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$100M 'Bridges' project in Carmel wins approval

June 21, 2011

A proposal for a roughly $100 million mix of retail, office and apartments along Springmill Road south of 116th Street won approval Monday night from the Carmel City Council.

Indianapolis-based Gershman Brown Crowley Inc. plans to build the development in phases, starting with a 250,000-square-foot retail component anchored by a grocery store.

The project, dubbed The Bridges, also calls for several outlots for restaurants, banks, a gas station and a pharmacy; about 300 apartment homes or a senior community; and room for about 500,000 square feet of office space in several buildings.

The Carmel City Council approved the project with a 6-1 vote after the developer agreed to make dozens of concessions, including adding higher berms along the perimeter of the project, reducing the height of the tallest office building to 90 feet, and contributing about $2 million for road improvements in the area.

With zoning approval in hand, Gershman Brown Crowley principal Tom Crowley said the company now plans to target a specialty grocery store such as Whole Foods to anchor the center.

The company intends to develop the entire project, potentially with partners, but does not expect to sell portions to other developers.

The 62-acre project would provide more convenient services to existing office employees on the U.S. 31 corridor, home to the state’s second-largest concentration of jobs behind downtown Indianapolis.

On the other hand, Carmel zoning maps envision residential lots on the site, and neighborhood groups put up a fight to preserve the thoroughfare’s residential character.

Those opposed to the project fear a traffic mess, and they objected to the project’s size, the inclusion of apartments, and the proposed office space—which some opponents saw as a boondoggle given already high vacancy rates.

“The project is over the top as far as size and scope,” Zak Brown, president of the Springwood Estates Neighborhood Association and CEO of a Zionsville-based motorsports marketing firm, told IBJ in April. “It feels like they’re putting a massive mall in my back yard without addressing traffic. And I don’t think any of us think it’s needed.”

Crowley said the project will be constructed based on market demand, and could take up to 15 years to build. He said the company has flexibility under a land contract with the property owners, the Pittman family, to build as the market dictates. The land is now used for agriculture.

The development is named for the old-style stone bridges the developer plans to construct over landscaped water features set to circumnavigate the site.

The project’s buildings would be prairie-style, designed by the same architects that designed Hamilton Town Center, and surrounded by bike and pedestrian paths.

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