Renewal planned for towers

January 26, 2009
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Barton Tower IndianapolisDevelopers are working on plans to build new residential or commercial space adjacent to two public-housing towers near Mass Ave downtown. The Indianapolis Housing Agency has asked for pitches for land surrounding the 21-story John J. Barton Apartments at 555 Massachusetts Ave. (shown here) and the 15-story Lugar Tower at 901 Fort Wayne Ave. The group isn’t putting a price on the three parcels, which total about 3 acres. Instead, it hopes to partner with a private developer, securing low-income tax credits and federal funds. The agency also might ask a developer to participate in a $14-million planned renovation of the actual towers, including $7 million for all-new plumbing. The housing agency properties available include a triangle-shaped parcel, now a park, in front of the Barton, and small pieces on either side of the Lugar Tower. The Lugar properties include driveways and parking, which could be moved or rearranged as part of the development. The full story, from this week's IBJ, can be found here. Don't get IBJ in print? Subscribe!
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  • I don't to suggest I'm picking a favorite yet since I haven't seen any of the proposals, but F&C sounds like they want to put a Cosmopolitan type structure around Barton Apartments. This would be a huge win. That block of Mass Ave is a serious dead zone thanks to Barton (no street retail - pure residential) and the fire station (world's largest footprint downtown fire station?). Putting a mixture of retail and market rate residential to complement the subsidized housing would add dramatically to the fabric of Mass Ave. The Cosmo development looks great too - so something like that would definitely be welcome.

    I'd like to see everyone think creatively about how to best engage with the Barton Apts., not just create a virtual fence to hide people in low income housing away so they can't be seen. I'm not sure if Barton could ever be retrofitted to make it appealing to market rate renters, but if you could do something like convert a portion of Barton to market rate and make part of the new units subsidized housing as an offset, you get to the more mixed income type developments that seem more successful today. Warehousing low income people in 100% low income high rise commie blocks is a known failed model. What can we do to retrofit that? Also, put it all under one management so that there are the right incentives to keep the whole thing maintained correctly.

    Also, let's see how we can creatively engage the arts and architecture community of the city to enliven these structures. I'm not saying demolish the tower, which is one of the few architectural examples of its type around, but find out how to do some interesting things. As thundermutt noted elsewhere, just painting the base of the federal building did wonders for that structure.

    Just some initial thoughts. The Lugar building I've nothing to say on yet since I need to study the site more.
  • Urbanophile - I agree with everything you just said. That area is a complete dead zone on Mass Ave. I would be nice to connect both ends of Mass more seemlessly with more housing and retail / restaurant space. I've long thought that building to be extremely unattractive and you're right, it looks just like a communsim era building. I think I would be depressed to live there, it's so imposing. If they could ever do any kind of facade work to make it less prison-like that would be a huge bonus for the whole area, not to mention the people who live there.
  • Nice work on this story, Cory! We can all now hold out some hope that there may be very positive results for this missing link on Mass Ave. Additionally, it would be nice if something could be done to the Mass Ave. side of the fire statiion. As it is, one more serious flaw on this block.
  • I completely disagree about the triangular parcel on Mass Ave. It's called a
    park. I look out onto that greenspace almost everyday while I'm sweating
    through mile after mile on an eliptical machine at the Y.
    It's called balance. . .hardspace with softspace. There is plenty of room
    for retail at the east end of Mass Ave. Posters on this site constantly bark
    about more retail/restaurant space. I think the retailers and restauranteurs
    already on Mass Ave would really like more traffic in their establishments.
    The market isn't and hasn't dictated more development of this type.
  • I totally agree with you Matthew. If you build in that space the look of the Athaneum and the Murat will totally be lost.
  • Didn't there used to be buildings where this park is now located? Density is something this neighborhood needs to survive long term. A few blocks away are other underutiliezed city parks.
  • CountryMouseCityMouse, I'm struggling to understand what you mean by the look of the Athaneum and the Murat will be totally lost. Architecture doesn't have to be surrounded by vast open space to be appreciated.

    Matthew, retail north of Barton Tower on Mass Ave. struggles because of the black hole created by the fire station and that park. Several businesses fought to survive at the east end, only to blossom once they moved to the thriving strip anchored by the Davlan.

    I work out at the Atheneum as well, and look out the same windows. I would much rather see thriving businesses and homes, which will draw more people to support the Murat and Atheneum, than a underused lawn that's just taking up space.

    For Mass Ave to truly succeed, it has to be a continuous strip of urban engagement on at least one side of the street. If the Barton Tower development is done correctly, it will have a huge ripple that has the potential to effect empty lots for several blocks in every direction.
  • I think of the aesthetic value of a city as a painting. If every square inch
    of a canvas is covered by brushstrokes your eye is overwhelmed and doesn't
    know where to focus. You look away. Great masters create pleasing
    compositions by balancing busy areas with more placid ones. Learn from history.
    Business thrive because they have something to offer (as well as location). The
    businesses at the east end of Mass that do well offer something to our city
    that we don't already have in abundance (over saturation). The Murat is packed
    to the gils when in use. The ACT is moving out of the atheneum, great
    opportunity for re-use of that space.
    Ablerock: Seriously, you'd rather look at cold concrete over lush greenspace? I'll
    never understand that.
  • I agree with Urbanophile about his recommendations about the site, especially that the poor should not be tucked away in a development to get them out of view. The term “commie blocks” is quite the best word usage. This was a design practice that was terribly utilized by the whole world – both in the West and in Soviet influenced areas (London has set up a “historic destruction” committee that is looking to tear down ugly buildings). Just look on Emporis and you’ll notice that the Riley Towers are only a small part of Indianapolis’s attempt at overzealous planning/automobile driven development.

    The Lugar Tower reminds me a lot of my first post-college apartment in Hanoi, Vietnam. The development was a mass stretch of block units and plazas built in 1968. Every unit was built to be identical and there was nothing that differentiated the structures other than a number – I was in C4. However my Vietnamese apartment complex was allowed to be modified and operated in a much more free-market system. This allowed for major modifications to be made: flats were combined, balconies were built, and rooftop gardens were planted. There even became spaces for businesses within the jungles of concrete. Lots of the open space was converted into barber shops, food stalls, and market places where I could buy fruits, vegetables, and household goods. Whereas in the US these changes would never have been possible due to too much regulation. Regulation is sometimes needed but perhaps we should sometimes allow a more laissez faire towards development. And use it more wisely for things such as saftey.

    Whatever is built, there needs to be more of an element of playfulness and randomness. There is enough room to build dense but mid-rise apartments/units and have open space to integrate the two structures. Perhaps within this open space there can be outdoor shops, food vendors, and maybe an outdoor bicycle repair shop. Maybe when Matthew looks out the window on his elliptical machine he’ll be able to see green space, urban vitality, and a transformed and much more interesting place making.
  • Matthew, move to the country if you want to look at empty space. That lawn is a gap in the urban fabric that needs to be filled in. Your argument sounds just like the MCANA people who resisted the development of that parcel on the canal. Why is it that every useless empty lot downtown has a group of fans who insist on calling it a park, even though it is no such thing?
  • It's all in your definition of useless.

    I'm NOT opposed to development. I AM opposed to senseless development.
  • To co-opt Matthew Says' comments, the fire station is the greater evil on that stretch of Mass Ave. That is, it would be a much better solution if the space where the fire station is currently located was filled with mixed use buildings and the green space across from the Atheneum stayed. Mixed use on the northside of the street would benefit from south-eastern exposure, and would be able to host ideal outdoor seating along the street. While I agree that that stretch of Mass Ave is a district killer, the firestation is the real problem (as well as the parking lot next to the Chatterbox), and the Atheneum is one of few buildings that merit an extended frontage. While filling around the Barton is a good short term solution, it is not the best long term.
  • I can't agree with you more, Mr. Peanut. I will never understand people who think underutilized parks are good for the city. As Urbanophile once said (apologies if the quote is imperfect): Indianapolis needs more green space like it needs a whole in the face. The park is not lush, nor is it ever used...that in itself is why so many others are calling it useless. It stands in the place of formerly viable buildings, and represents a time when land values in downtown Indy were so low that nothing better came to anyone's mind than to simply grass it over (presumably under the assumption that poor people didn't need parking since they had no cars). Ideally it will never be replaced with cold concrete--it will provide views of an architecturally interesting new building (I know, beat still my beating heart). There are plenty of smaller triangulated parcels that might make good pocket parks or plazas, not only because of their size but because they are more surrounded by higher density pedestrian traffic. I can't think of any place in Indianapolis where one could stand and be overwhelmed by how built up it is--unless, of course, Indy is aspiring to look more like Fort Wayne.

    But I have to disagree with those who are saying that high-rise commie towers with 100% low-income population--such as Barton--are a proven failure. What about Barton? Isn't the fact that it houses a low-income population while it remains surrounded with an increasingly vibrant urban neighborhood evidence enough that such juxtapositions can succeed? I must concede that I don't think we, as citizens of the city, have given Indianapolis Housing Agency enough credit--sure there are problems and oversights (recent bedbugs come to mind), but so many cities would not be able to manage high-rise public housing without the surrounding neighborhood going to pot--Chicago is perhaps the most notorious example. In addition, the high-rise typology is not the only one that can breed squalor: New Orleans almost exclusively has employed the low-rise walk-up townhome approach, and many of them were as bad or worse than Chicago for decrepitude and criminality. Ostensibly IHA has budgeted enough for repair/replacements, and capital improvements. If it were able to sell off this parcel, it would benefit from the influx of cash, as well as reduced budget for grounds maintenance. No doubt the same crew who opposed the canal parcel will try to throw a wrench in this as well.
  • Matthew,

    No art lesson needed here. I graduated from Herron. :-)

    To answer your question: Yes, in context, I'd much rather look at a well-designed building than that lawn. That doesn't mean I want to see the whole world covered in buildings or hate nature.

    The (huge) real parks I will defend near/in downtown: White River State Park, The American Legion Mall, Military Park, Riverside Park, Garfield Park, even Crown Hill Cemetery. These parks represent a plethora of natural respite, even if the city were extremely dense.

    We are not hurting for greenspace, people. We are hurting for walkable, dense, truly urban neighborhoods, and quality developments.

    If done right, this project will not only bring more people downtown to make use of Indy's real parks on a consistent, daily basis, it will help make Mass Ave and the rest of the regional center a more vibrant 24-hr neighborhood.

    Mass Ave has been designated a cultural district and by design is well on its way to being a vibrant urban corridor. This parcel is a huge puzzle piece in its success and stalling that because of a patch of grass would be a huge disservice to the city and Mass Ave.
  • I remember when I used to live at the Richelieu Apartments, that every time I wanted to walk along Mass Ave, I hated or just didn't have any enthusiasm to walk from North Street up Mass Ave to get to where Omalia's was at. I remember thinking every time, that this particular stretch of Mass Ave was a sh*thole for what it is, because it literally killed the entire ambience of Mass Ave from where Stout's Shoes and Bazbeaux is to Omalia's. It was the feeling of, ugh, don't feel like it when I had to walk to get to where it became more interesting as I appraoched Aesop's Tables and onward down... I really hope this stretch becomes developed in a very interesting way. Wouldn't it be so nice to have maybe a five/ten story building on the east side of the street with retail on the lower level along with maybe a bigger gym upstairs? A downtown Gold's Gym? How fantastic would that be? Then on the western side, totally remove the firestation and place it somewhere else and put in another five/ten story building to continue the feel of Mass Ave... One can dream...
  • I forgot one thing.... When I wanted to go to Bazbeaux to eat, I walked around the fireplace on New Jersey, on the Murat side just to get there. I always opted this route instead of walking that Mass Ave part... an example of how I hated it so much.
  • Ablerock is right.

    Here is the challenge with the looking out the window while I exercise view of the world. It is similar to the MCANA position on the Canal lot. Why does MCANA want to preserve that space? Because some of their members like to sit there and enjoy outdoor concerts. In effect, what this says is that the space should exist for event type purposes such as concerts, or views for people working out, etc.

    This is exactly the big downside of downtown Indianapolis. It's the flip side of its strength. The entire downtown is literally built to host events of one type or another. That and serve as a 9-5 office park. And it does this exceedingly well. Indeed, Indy's superiority at having an event friendly downtown is a big part of why it is successful as a convention, sports, and tourist destination.

    The downside of that is that spaces that are designed for events can be bleak and deserted when there is no event in session. Which is in fact what you see along most of the Canal most of the time. Except the Wholesale District (and core office area during the working day), the streets of downtown rarely have more than a handful of pedestrians. This is because they aren't designed as well-functioning urban spaces. Mass Ave. has the chance to change all that.

    Indy absolutely needs to stay world class at events, but it also needs spaces that can transcend being event venues. It needs to start building, at least in the downtown area, more well-functioning urban districts to complement its events excellence.
  • Amen to Ablerock and Urbanophile.

    And an answer to Sassafras ( I can’t think of any place in Indianapolis where one could stand and be “overwhelmed” by how built up it is):

    Stand on the top level (9th floor) of the parking garage in the 100 block of North Illinois, directly behind the Wellpoint building. That is the best place I've found in Indianapolis to feel as if you're actually in the middle of a big city. I could well imagine a non-urbanite standing there and being overwhelmed by urbanity.
  • ablerock said: We are not hurting for greenspace, people. We are hurting for walkable, dense, truly urban neighborhoods, and quality developments.

    I totally agree. Indy could have 3/4 of its available surface area (green and parking lots) covered with 5 story buildings and would only begin to be dense enough to make the great greenspaces of downtown - like the Mall and Military Park - usable and interesting as respite.
  • Matthew,

    If I'm not mistaken, Monet brushed every square inch of his canvas, what turned out from a distance (a magnificent piece of work). Much like a city is viewed from far away, all the pieces fit together, or looking at a block from down one end of the street, you notice if the fabric is missing a piece. Well the moths sure did a number with Mass Ave in the BArton Tower area - the park.
  • As someone who lives on Mass Ave., this topic is near and dear to my heart. The green space in question has some beautiful mature trees and recent plantings. If there were buildings there before the greenspace, they've not been there in the 20 years I've vistied (and as I mentioned, now live on) Mass Ave.

    Why is everyone ignoring the obvious choice? The intersection of Mass and College has THREE undeveloped corners out of four. One is a gravel lot, one is paved parking (which is rarely used) and the third is a wide open grassy lot with no foliage. That section of Mass is in much greater need of development.

    I know we have plenty of green space and I'm NOT a NIMBY. But with the overwhelming number of surface parking and empty lots on Mass. can't we concentrate on those first?
  • You're right Kevin, there are plenty of other parcels that need development as well, especially at that intersection. But those lots aren't owned by the city.

    I'll say it again: If done correctly, this development will have a huge positive ripple effect on the entirety of Mass Ave and could potentially accelerate development on several empty lots throughout the neighborhood, including those at the intersection of College and Mass Ave.
  • Great points Kevin. Developing the intersection of Mass and College makes
    MUCH more sense than developing the triangular patch of greenspace
    near the Barton. Like I always say. . .I'm not opposed to development,
    but I am opposed to senseless development.
  • Kevin and Matthew,

    Developers develop what can be developed. This sounds silly, but it is an absolute. The first thing a developer needs is a site, and unless it is available at a reasonable price from a reasonable seller nothing happens. Instead of speculating on what could be let’s talk about reality, and decide its viability based upon its merits. If the property at Mass Ave and College were available for a reasonable price in enough quantity to support a profitable mixed use development, it would be in development. Stop using its vacancy as an excuse to save another open site that represents a large hole in the urban streetscape. That argument is counterproductive.
  • Just because something is available, doesn't mean its the right thing to do. It is important to consider the long term plan. I think most would consider the block west of this site successful. Part of that success is the small park area at the tip, next to the Davlan. The Regional Center Plan 2020 shows a similar arrangement for the Barton Tower site, with high density housing filling in the eastern two thirds of the block, leaving the western tip, across from the Atheneum, green. This can be found here: http://www.bsu.edu/capic/urbandesign/resources.asp (look under Proposed Land Use.) I would favor this approach, activating a good portion of this block now, and waiting for the time when the fire station can be relocated and replaced with mid-rise mixed use.
  • Regarding the actual towers, most people are probably happy that Brutalism was a short-lived architectural style in Indy. As much as I dislike it now, it would probably be a mistake to demolish these towers solely because of the style. If they stay, I don’t think the buildings should be re-clad. Instead, new developments could be built at and up to the sidewalks to shield or encapsulate the existing footprints. I have sketched many plans over the years for these sites, and it’s ironic to me that they’re finally getting some attention. I only wish I could be more involved now.

    Having said that, the Indianapolis Housing Authority needs to exercise the utmost care when selecting the successful team. The architect used will be critical to each project’s success. Some of the less-urban architects who reviewed/toured the towers didn’t even know where the buildings were downtown. Two of them mistook the Riley Towers for the Lugar Towers. You can just imagine my mental state...

    New development aside, the bigger problem here, I believe, is the reuse of the actual towers. They were built on the cheap for people who wouldn’t complain. They have concrete decks and the ceiling heights are VERY low. You can literally touch the bottom of the deck above with your hand. That means that the average “floor-to-floor” height is about 8’-4” or so. Just try to sell that at market rates. The floor plans are also smallish, with exposed concrete walls. If you were to add drywall and furring, the rooms get that much smaller.

    My point is that, barring the most substantial renovation, these towers are doomed to the down-market resident and this will forever impact the surrounding market. Perhaps there is a way to expand vertically through the concrete decks for 2-level units, but structural modifications can get expensive. The city simply needs to ask itself, “How important is this area? Are we serious about this?” I don’t think this project could arrive at a worse economic time…

    Big picture, this is another great opportunity for the city to ignite this district and “right” some old wrongs. I hope there are some old-timers in this forum that can fill in some blanks as to how these towers “happened” for trivia’s sake. Remember that these were built when no one thought anyone would live downtown again. This is, in part, why today there is so much opposition to developers who claim that “any development (however bad) is better than what is there now.” That argument is almost always wrong, and has been proven time after time to create problems for each subsequent generation. This time, let’s ask what WON’T create problems for subsequent generations, and hope that someone at the city has the guts to do it right.
  • Nice response, MDB, great viewpoint. Your last line reminds me of the Urbanophile's Do no harm maxim.

    I agree that architect selection is going to play a huge part in the success of this project. It's a tricky location, but could be very dynamic and excellent if done right. I love contrasting architectural styles, as they add to the vitality of a city, and buildings don't get much different than Barton Tower, The Atheneum, and The Murat. The architect must be able to navigate these architectural movements while creating something contemporary that embraces the street life on Mass Ave.

    Ignoring Barton Tower and pretending it's not there by erecting some generic faux-main-street development is not going to cut it. The architect must be able to integrate Barton Tower into the project in a way that highlights the few good things about it and makes it more attractive, not uglier (idealistically without painting or trying to update the facade of the tower itself).
  • SE Guy: Let's all imagine a world where developers could develop land
    wherever they wanted. Oh wait, greedy land developers, combined with
    irresponsible loan practices are part of what's lead to the astronomical
    foreclosure and loan default rates that we have now.
    Developers see one thing. . . .GREEN. . . .as in cash. Trust me, they don't
    have the best interest of an urban or any environment at heart. They want
    to line their pockets. Smart city planning wouldn't rely on land developers
    to make these kind of calls. Constant land development does not lead
    to economic growth. It leads to constant land development. We've proved
    that by the economy we have now.
  • I'm sorry Matthew, but it doesn't sound like you have the best interest of the urban environment at heart either.

    Your greedy developer argument falls flat. The potential development of this site is being advanced by the city.
  • The Barton Annex got a facelift when the gawd-awful bridge over East St. was removed. It did not destroy the character of the building but it did remove the commie-block ambiance. I'd say window replacement with low-e (and perhaps tinted) glass should be considered for the main tower as part of any redevelopment plan.

    I also think that it is possible to design an attractive, functional, urban low-rise or mid-rise surrounding development from concrete and glass. That is, those materials used appropriately do not automatically equal brutalist architecture. In fact, the design cues in the tower could be nicely integrated into a new development at its base.

    I think the development should become mixed-income. Every market needs some low-end market rate housing, especially in an area that is in demand with young people just starting careers. I do not believe that existing residents should be displaced, but some existing residents should be moved to the new units to be constructed to avoid an us vs. them mentality on the block.
  • anhe,

    The block you refer to is successful because of the mixed-use Davlan and all of the great businesses there, not just that pocket park. You'll also notice how that small park is nestled into a fairly developed area on the same block. It's not a huge isolated swath of grass separated by streets and a tower that doesn't engage with the neighborhood, across from a ugly firehouse and bank, as is the case with Barton Tower.

    On the Davlan block, the east side of the street is almost 100% developed and the Davlan takes up a good portion of its side. You have lots of residential units above and several storefronts on the sidewalk below. That's exactly what's making that block dynamic and successful. If those businesses and homes weren't there to draw people to the area, that little park would be full of vagrants and a waste of space. And it was, years ago, before the Davlan was redeveloped, before the Old Point moved in, etc.

    Wouldn't you like to see all of Mass Ave as successful as the Davlan block? Wouldn't it be great to walk the length of it without losing the energy and excitement? I'd love to see the whole Regional Center look and feel like that block. It's my favorite block in the city.

    I think that's what the city wants and they understand that the Barton Tower block is a huge black hole that is holding back Mass Ave from its fullest potential as a dynamic, vibrant urban corridor. The success of Mass Ave is crucial to the vitality of Indianapolis.
  • Excellent discussion going on here.

    Matthew, your points about development momentum eliciting little more than constant land development is dead-on. The result could have been--and in some cases actually is (particularly in booming suburbs)--a string of newly-built, cheap spec projects with no buyers or tenants. This is a huge problem and can easily become a blight to the landscape. The current pocket park at Barton Towers may be unused 99% of the time, but it is not a blight to the landscape.

    That said, it is not a catalyst for the neighborhood's vitality either. And the city is faced with the option of developing the site, with the potential that it may fail to find residential or retail tenants and contribute very little to the tax base, or it could continue to sit as a park, where it comprises a grounds maintenance expense for the IHA and stands NO chance of adding to tax revenue. When faced with such options, the City's decision is a no-brainer. No doubt it will be a year minimum before anything happens on this site, given the economy.

    Smart city planners would most likely unanimously support development of the site--having been in contact with the Indiana Finance Authority who owns the 1-acre parcel along the canal, I can assure you that everyone involved with both the state and the city planning department want to see that site developed. Developers do indeed see green first and foremost, but they have to earn their bread and butter too, and if they build something that doesn't meet market demand they quickly go bankrupt. Market demand for such a site will most likely be high density, and the aesthetic of a more unified street wall along Massachusetts Avenue.
  • Most new buildings around the world are built with only concrete. They can be quite attractive. It would also be neat if the architecture stood out from the surrounding buildings. Why not create something there that not only celebrates the Lugar/Barton Towers, but also is green and is similar to the Davlan that it has both mixed socially and economically? With the fire house across the street the site could stand on its own. If you tried to bring elements from the Athenaeum/Barton Tower/and Murat, it probably would seem cluttered. However on second thought, a Brutalistic, Byzantine, German government house would definitely be an international approach.

    The developer should work with the Indianapolis Streetcar Corporation to build a demonstration station/tracks. It could eventually be connected to the greater CIRTA projects and the Clarion People Mover (which in the future would connect the 16th Street/Stadium Drive High-Tech Corridor; check out Cleveland’s Medical Mart, http://members.cox.net/neotrans/AAO_Monthly_Newsletter_020109.pdf).

    The Obama Administration is looking to increase funding to CDBGs and there will be a lot more money flowing into HUD. If Chris Palladino were involved then there would be a lot of expertise in creating public/private partnerships as well as would be able to learn from the mistakes of Fall Creek Place: namely, having a better review of the contractors who built the houses to make this site longer term. Mayor Ballard and the Indy Housing Authority need to make sure that they ask for State and Federal funds. Now is not the time for setting things aside in the rainy day fund – because otherwise, when is a rainy day?
  • Ablerock: So. . . .just because the developer of this site is being advanced
    by the city I'm to believe this is a golden idea and a golden decision?
    This isn't a smart decision. It's an easy decision by city.
    The most valuable real estate in Manhattan is around Central Park.
    Just a point to note.
  • This area is the a black hole on an otherwise prime urban arterial! Great to see that the City realized this and the faster any improvements occur, the better.
  • As a developer, for the last 10 years, I am offended by Matthew’s comments. He is obviously a simple person. I have to make money to survive (to eat and keep a home for my family), but that is not my only concern. I try to do what is right (for the community and the environment), but when someone remonstrates against one of my projects, and suggest that it work better on a site I don't control, I find that argument to be completely counterproductive. One of the most difficult things developers do is acquire property within reasonable terms. Perhaps folks like Matthew should consider development as a profession and mortgage their home and future on their ideas and dreams. Then they could be critical.
  • SE Guy: It's much easier to be a member of the peanut gallery than to be actually working to achieve everyone's best interests. But, hey, the guy DOES work out there, so you know... What would we, as residents, know about what's best for our neighborhood?
  • Hey, I workout in that building too and at $6 a beer it’s getting expensive. We developers are really struggling right now.

    Residents have both legitimate concerns and provide genuinely valuable input to the process. Periodically they can also be self serving and narrow minded. I have had residents who own boarded up houses in neighborhoods where I work remonstrate against my projects on down-zoning redevelopment cases. Who do you think they were looking out for? I’ve seen residents who were responsible for writing parts of the new Regional Center Guidelines remonstrate against mixed-use developments on sites that were appropriately zoned. How does that work? We are all in this for ourselves sometimes. Some of us are just honest enough to admit it.
  • Matthew, your comparison of the Barton Tower lawn to Central Park is laughable.

    I pointed out that the city is behind the development of this property to rebut your claim that greedy developers were to blame.
  • It is very clear that the city of Indianapolis needs to adopt a much more pro-development attitude. Every project has to go through so much red tape that it adds enormously to the cost and complexity of doing business in the central city.

    But I often complain about low quality development. How can I reconcile that?

    It is simple: set a high bar, then back like crazy people who want to build things that meet it. It starts with a proper urban oriented comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance for the central city. It should encourage modest densification (not Manhattanization), mixed use development in key nodes and corridors, and flexible infill (doubles, granny flats, even small condo type buildings) in residential areas. A form based ordinance could work, but isn't required. Some basics around materials. Rules for when abatements can be requested (e.g., must have LEED certification). A proper building code with modern energy efficiency requirements (e.g., wattage caps). Then we get to where most things can be built as of right, without a cumbersome approval process. It goes without saying that the city should declare a permanent freeze on new historic districts. Clearly, any historic neighborhoods out there should have been discovered by now. Focus on a fast, efficient, professional approval process, permitting, inspections, etc.

    Nashville, Tennessee figured it out. I don't know why we can't too.
  • There needs to be room in the process to express legitimate neighborhood concerns (as opposed to BANANA stuff). Parking, traffic flow, infrastructure demands...all those are valid areas of inquiry.

    It's not really that hard to approach the land-use committee of the local neighborhood organization with a concept and then work toward a compromise that will sail through the system. Too many developers ignore that crucial pre-development step.

    When a planner at DMD asks every petitioner directly have you talked to (name of neighborhood organization)? that should be a clue that things go easier if that step is taken first.

    It's called due diligence for a reason.
  • Does anyone find it funny/ironic that an outdoor space that *could* be a an enjoyable walking environment is instead being enjoyed by people indoors on exercise equipment that replicates the experience of walking?
  • 2 points for Donna!
  • Donna is my new muse.

    BTW, I always start with the neighborhoods.
  • SE Guy, I would have guessed that from what you write here. :)

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  1. I still don't understand how the FBI had any right whatsoever to investigate this elderly collector. Before the Antiquities Act it was completely legal to buy, trade or collect Native American artifacts. I used to see arrow heads, axes, bowls, corn grinders at antique shops and flea markets for sale and I bought them myself. But that was in the late 60's and early 70's. And I now know that people used to steal items from sites and sell them. I understand that is illegal. But we used to find arrow heads and even a corn grinder in our back yard when I was a child. And I still have those items today in my small collection.

  2. I lived in California and they had many of the things noted in the proposed suggestions from the "Blue Ribbon Panel". California is near financial collapse now. Let's not turn the great state of Indiana into a third world dump like California.

  3. The temporary closure of BR Avenue will get a lot of attention. But, one thing reported by the IndyStar really stands out to me, and is extraordinarily depressing: “Police also have agreed to crack down on noise violations, traffic violations and public intoxication.” In other words, the police have generously agreed to do their jobs (temporarily, at least), instead of just standing around waiting for someone to call 911. When is someone in this department going to get off their fat arse (looking at you, Chief), get their minds out of 1975-era policing and into 2014, and have his department engage in pro-active work instead of sitting around waiting for someone to be shot? Why in the hell does it take 7 people getting shot in one night in one of the city’s biggest tourist destinations, to convince the police (reluctantly, it would appear) that they actually need to do their f’n jobs? When is the Chief going to realize that there’s a huge, direct, proven correlation between enforcing the law (yes, all laws, especially those affecting quality of life) and preventing larger crimes from occurring? Is it racial BS? Is that what this extraordinary reluctance is all about? Is the department and the city terrified that if they do their jobs, they might offend someone? Whom, exactly? Will the victims of violence, murder, assault, rape, robbery, and theft be offended? Will the citizens who have to tolerate their deteriorating quality of life be offended? Will the businesses who see their customers flee be offended? Or, is it simple ignorance (maybe the Chief hasn’t heard about NYC’s success in fighting crime - it’s only the biggest g*&#am city in the country, after all)? Either way, Chief, if you don’t want to do your job, then step down. Let someone who actually wants the job take it.

  4. I thought Indiana had all the funding it needed for everything. That's why the state lottery and casino gambling were allowed, as the new tax revenue would take care of everything the state wanted to do.The recommendations sound like they came from California. Better think about that. What is the financial condition of that state?

  5. I was a fan of WIBC in the morning, Steve was the only WIBC host that I listened too, he gave the news with so much flare that I enjoyed listening to him on my way to work. Katz is no Steve. Sadly, I will not be listening to WIBC anymore.

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