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Good Earth avoids $1M judgment over Broad Ripple project

July 2, 2014

The developer of a $30 million apartment-and-retail project in Broad Ripple has lost its bid to make the development’s most vocal opponents pay nearly $1 million to cover construction delays.

Marion Superior Court Judge Michael D. Keele heard arguments June 25 and ruled against Browning Investments Inc. on Friday.

The firm had sought to make Good Earth Natural Foods and Broad Ripple resident Patrick Skowronek post a $925,000 bond to cover costs related to the delays.

The amount is an estimate of how much project costs could rise due to delays in construction, which might not start for another year depending upon how long a challenge from Good Earth and Skowronek takes.

They appealed a Metropolitan Development Commission’s decision to award Browning zoning variances to proceed with the project but lost in Marion Superior Court in March for failing to file necessary paperwork by court-required deadlines.

They’re now asking the Indiana Court of Appeals to overturn Keele’s decision to dismiss the appeal. The court has agreed to hear arguments on an expedited basis, meaning a decision could come in the next 30 days.

Meanwhile, Browning Investment’s case to make the two pay for delays seemed to face hurdles from the start. Keele said during the June 25 hearing that Browning’s request for damages was “unique and different.”

In denying the request, Kathy Davis, the lawyer for Good Earth and Skowronek, said Keele implied in his decision that no state case law exists to award Browning damages.

“I think we definitely had the law on our side,” she said, “but I did think that there was a possibility that we would not be victorious.”

Jamie Browning, a firm partner, said Keele’s decision is “basically a moot point” now that the Court of Appeals has agreed to consider the case on an expedited basis.

Browning said his firm “absolutely” is still committed to the project despite the delays.

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 firm has received calls from other retailers interested in occupying the space, Browning said.

Browning Investments is seeking $5.7 million of a $7.7 million city bond used to help finance the project along the Central Canal. 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.
 

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