City delays approval of downtown parking garage

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The developer of an $85 million downtown project faces a delay after its design for a parking garage failed to meet city approval Thursday morning.

The Indianapolis Regional Center Hearing Examiner denied recommendation of the design and instead gave Flaherty & Collins Properties more time to resubmit plans that he said needed to be more welcoming to downtown pedestrians.

Approval of the garage design now will be considered at the examiner’s June 14 meeting.

“These are high-traffic roadways,” David DiMarzio said. “We would like these to be more pedestrian-friendly.”

The project, announced in January, originally called for 487 apartments, a Marsh grocery store, the parking garage and additional retail space on properties bounded by Michigan Street, Capitol Avenue, Vermont Street and Indiana Avenue. Revised plans call for 330 apartment units.

Overall, the project would replace a block and a half of surface parking lots owned by locally based OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc., which uses them for employee parking.

The five- or six-story garage would be built at the northwest corner of New York and Illinois streets.

Flaherty & Collins is planning 1,500 square feet of retail space, which could grow to more if there’s enough demand, said Jim Crossin, the company’s vice president of development.

But two Indianapolis residents who attended the meeting insisted the retail plans are inadequate, especially since city guidelines say parking garages fronting pedestrian walkways should include “retail shops, restaurants, business services and offices.”

Because the site is within the Regional Center overlay district, the project needs to comply with Regional Center Urban Design guidelines and requires initial approval by the city’s hearing examiner.

“This particular garage is a less-than-inspiring design,” said Joshua Brewster, who works downtown. “This simply looks like an ice-cube tray, basically, and I think the downtown deserves more.”

Crossin, however, countered by pointing out that the main purpose of the garage is to serve OneAmerica employees and tenants of the company’s tower.

“You can’t escape the fact that it is a parking garage, and some things aren’t achievable,” he said. “By no means is it more than a utilitarian garage, so we think [the design] is appropriate.”

DiMarzio, the hearing examiner, said he could overlook the small amount of retail space if the developer improves the ground-floor design and provides more landscaping to make the design more pedestrian-friendly.

A groundbreaking is scheduled for this summer.


  • Design
    Is there anywhere online where you can see the size and currently proposed design? I am pretty sure I have seen this in other places, but what of building a five story (20' deep) condo building directly in front of a parking garage? You would have apartments/condos that have great window views from every room that would be very marketable and also have the commercial at the ground level. You could actually build it as a separate building but closely adjoining the garage completely shielding it from view, but giving an attractive street appearance. I would think that this would be at least a net break even if not a gain for the developer. Thoughts?
  • roof is crucial
    Someone mentioned a green roof. Every designer of a new urban building should be required to at least explore the feasibility of a green roof. The ability to cut carbon dioxide, save precious rainwater (drought this summer??) and re-use grey water, cool the building cheaper, and improve the view for neighbors, should be, not only the good neighbor thing to do, it should be the responsible neighbor thing to do. Too bad the city didn't require it when they gave up downtown green space for the Simon Building. Surprised they aren't requiring it now.
  • I want to live...
    I want to live in a city that has a garage structure to be proud of for it's innovating design!
  • Not to mention...
    Not to mention how it would improve the view from the offices of the AUL building. Do you remember when Circle Center had a contest for the best roof design after the mall was completed? Great opportunity here...
  • Meh.
    I was initially excited to learn that this wasn't rubber-stamped, but if all that is required is to add some shrubs and some "window dressing" over the first floor of the garage, then I'd call it a waste of everyone's time. It should be noted that the Hearing Examiner is a DMD employee who reports to the same administrator as the DMD staff planner who recommended approval of the garage and whose report said that the requirement for ground-floor retail had been "satisfied". Better luck with appealing the inevitable approval at the MDC, where the commissioners are appointed by the Mayor, City Council, and County Commissioners, thus, presumably not all obligated to facilitate the administration's plans.
  • Following the Law is Not Runaround
    Doc, a few important errors in your statements:

    (1) The developer is spending the CITY'S money (the city is paying for the cost of the garage), so the city can damn well insist on a quality design.

    (2) The LAW requires the proposed building to comply with design standards, and insisting that people follow the law is not giving anyone the "run-around."

    (3) A two-week delay to make some minimal aesthetic improvements is hardly a great imposition being imposed on the developer.

    (4) If the developer would rather build a crappy building elsewhere with their own money, then they are welcome to pick up and do so.

    (4) Indianapolis is a major city, not some podunk town that needs to spread its legs for any developer that throws the place a sideways glance. Indianapolis should insist on the best, not settle for junk. Accepting anything is not going to make Indianapolis grow any faster (not sure where you got that silly notion from), nor is Indianapolis a slow-growth city compared to similarly sized city's in the Midwest.
  • Here we go again!
    How many times do we read articles about developers that are willing to spend millions of dollars in our city to help us grow, only to be met by disapproval and the run around. If we keep this up, developers are going to take their money and spend it on a city that welcomes them and creates an atmsphere that says thank you for helping us develope our city! Until we start rethinking about welcoming these developers, we will continue to be a slow growing city in the midwest! Thanks for making naptown true to our city's developemental speed!
    • THANK YOU!!!!
      Joshua Brewster, thank you so much for attending this hearing today! I know a lot of people are opposed to the design of this garage, but it is tough to attend these meetings at 10 AM. I am glad you were able to and stand up for the citizens of this city.
    • Thank You, DMD
      This block in its present surface parking form already poses a huge discontinuity to pedestrians passing it, as they move N/S among office uses along Illinois or Capital or E/W transitioning from office/CBD on the east to residential/Canal retail and open space on the west. The garage can and should fix this problem, not worsen it!
      As a parking garage, the structure is perfectly (and cheaply) suited to a rooftop garden, environmental recharging area wih rain gardens and grassy areas, a crushed stone jogging path and even a bark park! Dowtown workers could enjoy lunch, a book or a walk here, while residents of the related apartment project would have more park space to move us up from 37th out of 40 major cities. One America, Flaherty & Collins and the City need to rethink the huge opportunity that exists here.
      • Typical Developer Comments
        Jim Crossin's comments about the parking garage being utilitarian because, after all, it's a garage is extremely short-sighted and not surprising from a developer's point of view. However, it sounds as if the architect he's hired isn't talented enough to put his design skills to work and educating the client at the same time. Parking garages are expensive by nature, but it doesn't take much effort to put some design work into it and make it visually more appealing. I'm glad the DMD and BZA are holding developers accountable for lousy design.
      • Laughable
        1500 sq.ft. of retail is laughable. Clearly someone said, "People are going to want to see retail" and this was the token attempt at that. Probably intended to be space for a care rental company, although we already have Enterprise, Avis and Budget in garages downtown. This is a hugely important site bounded by 3 major arteries and to decimate the retail/commercial potential of the site with this horrendous design is a travesty. I'm guessing this is less the architect's fault and more the fault of specific demands of the client. I just don't see how landscaping will solve the "pedestrian problems" of this design. I mean the garage directly across Illinois has ground floor retail. Not having retail here will effectively separate the northwest quadrant and the canal area from integration into downtown.
      • no more eyesores
        Pleased to hear that not just anything will do, and I hope it's a trend. There is a huge apparently unfinished eyesore at the SE corner of St. Clair and (Capitol? Senate?) downtown that is a travesty of design and oversight. We can't have any more nightmares like that if we want to be taken seriously as a cool city.
      • cost
        Common Cents, I think you answered your own question--cost. The city is paying a fixed amount. The developer/owner wants to cut cost on this garage. From what I learned at examiner hearing this morning, enclosing the street-level for commercial space would require ventilation, which would be quite costly. Unfortunately, if they don't include ventilation now, this structure will likely never have commercial space, other than a measly 1500 sq ft. Sounds like the examiner, though, is set to approve the plans if the petitioner makes some modest design accommodations to make it more "pedestrian friendly", not that the pedestrians will actually be able to interact with the building. Sounds like it'll be a few benches and some awnings (as proposed by MDC staff).
      • City Centre garage
        The City Centre garage on West & South St is a good example a typical garage with a not-so utilitarian look on the outside. It's coated with brick which gives it a much nicer look and more fitting of downtown.
      • You can do better
        Hooray for Mr. DiMarzio - so nice to have people like him actually looking out for the city's (and the taxpayer's) best interests. As mentioned, the Lilly garages are so much more appealing, and even some of the parking structures in the State Government campus are an improvement. This is a great opportunity to do something with taste and style - let's go for it.
      • Thanks!
        Thanks so much for sharing that link! Those designs are amazing and certainly point to the fact ALL architecture can be inspiring.
      • Hire an Architect
        Parking garages have to look like parking garages? Maybe in the 1970s. The Circle Centre garage is a low-design that while utilitarian, at least has grade-level retail. Lilly's garages have no grade level retail but at least don't look utilitarian by any means. Time for a new architect. If you're (and we taxpayers) are spending this much money, lets do it right. Thanks for standing your ground on this one DMD.
        • Parking Garage Designs
          “You can’t escape the fact that it is a parking garage, and some things aren’t achievable,” he said. “By no means is it more than a utilitarian garage, so we think [the design] is appropriate.”

          Oh really?
          • More concerning...
            "The project, announced in January, originally called for 487 apartments... Revised plans call for 330 apartment units."

            I'm disappointed by this reduction in apartments. One of the greatest benefits to the city and to Downtown in particular is that this project would increase density and population. A 33% reduction in units reduces the value of this project by 33%. There's no reason to reduce the number of units. None.
          • Whats wrong with this picture?
            Why does the developer care about the added expense of adding retail space?

            The city is paying for it and gifting it to AUL.

            Interesting that the smaller proposed Broad Ripple parking garage costs taxpayers much more than this larger parking garage.

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