City OKs zoning for controversial project in Broad Ripple Village

 IBJ Staff
October 16, 2013
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The Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday approved a request to rezone a 2-acre parcel in Broad Ripple Village, paving the way for a controversial apartments-and-grocery project.

The commission voted 5-2 to approve the request from Indianapolis-based Browning Investments Inc., which has planned the $25 million project for the northeast corner of College Avenue and the Central Canal. Members Lena Hackett and William Selm voted against the rezoning.

"We're delighted," said Jamie Browning, principal of the developer, following the vote. Browning is expected to ask for city assistance to help finance the project, a process that could take between three to four months, he said.

Regarding how much the company will seek, Browning said: "We'll be talking about that shortly."

Browning's plans call for a 35,000-square-foot grocery—earmarked for a Whole Foods—and 104 apartments on the site, which currently includes a long-vacant Shell station that faces College Avenue, as well as several low-rise apartment buildings.

The rezoning allows retail uses on the site. The Commission also approved a variance of development standards for outdoor seating, some architectural elements, and to build fewer parking spaces than required for a project that size. The firm's plan calls for a four-story garage with 340 spaces.

Opponents of the project have objected to its large scale, relative to the rest of Broad Ripple Village; potential traffic snarls; and that Whole Foods is a national chain.

Rudy Nehrling, owner of the nearby Good Earth Natural Food store, said MDC's approval was just "one hurdle" in the process.

"We're not going to give up," he said.

The proposed project has polarized the northside neighborhood for months.

This story will be updated.


  • Real Economic Development
    When I was a child and my grandparents lived in the Broad Ripple apartments north of the canal, every summer a carnival came to the open yard south of the old interurban station that was by then an American Legion hall, transforming it into a magical place with a merry-go-round and ferris wheel. I'm not certain when a produce market was established here, but I recall shopping there with Mom as a youth. Despite insistence by Browning Investments that they are not historic, the apartment buildings where Grandpa, a former Mayor, and Grandma lived were clearly present by the publication of the 1917 Baist insurance map, making them nearly a century old at least, and these remain among the most densely developed residential property in Broad Ripple. Though dingy from Grandpa's cigar smoking, theirs was a lovely apartment with a sunroom, formal dining room and a Pullman kitchen, all with oak Arts-and-Crafts style wood details. As I have traveled our country, I find many of my favorite cities, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Charleston, as well as Indy are characterized by open stall markets. Some including Baltimore and New Orleans have several public markets located around their historic neighborhoods. These institutions serve their communities with both food and craft products while providing spaces for public events and attracting tourism as well. Given the prior establishment of a produce market at this location and the demonstrable success of the Broad Ripple Farmers' Market and Indy's Winter Market, the construction of a permanent Market stall facility would be a perfect fit for the challenged "Shell site" that would not require demolition of existing sound architecture and loss of public right-of-way along the canal. The development presently being proposed to resolve the "Shell site" problem is a "tail wags dog" proposition of the first order. A public market could be constructed at very low cost while creating entrepreneurial opportunity for small start-up businesses as opposed to the largely part-time / low wage jobs inherent in the present proposal. I am not at all opposed to increased residential density to support the kind of balance of residential to business occupancy indicted by the Envision Broad Ripple plan, which I support and participated in. But, increased housing density would better be accomplished by adding additional stories to the predominantly single story business properties presently existing in and around the Village. This is my modest proposal. Is there a developer who will step up to the concept of a Neighborhood Market for Broad Ripple? Maybe it could even have a ferris wheel.
  • Broad Ripple Project
    I have some office space for lease just across the street from this new project. click on this link: http://www.loopnet.com/lid/17954708
  • TIF
    Ken, Isn't it still tax money being diverted from one area to another? Didn't browning know what they were getting into when they began this project? They just need to pay for it themselves. The article states that they will be seeking financial assistance, which leads me to believe they will be asking for more than TIF.
  • Theives
    Let the investigation begin......
  • One day that shook Broad Ripple
    All should rejoice at the Great Fall Victory of the Socialist Republican Party of Indianapolis (SRPI). Yesterday at the City County Building, highly-paid and well-coiffed cadres from the Usual Beneficiary and Likely Beneficiary Divisions swept away the paper barricades erected by an irrelevant local citizenry and, because their cause was righteous, reasserted their right to socialize all the costs and community concerns of development and maximize and privatize all the profit. It was a glorious day for those who can overcome all contradictions in their own political beliefs and smash what remains of soul and spirit in Indianapolis neighborhoods. Tiflandia o muerte.
  • Paul Ogden
    Another positive project another negative comment from Paul. That's tired.
  • Contaminated soil
    If they were planning to adequately deal with the gas station contamination, don't you think that it wouldn't be restricted from having apartments above it? I believe they've already done what they are going to do, which is why people are prohibited from living above the site. So, apparently, it's too dangerous for someone to be above it 100 hours or so a week, but it will be safe for employees to breathe the air 40 hours or so a week. Am I interpreting this incorrectly? How much more would it cost to make it safe to live above?
  • TIF Funding
    Do people understand what TIF funding is? It is Tax Incremental Financing which means taxes generated by new business in the TIF district help fund improvements (often infustructure) for projects within that distict. This is not some developer grabbing your personal income taxes. I think TIF funds make sense for this project since they are redeveloping a former gas station site which means they have to deal with expensive environmental issues. I also don't understand why some people think this funding is going to Whole Foods? Whole Foods will pay for rent what the developer charges, they won't directly receive TIF funding. The TIF funding is what makes this project economically viable because you have the environmental issues. Without the TIF funds this may remain an old empty gas station because the expense of dealing with it is cost prohibitive. If this were easy to redevelop do you really think it would have set like this for so long? The developer is trying to put all the pieces together to make this happen. It is not a simple project but I believe it will be worth it.
  • public funds...
    So now it comes out. Tax payer funds for yet another private project. If it can't stand on it's own, and the developers don't have the funds, why build it. No one seems to be concerned about this aspect.
  • Balderdash
    This is terrible for the village and the city. How can we maintain that palpable village feel that is achieved only by decades of villaging villaginess if we let Ballard and his cronies game the system to let some politically connected unimaginative corporatists take over prime space? I think this spot should have been zones specifically for a pewter miniature shop; or they should have left it alone! The local art on display was a TREASURE! And those "run down" apartments as you kool-aid drinkers would call them, that's called CHARACTER!! How will a new "grocery" store and 300 tenants benefit the village?? And don't even try to say they'll spend money supporting local businesses and increase tax revenue b/c that is just lame money speak!
  • Parking
    This development includes ~350 parking spaces. The existing garage contains ~350 parking spaces, for a total of 700(!) parking spaces on a single corner. New parking is currently being added to Cornell as well. Speaking as a frequent visitor I don't think parking is a problem now and I can't see parking being a problem than after this project unless someone is afraid to walk more than a few feet to their destination. I understand walking isn't everyone's cup of tea, but that's why Castleton et al exist. Different strokes for different folks.
  • False dichotomy
    "It is refreshing to know that city leaders understand the difference between progress and protectionism." But they can't tell the difference between subsidized development (TIF) and a free-market economy. So, where's that line between progress and protectionism here, eh?
  • New garage
    Any bites on the retail for lease under the newly opened garage across from the Vogue? Appears something is going on next to the sub shop but it looks like a phone store. How much is rent/sq. ft in that thing?
  • Hooray!!!
    So happy about this! Whole Foods will bring a big sense of community to the area with events and involvement plus jobs (in addition to improving the neglected property it will be on). The small stores Indy has do not adequately showcase what WF can offer. I'd expect Good Earth to propser with the influx of foodies in BR. And to tthose of you freaking out about parking, get out of your cars and walk! I've never understood the Indy mentality of having to be able to park six inches from any new business. Can't wait!
  • assuming
    So because there are people in favor and are able to see the good in a project we are all part of the Browning Group.....darn and I thought I was an alien.
  • get out of your car
    If you're concerned about parking, ride your bike.
  • Gonna need a bigger garage
    As a BR resident I am glad to see that part of the neighborhood get a much needed makeover but I question the cut back on parking spaces. I was already concerned about parking, in addition to traffic and project scale size. That area of College is already a cluster and this will severely magnify it. With this and the also un-proportional projects near Brugge, plus the fact that they plan for the majority of street parking to become resident-only, BR will before long have a parking problem again, in addition to traffic snarls at College.
    • Remain the Same
      If you want things to remain the same, move to Greenwood. Their downtown hasnt change in 100 years. No jobs down there either, btw. I am sure that is a coincidence.
    • To: Herm
      Herm - I noticed our similar comments just a couple of minutes apart. Yes, thank goodness the commission voted for what will do the most, for the most people - rather than be swayed by the passionate minority...some of whom don't even live in the area.
      • to: Mr. Ogden
        Paul, the truth is that the anti-progress folks are much more passionate about remaining the same and resisting change. So of course it "seems" like the vocal minority represent more than they really do. I've taken an informal poll with neighbors, friends in the area, and people I met on the BR house tour. The response ranged from indifference to strong support. One resident couple said they were in favor of the concept, but wished it included a Trader Joe's instead. Nobody was against the project, realizing that it will bring jobs, increased tax base, and improve the appearance of the area. As usual though this true majority doesn't come to meetings to make an issue of it. The world is full of businesses and towns that resisted change...until they disappeared.
      • Wrong, Paul
        Re: Paul Ogden - It's a well-known fact people that oppose a project are more inclined to show up. I support it but didn't bother going to any meetings. While I have no way of knowing if there are any Browning shills commenting, thankfully the commission doesn't base its decisions on head count at the meetings.
        • Poor Traffic Engineering
          The Traffic Engineers that studied this must be the same winning group that told Ballard bike lanes were a good idea over traffic lanes everywhere (even in winter), streets that barely handle two way traffic can hold more and delivery trucks fly in to leave the groceries.
        • Zoning
          Good to see that the Browning/Whole Foods people have their people out hearing posting anonymously to try to suggest this project, funded by our tax dollars, has broad support in Broad Ripple. That is anything but true if you've ever been to a meeting on the subject.
          • Great news
            Great news for Broad Ripple and Indy!! We need more of this type of development across the city.
          • A Big Win for the Free Enterprise System...and Broad Ripple
            Hooray! A strong majority of the Metro. Development Commission realized what a giant advance this is for our community. I live and work in Broad Ripple, and have for many years. This entire "gateway" area had really been slipping for so long. At last, quality apartments and the infusion of hundreds of new shoppers every week. Plus dozens of new jobs. Plus a pedestrian walkway and gathering place. For once, Downtown doesn't get all the attention. Thank you to the 5 commissioners who "get it", and thank you to Browning for their confidence and perseverance. And Zach...quit grandstanding for re-election.
          • Consumer Win
            It is refreshing to know that city leaders understand the difference between progress and protectionism. Broad Ripple can look forward to being even a more attractive place to live, visit and shop. It will attract more people to the area which will cause a few more traffic delays offset by more spending and we all know that helps the economy. Good job commission
            • best thing
              After living, going to school, and operating around broad ripple for 20 years. This is the change it needs on the north side of indianapolis to increase property value and bring real change to what has turned into sub par buildings, ran down bars, and health code violated restaurants. Of course I am not talking about all but I am talking about the majority. Indianapolis needs a updated broad ripple village. After all just take a look at what it is replacing, a failed gas station and horrible apartments
            • Good.
              While there is plenty of room to quibble about whether Browning should get city assistance to finance the project, there is absolutely no question that zoning should have been improved. This is a huge first step in bringing a major new tenant to Broad Ripple who will attract visitors for something other than drinking. As a neighborhood resident, I am thrilled.

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