EDITORIAL: City should share more details on garage deal

July 9, 2011

Parking has been in short supply in Broad Ripple for years. The appeal of the residential and commercial district—it’s scaled for people, not cars—is what draws patrons and makes parking in it such a challenge. So the city’s enticing a developer to build a parking garage there is entirely appropriate—we just wish there were more transparency about the deal that will involve more than $6 million of city money.

As IBJ reported last week, Keystone Construction was chosen by the city to build the $15 million, 350-space garage at the southwest corner of Broad Ripple and College avenues.

The three-story structure, which will replace an empty service station and a small pizza shop, will come with 28,000 square feet of retail space and a police substation. It will also feature electric car chargers and bike racks.

The sensitively designed garage will certainly improve the corner. All its amenities are appropriate—and needed—and Keystone is a company with a good reputation. But we’ve seen more disclosure of information in completely private transactions.

We know the Keystone project asked for less of a city subsidy than competing projects that were vying for the city’s blessing. But we don’t know much more. Even though the city is putting up more than 40 percent of the cost—money that will come from the long-term lease of city parking meters—we don’t know what that money is buying. And we’re in the dark about how Keystone arrived at the number it requested from the city.

Without this information and some idea of how much income the structure is likely to generate for Keystone, which will own the garage, it’s hard for the public to know if it’s getting a good deal.

We’ve been generally supportive over the years of the city’s playing a role in spurring development in urban neighborhoods. Land acquisition and development costs are often higher in the city than in a cornfield, after all. Downtown Indianapolis wouldn’t be a success story—and a lure for the job-creating businesses located there—had the city not set the table for development by selling a vision and sinking money into it.

But spending public money on private projects must be done with sensitivity and transparency. In this case, the transparency is lacking.

Information vacuums are often filled, accurately or not, with negative assumptions. The city takes that risk every time it keeps the public in the dark.

The Broad Ripple garage project might very well be a great deal for the city. But we can’t really tell with the information provided—and that’s precisely the point.•


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