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City to consider $7.7M bond issue to assist Broad Ripple project

March 18, 2014

The city of Indianapolis is considering issuing $7.7 million in bonds to assist in the development of a controversial $30 million apartment-and-retail project in Broad Ripple.

Developer Browning Investments Inc. says it is seeking $5.7 million from the bond issue to help finance the project along the Central Canal. On Monday night, the City-County Council referred the request to the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee, which could consider it March 31.

The same committee recommended up to $23 million in city financing for Flaherty & Collins Properties’ $81 million, 28-story apartment tower to be built on part of the former Market Square Arena site. The council voted 18-9 Monday to provide the financing.

Under the request including the Browning project, the city would issue bonds for up to $7.7 million. The bonds would be paid off over time from property-tax proceeds in the North Midtown tax increment financing district. The district, created in January 2013, includes the Browning project, which would be called Canal Pointe.

Jamie Browning, a partner in the firm, told IBJ that the amount required for Canal Pointe would be closer to $5.7 million. It would be used for such infrastructure elements as installing lighting and landscaping, demolition of existing buildings, and construction of a parking garage for the development.

Browning maintains that Canal Pointe will generate more than $7 million in property taxes that would be used to pay down the bonds.

Browning anticipates that the $2 million difference between the bond issue and the amount required for the project could help fund public improvements in the TIF district, which includes Tarkington Park and runs as far south as 30th Street and Central Avenue.

Mayor Greg Ballard's deputy mayor for economic development was not immediately available to discuss the plan Tuesday afternoon.

Browning Investments received approval in October to rezone 1.9 acres northeast of College Avenue and the Central Canal to allow for a single 35,000-square-foot retail space—earmarked for a Whole Foods store—plus 119 apartments and a four-story parking garage.

The project sparked fierce debate in the northside burg and packed meetings during the city's zoning approval process. Some residents objected to its height and size relative to the relatively low-slung feel of Broad Ripple. National grocery chain Whole Foods rankled those who feared the store would divert business from local shops.

The current number of apartment units is up from the 88 the developer originally proposed. Browning said it added more apartments to the project at the urging of the Broad Ripple Village Association, driving the cost up to $30 million from approximately $25 million.

Browning Investments won’t break ground on the project until it knows whether it will receive the city subsidy, Browning said.

Earlier Monday, the developer cleared one of the remaining hurdles.

Broad Ripple retailer Good Earth Natural Foods had asked Marion County Judge Michael D. Keele in November to overturn the zoning variances awarded to Browning Investments the previous month by the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission.

The MDC voted 5-2 to grant Browning Investments' variances, enabling it to construct a building higher than local zoning ordinances call for, and with less parking than typically required.

On Monday, Keele granted MDC’s motion to dismiss Good Earth’s complaint, largely on a technicality. After filing the complaint, Good Earth’s lawyers failed to submit within 30 days to the court a record of the zoning board’s decision. The lawyers also didn’t ask for an extension.

“There’s no question on this. It’s the petitioner’s duty [to file the record],” Keele said upon dismissing the complaint.

Good Earth, located about a block east of the development site, has 10 days to file an appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals. The store’s owner, Rudy Nehrling, said it’s likely he’ll “go that route” despite already spending “tens of thousands of dollars” fighting the development.

Nehrling maintains that the project’s scope is much too large for Broad Ripple.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed,” he said of the judge’s decision. “We don’t feel like we got a fair shake.”

Clarification: An earlier version of the story stated that Browning Investments Inc. was seeking up to $7.7. million from the city. The firm says that it is seeking $5.7 million in assistance from the overall bond issue.
 

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