Conservancy work begins & more

April 17, 2009
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The Nature ConservancyThe Nature Conservancy broke ground Thursday for its new Indiana headquarters. The organization still needs to raise most of the $4.4 million cost of the building, but a "significant" contribution from the Efroymson Family Fund means construction can begin. The building will be called the Efroymson Conservation Center. The group currently has 30 employees and rents 8,000 square feet in the Harrison Center for the Arts at 1505 N. Delaware St. The new building is planned for 620 E. Ohio St. The full story is here.

Also today, a couple of restaurant items:
  • Local pizza chain Noble Roman's now is offering take-and-bake pizzas at its corporate-owned store on Market Street downtown. Prices start at $8.99. Downtown office workers can buy a pie over lunch or by phone, and Noble Roman's will deliver it to your office in the afternoon.
  • The Italian restaurant Salvatore's, an institution at 86th Street and Ditch Road, has closed. A sign on the door says the restaurant equipment is for sale.

  • The local managing partner of Mo's...A Place for Steaks has bought out his Milwaukee-based partner. Jeremiah Hamman is now the solo owner of the popular steakhouse at the northeast corner of Pennsylvania and Maryland streets. The restaurant opened in 2003.

    • Again, as with previous discussion, while I like some aspects of the building's design, you have to question plopping a suburban style office building in downtown by an organization calling itself the nature conservancy
    • I'd heard about Salvatore's...very sad.
    • What do you think makes it a suburban building? Not all downtown buildings can be multilevel and glass. It looks like it has a curb presence and some nice materials.

      The stuff going on in suburbia could learn a few things from this, from what I can see.
    • DD,

      A wise man once said, If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand.

      What makes it a suburban building?

      It has a giant parking lot behind it. It is setback significantly from the street. It has a yard in front of it. It has a bigger yard in back. It is setback from neighboring buildings. Its primary entrance is in the rear. It is a low-rise, single tenant, single-use building.

      Furthermore, it looks like one of Speedway's elementary schools.

      Think I'm kidding? Check it out:
    • Sorry to thread-jack, but...
      Where can one see the comprehensive plan for Marion County? Is it online somewhere or do I need to go to Madison Plaza or the City-County building?
    • Jitters Coffee Shop in Circle Center Mall is now closed.
    • Sorry ablerock, but none of those things that you mentioned DEFINE suburban. Are those characteristics common among suburban developments? Of course. That does not mean, however, that this particular project should be written off as suburban simply because it shares some of them. The building fits very nicely with its neighbors, incorporates some rather innovative design features (which, while perhaps not obvious) are far from typical of most suburban projects and serves a very specific purpose. I read comments both here and on another forum that seem to begrudge this project for its lack of flash or architectural edginess or whatever.... Maybe it's just me, but does an organization with Conservancy in it's name really need to be housed in some fancy steel and glass building designed by a starchitect?
    • I proposed to my wife at Salvatore's. That is sad new indeed. :-(
    • huh?,

      The attributes I listed above, together in one development, most definitely define suburban.

      I agree with you, urban has nothing to do with steel, glass, flashiness, or starchitecture.

      And I said nothing about that in my post.


      By the way:

      Innovative green design features ≠ urban
      Fitting in nicely with its neighbors ≠ urban

      Good things, yes. Urban, no.
    • Possibly this is a suburban design - but it looks nice and that block has been a somewhat blighted for a long time.

      Ableblock you should post your PhD thesis on urban design. I am shocked you don't realize energy and environmental efficiency is a cornerstone of most of the new urban construction. In fact the Empire state building is undergoing investment in energy efficiency. BTW was the wise man you?
    • You are absolutely correct that those things don't necessarily equate to urban, just as the attributes you listed do not necessarily equate to suburban. The structure, if for no other reason than it's location, meets the definition of urban. Is ideal urban DESIGN, as you would define it? Obviously not. Just because this building isn't multi-story, multi-tenant and multi-use does not preclude it from being an urban development, which it is. There IS room for projects of this nature in an urban setting and I can't think of ANY major urban area where they don't exist. Not one. Question: Would you describe the area as it existed PRIOR to the construction of this area as urban? If so, and if you agree that the project blends nicely with it's neighbors, why would IT now be suburban?

      And, to be clear, I know you didn't say anything about the flashy starchitecture in your post, lol. But I have read many posts begging why the project wasn't more inspired.
    • I just realized there are a lot of typos in my post. Sorry, I am excited about getting out of work and heading to the Coachella music festival..... WAHOO!!!!!
    • JG,

      You're right, energy efficient, environmentally friendly design is a huge trend right now and is quickly becoming a necessary component of many construction projects, be they urban, suburban, or rural, residential or corporate.

      That being said, how does being environmentally friendly make something urban? Didn't urbanity exist before this green trend?

      Think of it in relation to this: Does having eyes make one a woman?

      Or are there more specific criteria for being defined as such?

      When an attribute such as green design is found in both urban and suburban settings, it doesn't help define either word. Therefore, it shouldn't be included in their definitions.
    • Rendering above may be misleading--but it doesn't look like there's much of a setback from the road nor does it look like much of a lawn in front.
    • Ben,
      Go to and search for Comprehensive plan. It was the 4th link down for me.
    • Ben,
      To see the actua;l maps: - DMD - Division of Planning - Maps - Land Use

      Heres the link to the actuall maps
    • noone,

      Here's another aerial perspective of the rear that helps illustrate the lawn in the front. It's about 15' wide.

      Don't get me wrong people, this is a simple, attractive building. It's not like it's The Villagio. ;-) I also applaud The Nature Conservancy for remaining downtown.

      But there's no denying the fact that this building been designed with campus-style, suburban sensibilities.

      And that's not a good thing for downtown's DNA.
    • I am so sick of the same people making the same stupid, know-it-all comments on this blog. Just a bunch of uninformed people with too much time on their hands and too little factual information.
    • It looks like they are just moving the wing of the Harrison Center (where they now reside) over to their lot! That's kind of creepy!
    • When the parking lot takes up more land area than the building, you know you've got a suburban style structure on your hand. Inefficient land use is one of the hallmarks of the suburbs.

      This might be green design, in a certain qualified sense
      This might be decent architecture
      But it is not an urban building and does not belong downtown.

      Of course, when no one demands anything better, why bother? The Nature Conservancy doesn't care, the city doesn't care, the funders don't care.

      The thing is, when people locally don't care about what kind of built environment they create, people in other cities will decide that they don't care to live in Indianapolis. Isn't it curious that after 35 years of billions and billions of dollars in investment in downtown, Center Township land outside of the core of downtown is mostly worthless and you can barely get even commercial development done without tax subsidies? The built environment of downtown Indianapolis is in far too many places incapable of generating self-sustaining urban life. Buildings like this only perpetuate the problem.

      It's good that we can do things, but it matters what it is we do.

      PS: As a non-profit, this large lot is probably being taken off the tax rolls indefinitely too. Nice.
    • This structure has already forfeited a number of LEED credits by the nature of its suburban design. Many of the credits in SS-Sustainable Sites regulate the urban design practices that form the origin of the suburban complaints we're seeing above. My guess is this building would struggle to get better than a Silver rating on its massing and use of the parcel alone. One could easily argue that LEED is overhyped, but it is a sad testament to a nonprofit with the environment in mind: ostensibly even an advocacy organization like the Nature Conservancy cuts corners to save a little extra cheddar. And since Indianapolis is part of the rapidly shrinking list of cities of its size that has set no baseline standards for sustainable building principles, it predictably follows that most developments would eschew basic FAR standards that would dramatically improve the efficiency of land use. What a shame that the Nature Conservancy also falls under this category.
    • ABLEBLOCK: Energy efficiency is becoming a major feature of urban design for the coming years. True it can exist anywhere, but these features will become commonplace to urban cores prior to suburbs. But if I have to explain this to you, you won't understand.

      URBANO: This probably (or clearly) is suburban style architecture. But this 9 to 12 block area is sorely lacking in green space, so I would give the NC a break for an attractive building with quite a bit of green; so long as newer developments are mixed-use and more street-engaged (similar to the Maxwell.) The parking situation is unfortunate. I supose comprehensive planning and implementation north of Market St would be the only solution so above and below ground parking structures could be built. Couldn't this have been done prior to the ramp removal project?
    • DT

      What would you have to complain about if I didn't say anything? ;-)

      I'm continually amazed that some people are so adverse to the legitimate criticism of inanimate objects and the expression of personal opinion. It's not personal, please stop taking it that way.

      Urban development and architecture are human institutions particularly steeped in the tradition of critiquing. It's part of the game and how things are improved.

      (Also, Is the name-calling really necessary? This isn't candyland. People do think differently and have varying levels of experience.)
    • Y'all critique like a bunch of architecture school flunkies.

      In the real world, constructive criticism is boss. Telling people how they screwed up doesn't help to change how things are improved. It just pizzes people off. And legitimate solutions for the so-called problems brought up through property lines are so few and far between.

      It's been said a lot, and clearly it's not what this blog is about, but people critiquing really need a lesson in how criticism is improved to become something better than a fist swipe in anonymous-land.

      But then no one would read the comments : )
    • JG,

      You were obviously offended by my 1st comment because you're throwing it back in my face. :-)

      I'm not attacking the greening of urban design. On the contrary, I fully support it. The funny thing is, true urban development has historically been more energy efficient because it supports pedestrianism and uses land more efficiently.

      But that's not my main point.

      Let me ask you another question: If I build a LEED-certified, energy-efficient barn downtown, does that make the barn an urban development?

      Just because The Nature Conservancy's headquarters are downtown and they're using progressive green techniques in its construction does not make this an urban development.

      Rather, it's an energy efficient, potentially LEED-certified, but still very suburban development in the regional center of the nation's 14th largest city.

      I take issue with this building because every time a development such as this is built, it erodes the urban fabric of downtown. Developments such as this make it easier for future low-density, large parking lot, large setback developments to happen that's a bad thing for any city.
    • Sorry to beat a dead horse. But can someone explain how an organization that touts environmental awareness, education, conservation, and so forth begins by TEARING DOWN a building so that they can have a shinny new show piece. (BTW demolition is among the worst environmental decisions you can make in terms of net carbon footprint.)
      Sorry folks, it does not pass the straight-face test.
    • j.j.

      Your point is taken, but this blog isn't a call from developers asking how to improve their projects.

      I know you're just having fun, but I can't help but point out your hypocrisy: You're scolding us for being blunt in our assessments and not using constructive criticism, yet you start your post with name-calling and a frank assessment of our abilities to critique effectively. According to your rules, how is that supposed to change anything?

      C'mon man, look in the mirror. :-)

      That being said, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the actual project. :-)
    • OK, I'm not an architect or anything but isn't the nature of building downtown urban? I mean, they could have picked a spot in a boring old business park in Fishers (or the Harrison Centre) but they chose to move to the center of downtown. Which is urban. As for tearing down an ugly, worthless warehouse, thank goodness. It was a breeding ground for rats and the homeless had taken it over. If you ever had a chance to even look at the old warehouse you would know that the walls waved like the ocean, and it was dangerous structurally. Or don't you care about that? Just because something is 100 years old does not make it historic. According to the neighborhood, they are all thrilled to have some green space in that part of town. Are you against that too?
    • ABLEROCK: I did not write this was an urban design, and realize it is not. I do recognize (as I am sure you do) some positive features that help it fit into the urban environment. Energy efficiency and attention to water and air usage and quality are finally being recognized on a large scale as very key for urban communities success and sustainability - more important than low density areas. I know it does NOT by itself DEFINE urban. Cheers to the NC for at least doing that (even if they don't get full LEED cert.) Yes, occassionally I will toss snarky comments back at someone.
    • To K Macdonald: Some claiming to have structural knowledge and firsthand experience with this building have said it was sound enough to be rehabbed; others, claiming the same knowledge, say it was structurally deficient; regardless of who is right, the NATURE CONSERVANCY should be beyond reproach in choosing where to plop down their new green building. Tearing down an (arguably) sound old building that attests to Indy's industrial heritage and replacing it with a suburban-looking building is not behaving in a manner that is beyond reproach. I, for one, will never give my money to the Nature Conservancy again (and yes, I am a former member).
    • Billy Barule and Wheat 1 Says - why are you two so hung up on the demolition of this building? It was trash... it was dilapidated... it was a blight on the immediate area... it had no practical re-use. It needed to be torn down and that's what has happened. And it has been replaced with a fine building which will contribute enormously to the rebirth of that part of town.

      Like K Macdonald said: old doesn't equal historic. Some old things NEED to come down. I'm glad that this building was one that did.
    • There is definitely some confusion as to what urban means.

      Downtown Indy may be somewhat urban now, at least in the Mile Square, but the more developments like this one - parking lot, parking lot side entry, set back from the street, for heaven's sake LAWNS - the less urban it will be.

      Someone above decried a lack of greenspace in this neighborhood. Again, confusion: urban greenspace is not a lawn strip in front of a building or next to a parking lot. Urban greenspace is occupiable outdoor space in the middle of a dense built area. IMO, even street trees and hanging planters offer more green than a lawn strip.

      I think this is an attractive building, but its siting is, for an urban core, a disaster.
    • Thank you Donna. I never understood why people think a lawn strip in front of a building is green space. Or why they think downtown needs more green space to begin with. It already has some of the best urban park spaces in the US, all of which are nearly always devoid of people. Same thing with the people who think that vacant lot along the canal is a park.
    • Cory,
      So what kind of carry out deals is Scotty's featuring this week?
    • Donna and Peanut are right on regarding the lawn in front of the building. It will add (or detract) from the downtown environment as much as the one in front of the Chef's Academy on Washington Street.
    • The problem is, too many developers in Indy are taking sensibilities developed in the suburbs and erroneously applying them to projects downtown.

      Front yards are not appropriate for commercial buildings in an urban center, period.

      The Nature Conservancy may be oblivious, but Axis should know better.


      Someone on suggested The Nature Conservancy follow Kosene and Kosene's lead with The Maxwell, just two buildings west. The Maxwell engages the street in a more appropriate way, with on-streetparking that helps separate pedestrians from the street, a tree-line, and a wide sidewalk that engages the building directly. I think that's a good idea.
    • Looks good to me. Don't see what all the fuss is about. :)
    • Front yards can be engineered features to help absorb rainwater runoff and minimize impact on our antiquated sewer system. That's good urban design for a new world. Hard-surfacing an entire city is so 20th Century.
    • I didn't read anything about hard-surfacing an entire city. I'm certainly not advocating that.

      I'd love to see stormwater planters throughout downtown (see Indy Cultural Trail), just not as front yards.

      A more efficient and urban use of Stormwater planters (or yards, if you must) is to separate the sidewalks and buildings from the streets, not the buildings from the sidewalks. They create an aesthetically-pleasing, environmentally friendly barrier between pedestrians automobiles.

      We've got the order wrong in Indy. Instead of: building-yard-sidewalk-road, it should be: building-sidewalk-greenspace-road.

      Good urban design is about squeezing multiple uses out of limited space and resources.
    • People (in general) on this blog have been critical of lawns in the urban core, and that's what I was addressing.

      IF we are serious about reducing the urban heat island effect, warm stormwater discharges to Fall Creek and White River, and the volume of CSO, we must design in some soft surfaces around buildings...even in the CBD.
    • First of all, the only lawn at the site will be the green roof. TNC is also planting a native plant garden that will represent all the landscapes of Indiana, to be used as a teaching tool. They will not be connected to the city sewer system, saving the city from dealing with 'X' amount of wastewater. The parking lot is permeable. There will not be any stormwater run-off. You should inform yourselves at www.nature/indiana/building. Then you all have nothing to complain about. Get over yourselves.
    • Ha! ...there's always something to complain about. :-)


      The only lawn at the site will be the green roof?

      We'll see about that. :-)

      KRYS: The level of 'I'm an urban design expert' snobbery can be unbearable at times. The link you posted is a dead-end but I posted the real link above. Thanks! Lots of positive environmental and energy conserving features are listed. Still some moderate adjustments to the design might have been appropriate since this is an area where density and mixed use should be the norm.

      Folks, take a look at the Google Map ariel shot of the block. Notice that the NC building will be offset with a strip of grass in front just the same as all its neighbors. Maybe not IDEAL design but will look more appropriate. As the area continues to redeveloped side walks could be moved back from the street to engage the building facades better, and planters with Indiana native plants could be installed. In fact enough room to slightly widen the ROW and place a landscaped median along OHIO since its a major exit for those traveling downtown from the NE suburbs.
    • JG: The level of I'm pleased with whatever and hopefully in the future it will be better apathy can be just as unbearable.

    • Point well taken. Hatchet buried.
    • BTW: Moving the sidewalk back all the way along OHIO and placing storm water planters, trees, and some green is a very smart suggestion (cheers). I would hope a master plan addressing the streets sidewalks, and building requirements for the 9 - 12 blocks north and around Market St. (including this block) will be initiated so the area grows in an appropriate moderately dense urban manner.
    • That would be great.
    • Good luck getting that plan done. Then, even more luck to you in getting it implemented.
    • That's too bad about Salvatore's.

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