad Ripple losing it's "village" character. It's about as much of a village as Rush Street is in Chicago.
                • It's called progress
                  It's difficult to believe that a competitor to the proposed Whole Foods could be given any credibility as a remonstrator to this project. This is reminiscent of Rick-Rising-Moore, owner of the Aristocrat Restaurant trying to block (for about two years of court drama) Delicia from opening at 52nd & College (across the street from his restaurant)...claiming "traffic" and "parking" issues. Seems to all be working pretty well for Delicia and the neighborhood now that they are finally open--and receiving very positive reviews. Now, here we have a very similar situation--a vacant, ugly building (the old Shell)and a few worn out apartments that a respected local developer is willing to redevelop and invest several million dollars improving the neighborhood, which will result in more tax revenue, more local jobs and a much better looking corner at the entrance to the Village. Seems like progress to me--and it doesn't include any new bars--imagine that! I own property in Broad Ripple Village, and I support the Browning organization in this project. I believe the DMD will do the right thing and approve it.
                  • I'm with Kenny
                    The time to worry about "village character" was before the eighth liquor license was awarded. Don't get me wrong, I like to cocktail, but anyone who thinks 10 bars and a Starbucks constitutes a "village" is delusional.
                  • Good Earth NIMBYs
                    I agree with the comments from Resident.... Just go away already. Whole Foods is no threat to Good Earth anyway. The dreadlocked, tattooed, eyebrow-pierced, Birkenstock-wearing types that shop at Good Earth will continue to shop there, and Whole Foods will cater to an entirely different crowd. This project WILL be approved, so quit your whining!
                  • Move on...
                    “I've had a lot of people tell me that would be it,” he said of the Whole Foods. “That would be the straw.” Seriously? Good. Go away. The people he references are not the people that we want in Broad Ripple.
                    • Bars and chain stores
                      After spending a lot of my childhood and teenage years in Broad Ripple, I quit going to Broad Ripple when most of the bars set in. Haven't much kept up with the area since.

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                    1. On my rental property, before tax caps, I was paying $2,000/yr in property taxes. After the tax caps I'm paying $4,000/yr. How exactly am I "benefiting the most"?

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