Foes of $25M Broad Ripple project go to court

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A local group opposing a massive, mixed-use project in Broad Ripple has taken its fight to the courts in hopes of stopping the $25 million development from materializing.

The group, led by nearby retailer Good Earth Natural Foods, wants a judge to overturn zoning variances awarded to the project in October by the city’s Metropolitan Development Commission. A hearing has been set for Feb. 12 to consider the motion.

MDC voted 5-2 to grant local developer Browning Investments Inc. variances enabling it to construct a building higher than what local zoning ordinances call for and with less parking than what’s typically required.

For a 2-acre property northeast of the intersection of College Avenue and the Central Canal, Browning has planned a 75-foot-tall apartment building and a 33,500-square-foot grocery store, earmarked for a Whole Foods.

Beside the retail component, Browning’s project would contain 104 apartment units and a four-story parking garage with 340 spaces. The MDC's decision came after several contentious public forums and city hearings weighing the merits of the development.

But Good Earth, located about a block from the site, argues in its court filing—known as a complaint for judicial review—that the variances awarded by MDC violate what’s allowed under an area comprehensive plan.

Browning’s project exceeds height standards by 40 feet, while the number of parking spaces it proposes falls short by 32, the complaint says.

“It all comes down to size,” Good Earth owner Rudy Nehrling said. “This would set a precedent for big-box stores going forward. There’s no going back after this.”

The eight-page complaint says that 1,500 residents oppose the project, according to a Broad Ripple Village Association survey completed in June 2013.
Nehrling’s complaint has been pending in Marion Superior Court No. 11 since November. The MDC filed a motion to dismiss the case on Jan. 15.

It could be at least a few more months before Judge John F. Hanley renders a decision, Nehrling’s lawyer, Kathy Davis, said.

“It’s basically an appeal of the [MDC] decision,” Davis said of Nehrling’s complaint. “It’s another set of eyes to look at the record and the decision made by the MDC.”

Browning Investments, meanwhile, is moving forward with its plans.

“I feel like it’s certainly without a merit,” Jamie Browning, a partner in the developer, said of the complaint. “But it’s up to the judge to determine that.”

Browning Investments is expected to ask the city for a subsidy to help finance the project. Browning declined to divulge a figure but said the firm plans to file its paperwork with the city this week.


  • History
    Let's be clear…Rick Montieth and Georgetown Foods were here long before Whole Foods even existed…he just wasn't in BR…and has never been "corporate"…As for the proposed development, BR has fallen into its current condition as a result of its own narcissism, one that prefers the "night time aesthetic" which is the only time that buildings in BR look good… if there had ever been a commercial architecture of "character" in BR, we'd have something to save, but painted concrete block or brick is as common as it gets…that being said, Browning doesn't need the TIF money…but, in the words of an old proverb, "don't ask, don't get"...
  • Public
    All of the support for the project thus far, including support for the variance, should not construed as wholesale support for investing TIF subsidy. Many supporters of the variance are taking a longer view of the TIF district, and betting that this project, if built, will accrue greater benefits to the community (i.e. the availability of TIF increment to be invested elsewhere in Midtown.) That discussion has yet to happen, and the TIF discussion should not happen in a vacuum. For example, the variance was one way to address the scale/mass issue. Another way would have been to reduce the # of units and # of parking spaces. That would have affected the Browning bottom line, obviously. But realize that the variance is already a form of public subsidy. The public is assuming risk that the built environment that they have envisioned (and codified through comp plan documents) may not be realized since they are granting the developer the right to build something outside those stated desires. Asking for hard dollar subsidy should expose Browning to greater scrutiny of the financing for the project, and the variance should be considered as part of that whole subsidy package. The two are not separate, but intertwined via the financing and proforma. The discussion about hard dollar (TIF) subsidy should bring more discussion about why the proposed size/scale is, or is not, required (i.e. the development financing.) The public's willingness (or not) to grant TIF subsidy should spur enlightening discussion. This may or may not compel Browning to reconsider size/scale/financing once again. Some that oppose the size/scale/variance may come to understand that this project can create community benefit. Either way, the project isn't built yet, because as proposed Browning still needs a lot from the public. The public needs to make sure they get something for what they ultimately give.
  • Re: S
    Isn't that the point of this discussion and the article, to not put what it is zoned for? And yes, I have a very substantial financial gain in this project, I won't have to pay for gas money to drive all the way to Nora!
  • Build it NOW, Vinnie!!!!!
    Dear Vinnie: Tax Incremental Financing are taxes generated by new business in the TIF district that are meant to help fund improvements (often infustructure) for projects within that distict. And, in case you didn't notice, no developer has received any TIF funds yet to redevelop the old gas station site. (I would support doing so, as this is exactly the sort of thing that TIF is intended to do: an abandoned gas station with a lot of remediation issues isn't going to be touched by anyone except maybe another gas station. And, lord knows, nobody wants that crap to happen.) PS: An evil developer isn't grabbing your personal income taxes, assuming that you have any.
  • Re: RJ
    RJ - So Quick to say "No" to another Gas Station? Wonder why. It is already zoned correctly for a Gas Station so what would the harm be. You must has some sort of Financial Interest in this deal??? A 7-11 would be great in this location!!! Ha!
  • Re: S
    Another Gas Station? Ha, no, we have enough of them. Yes, the site has a purchase option on it, but the site is tied up due to it's inability to be developed without losing money. It is too small to do anything with (aside from a gas station) and being a brownfield doesn't help either.
    • A Better location for Whole Foods
      LOL - Great Debate. A Better idea - locate Whole foods behind Glendale at 6179 North Rural. Great Location next to Mall with ample parking in place.
    • How the rich get richer in America
      So, if Browning gets to use tax money earmarked for redeveloping depressed areas on this development in an area of the city with the some of the highest rents and land values, does that make them part of the "taker" class? After the Colts and the Pacers and now Browning, are there any other multi-millionaires we as citizens can assist in making even more millions using our tax dollars?
      • Re: RJ
        Yah - the gas station has been sitting there vacant cause it is tied up with a purchase agreement. I know a large Gas station chain that is ready to pounce on it. Not a good argument. It probably would be better to take it back to farm land! Put Whole Foods where it belongs somewhere on Keystone or in your neighborhood.
      • RE: S
        S, I have to ask, how long has the vacant shell station sat there, empty, abandoned, an eyesore? Believe it or not, things change, it happens. This is not a classified historic area. Heck, if change shouldn't happen, lets raze all of the properties and put back the farms that used to fill the area.
        • Build it NOW!!!!
          I don’t applaud trying to prevent competition through litigation. Although, I never cease to appreciate the irony that the presence of Whole Foods is likely to increase the number of customers that Good Earth will get. GE will likely prosper in spite of their narrow-minded, hypocritical, false posturing.
        • Dude the Architect
          Its a great Tactic to get what should have happen to begin with. Applaud the Good Earth Store for giving it one last try. And so what if WF backs out. Just build the Apartments, or maybe we can get a Walmart.
          • Build it NOW!!!
            The complaint initiated by Good Earth is without merit; they know it's without merit; and they know that they are going to lose. At most, it's a delaying tactic. Their attorney admitted as much: “It’s basically an appeal of the [MDC] decision,” Davis said of Nehrling’s complaint. “It’s another set of eyes to look at the record and the decision made by the MDC.” It would be refreshing if Good Earth simply admitted that they don't want the competition. This has nothing to do with height, boxes, or the height of boxes.
            • What Happens if WF Walks?
              One thing missing from the debate by BR Defenders is an acknowledgement of what happens if this project is canceled? Your desire to enforece the height/ordinance requirement has pitfalls. My bet there is already a backup offer on the site as it is well suited for fast food or related business (drive up) thus ruining BR's "front door" with a large lit sign. Now consider which fast food resto (not already in BR) is the likely candidate? Welcome comments and guesses as to who will occupy the site.... if BR Defenders are successful
            • Re: Scott
              The Same City Officials Group / MDC / City Planning Officials during Peterson & Goldsmith Administrations approved many of the Bars and night clubs, many of which also went against the current zoning ordinances. That is why the new Browning Project should not have been allowed to get this far regarding the Comp. Plan.
            • Broad Ripple Whole Foods
              People are not upset about New Development, they are upset about the defined Zoning Ordinances that are being adjusted to make this "way to large" project happen. I think to put it in the words used by another - Broad Ripple is being "prostituted" with structures that are not in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan. We might as well agree to allow Walmart to put a store on the opposite corner of College & Broad Ripple Avenue - making the area more appealing to everyone in the area…why not, its only the Comprehensive Plan. I find this debate great, regardless of when in the process it takes place. As pointed out by others look at the new structures that have or are being built that required negating the CP. #1.) Condo Project on Winthrop #2.) Buckingham Apartment Project #3.) The New Lor Building - Way to large for the site! #4.) The Parking Garage @ Now the Browning Project. Let all get behind a New Walmart for the Area. LOL! The Comp. Plan was put in to law to protect.
              • Boycott
                First, I know I am on the right side of an argument when Paul Ogden is on the other side. Second, I have boycotted 1 thing in my entire life and that is Nextel, we can go ahead and add Good Earth to that mix. Who do they think they are that they can determine what a good development in my neighborhood. People like Good Earth are slowly killing the neighborhood. Thanks!
              • What do they want to preserve?
                Broad Ripple in the 1980s was a quaint village, worth an attempt to preserve. It's become a depressing amalgam of sports bars with very little in the way of a music scene, most notable for an avenue lit with police flashers after 10 pm as they attempt to keep frat bro on bro violence in check. Someone should have challenged zoning years ago, as this protest looks pretty ludicrous at this late date.
                • RJ - Broad Ripple Joke
                  RJ - I agree with Ted. Many times large companies though they have a Lease, will abandon as space and continue to lease if it makes better economic sense. All sounds great now, Brokers make big fees, Developer get great project but in the long run no one considers the ramifications of a large box store or building setting empty. I know from experience, I was responsible for making the decision to close a big box retail store for our company. It set empty for 7 years & had a negative effect on the otherwise decent residential area. I also think the Condo Property that Ted McClure mentions is a good example why we should not go against the Comprehensive Plan. not finished and never will be. I would also Like to pint out the Buckingham Property a few blocks east, along the Monon. Way to tall for the area. We need to be more selective in what we put in our long established areas. Our City officials should not "Prostitute" our Comprehensive Plan with large, cheaply built, poorly designed projects.
                • re: TED
                  WF does not sign short term leases. If they were to leave, they would lose considerably. I think their typical term is 15-20 years. As well, this is a MIXED use building. It will have more than 100 apartment units. We will not have a giant vacant building, you will have nearly 150 residents living there.
                • Great Strategy
                  RJ -the strategy is great. Though Whole foods is not closing its Nora Store, what happens if in 5 years it decided to close its BR store. Then we have a very huge empty space in BR that is unlikely to be re-let easily. Planners do not think to far ahead. Hope the strategy works.
                • Brip
                  Until Brip starts to do something about the residential properties going to crap after decades of renting to college drunks in the end it's a waste. I moved away from Brip bcc knew it was going to turn into an area of nothing but rotating bars and nightclubs and allow income housing. Don't believe me, just go online and look at the real estate offerings. Nothing but old, outdated and filthy homes.
                • Wrong Kind of Change is not what we need!!!
                  I too support the Defenders of Broad Ripple, not because I oppose change & new development, I believe this project is to large for the site and violates to many components of the Comprehensive Plan. The Comprehensive Plan needs to be adhered to….it was decided and has evolved over the years to protect the city and its neighborhoods. The height of this project is to high and a big box store is not appropriate for the location. Another Example of Poor Change that happened in BR, is the property that the Bart Peterson Administration approved at 6137 WINTHROP AVE - Condos. It years later and still remains unfinished, and a site that will never be finished as intended. Many items in the Comprehensive Plan were varied to allow this project too! I have to ask, who is getting "paid off" to allow such changes & variations in the Comprehensive Plan??? I cannot believe the trained professionals at the MDC / City Planning can permit such variations from the Comprehesive Plan to take effect! Our TIF Tax dollars should not be used to accomplish this. Let private developments stand on their own. I stand with my Broad Ripple neighbors and Kudos to those who brought suit!!!
                • Little voice has too much to say
                  So I haven't seen the recent census data, but in 2010, Broad Ripple had 17,000 residents. 17,000 but all it took was 1,500 signatures was all it took to even get this little petition entertained? This development is needed to help Broad Ripple progress and move forward. If people don't want the development there, then come up with another plan and submit that. But don't waste a judge's time just because you want to "preserve the village feel". Brooklyn went through something similar, though much worse, when a developer wanted to bring the Nets there from New Jersey. A few people in Brooklyn didn't want the development. So they found a developer who had came up with an idea for the land and tried to out-bid the arena developer for the purchase of the land. Well we all know that small crowd lost and the arena and Nets ended up in Brooklyn anyway, but hey, at least they tried. Hopefully the developers aren't turned off from this project by a couple of naysayers. Broad Ripple is lucky, because I'm sure people would love this addition in Lawrence or out west in Pike township.
                • Ridiculous
                  This is absolutely ridiculous. This "complaint" isn't about the height of the building NOR the number of parking spaces.. Its about the fact that the market doesn't want the building (grocery store) built at all... I just don't understand Indianapolis. I moved here in 2008 and have been utterly appalled at how many of the people in the city refuse to allow the city to progress. This apartment building / grocery store would be an incredible improvement for the Broad Ripple area. Yet many cannot see that. In order to build for the future you need to consider what the younger, higher spending crowd likes, and as a member of that group, I know we like things such as this project. You can't cater progress to those who are 40+... and that's what many of the people of Indy just can't accept....
                • Correction
                  I meant "Broad Ripple Parking Garage" in the first sentence not "Broad Ripple tax dollars." Of course we taxpayers also paid to build that parking garage and we ended up with 0% ownership, 0% of the parking revenue and 0% of the commercial rents from a building built with our tax dollars.
                • Facts
                  The fact is Browning is a politically-connected developer who was all but promised this development when it didn't get the Broad Ripple tax dollars. The fact is zoning is being changed...changed for that particular property. The requirements for a variance haven't even come close to being met. Also, the attempt to separate the TIF issue from the project is disingenuous. Browning says he won't build this unless he gets millions in our tax dollars from the TIF. I have no problem with Whole Foods locating there, but they are not entitled to get a variance which doesn't meet the legal requirements and they sure aren't entitled to our tax dollars. The majority of people in Broad Ripple do not want this project and it's time elected officials start listening to them instead of their corporate contributors.
                  • 100 year old building is historic
                    hey alan, if a building is well maintained and is over a hundred years old, that means its historic. good earth is in one of the first structures built on the historic canal, therefore yes it is an historic landmark. with regard to competition, there was never a fuss about kroger, or sunflower market, or fresh market moving in the neighborhood because they did it with their own money and followed the zoning ordinances that were set in place. if whole foods wants to use their own money and build this monstrosity in the glendale area that would be fine, or if they built a retail store with their own money that follows the same ordinances every other store has followed than that would be acceptable too. tax payers shouldnt have to pay for corporate welfare.
                  • How much money has Good Earth Received from the city?
                    This development deal is just a smaller, more local manifestation of the lie of the free hand of the market. The 1%'ers consistently pay for the media to deliver the lie that unrestrained capitalism has proven itself as the undisputed king of ideologies in the advancement of humanity. That may be true, but what we have now in America is anything but a level playing field. Browning, like most of the 1%'ers on Wall Street, has gamed the system. These folks have amazingly been able to sell to the American public the idea that we should socialize the 1%'ers losses and let them privatize their gains. The biggest reason to kill this development is the mere fact that a politically connected group of people are going to use taxpayer money to get even more obscenely wealthy. The most grotesque aspect of this is that these same people will wail and moan about scourge of the "takers" (poor people) in society.
                  • A landmark?
                    With all due respect, just because a store was one of the first local establishments to plant a flag in an area hardly qualify it as a landmark or deserving of not having to face competition in its own backyard. If we used your standard, every time a Starbucks wants to move near a local coffeehouse, people would have to picket. Good Earth can continue to distinguish itself as a locally-owned customer-focused establishment with a good historical story to tell. Just as many people intentionally seek out local restaurants, others might choose to swing by Good Earth specifically because of its heritage ... even if they had also just made purchases at Fresh Market or Whole Foods.
                    • you must be with browning
                      sorry chris, but if youre not working for browning you must be at least getting paid by them, because FASCISM is the word to describe this. its not a matter of disagreeing, its a matter of facts, and the facts are: other private investors tried to develop on the gas station sight and were denied. Law firm Faegre Baker Daniels, the law firm that has been representing browning, gave the mayor $25,000 in campaign contributions, keystone group, who built the parking garage across the street, donated $28k, the whitsett group, who has worked with browning, also is accused of large donations, and this list of pay to play builders goes on (http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2013/08/ibj-details-link-between-campaign-cash.html)from parking meters to building spaces, the mayor is selling off our city. there was a survey released by the brva to find out what residents thought of the project, and it was a landslide decision against it. yet the crooks at brva still approved it. there were also several petitions that had more than enough signatures to halt the project, yet these were disregarded too. these city officials have abandoned the democratic process and liberties without ethical or legal restraints while displaying behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline. that is fascism. i would also like to make you aware of the fact, the ceo of whole foods had gone on npr and declared he would cut his minimum wage employees hours to under 30 a week in response to the affordable health care act. because as he said it "obama care is fascism". can you say irony?
                    • I'm with Greg...
                      Enough is enough... The city is not "Changing" the zoning code for this development, they are permitting a variance to the code. A process that has been used countless times throughout the City/County. When will Good Earth get it... If you've ever been to a purpose built Whole Foods you have seen the foot traffic that it drives in the area. This will only provide more traffic to Good Earth. Gary, rest assured, they're not going to replace Good Earth as the hangout for local foodies that also want a little flute or guitar playing. Do think that there is a chance it may actually drive more business to Good Earth and other merchants in Broad Ripple? The price we all pay if this lawsuit is successful, continued driving by an abandoned Gas Station. Lovely indeed.
                    • If Anyone wonders how the rich get richer..
                      look no further than this development scam. It always amuses me when I hear conservatives offer that government should not be in the business of piking winners and losers and then turn around and fight like hell to give the Colts, the Pacers and Browning Investments millions of tax dollars. In addition, I was told that the money that Browning is going after was designated to be sent on revitalizing poorer areas of the city. Browning will make a killing using our tax dollars on a development in a section of the city that has some of the highest land values and rents. Why not just write Browning a check for a few million? It would be quicker and less trouble for everyone involved. Also, I hope all readers understand that if this development takes place, you should just go ahead and plan on taking an hour to get through Broad Ripple on any given day. Between the stupid bike lanes on BR Ave and the congestion of this gargantuan development, you might want to bring a camper because you will be stuck in the Village's daily traffic jams.
                    • Shame On You, B-Ripple Defender
                      B-Ripple Defender, do not stoop to using ugly and ridiculous language simply because you disagree with others. There is NEVER an appropriate use of the word "fascist" on this website with respect to discussing development. If your relatives had been starved to death or experimented on in concentration camps you wouldn't even dream of using that term in such a frivolous manner, do not recklessly use it on this website. Also, Whole Foods has not received a tax abatement yet, and the issue of the zoning is completely SEPARATE from the tax abatement. The zoning was approved. The tax abatement has not been voted on. The project is a great project and the zoning variance were properly approved. Whether the tax abatement make good public policy sense or not is a separate issue to address. But, again, let's have a rational and reasoned discussion and not sink to using vile language.
                      • fascists
                        its not about not wanting competition. its about fair competition. why does whole foods get a $5 million hand out from the city and get to change all the zoning ordinances for the project? this tif money was supposed to be used for neighborhoods that have no access to grocery stores. other stores in broad ripple, that are in 100 year old buildings and pay up to $40k a year in property taxes, never received a dime from the government, and many were denied permits to remodel. now an out of state billion dollar corporation wants to break all the rules and take money from the city, and the mayor and city officials say ok because browning group has been their political backers. dont be fooled, this is not a project for the city this is a project for rich peoples bank accounts. look at the ugly parking garage we already had to pay for across the street that no one uses. tell me this isnt fascism.
                        • Re: Steve
                          Steve, correct, Whole Foods is not planning on closing its Nora location. This will be a new one and yes, they have full intentions of being a long term lessee of the first floor. The point of this law suite is to hold the project up long enough that Whole Foods will back out of the deal and possibly kill the project without its first floor tenant.
                          • The devil you don't know?
                            beware of what you wish for...you might just get.
                          • Go Away Gary W
                            The Good Earth and other opponents of this development need to get a clue and quit wasting everyone's time with this crap. Broad Ripple has been a bar and entertainment district for decades. We need more upscale housing and retail, not more hippies playing flutes at a granola shop. The project has been approved, it stands very little chance of being overturned, and life goes on. The BRVA supports the project, so what does that tell you??
                          • Finish
                            Can we at least finish the flood wall debacle before we start a new one? Finally has ANYONE actually verified what intentions Whole Foods has in the development? Seems to me they are almost doubling their existing footprint in Nora and if you ask anyone in the store they say NO WAY are they moving down to BR
                          • Time to move in
                            You should be able to stand in your own. We need progress in BR. You are not helping. The developer did all the right things. Back up your tent and go home.
                          • reality
                            If BR is going to transform itself away from a nightlife hub, it's going to need to attract daytime shoppers, and grocery shoppers do fit that bill. As for the ominous 'big box' tenant, you might note another article herein where it's noted that Marsh, at least partly, isn't able to move its stores because they're a mere 80,000 sq. ft., and grocery's now seem to want 100,000 or more. I still think it's going to take an IPS transformation to get families to move back into the area, but, families are trending later in life, which means there's a market for DINKS who might want to live in an area that offers them a wider variety of services, and less of a night time bar scene. More upscale apartments and a Whole Foods won't hurt that concept at all, and might even broaden the customer base for Good Earth.
                          • Let's keep beating a dead horse
                            Can we please move on from this debacle and let this development move forward? I have been to Good Earth and they are good people there with good products, but this is going over the top. Do we really want to keep that lovely gas station and the apartments next to it (insert sarcasm)?
                          • Chris Brown
                            Cheers to Chris Brown! I wholeheartedly agree.
                          • Gary, Drop The Drama
                            First, Good Earth has no right to be free from competition. The issue of whether the city should give a tax abatement or not to the project is completely separate from the zoning and whether a "big box" store does or does not locate in a new building at that site, or anywhere else in Broad Ripple. Second, Broad Ripple has been a popular bar hot spot for about 40 years now. More importantly, the number of bars have nothing to with this particular zoning matter has it will provide much needed housing and a retail site, not another bar. Third, making silly comments like "plastic" building does not help persuade people of your position. Also, there is no zoning rule on aeasthetics, what you do or do not personally like is irrelevant. Let's spare everyone the drama and discuss this issue rationally, or if that cannot be done, then do not discuss it all.
                          • Good Earth -historical
                            Many of you must not remember that Good Earth was the FIRST real Natural Foods Store in Broad Ripple, and in fact the city. After going there a couple of times, you made friends.. friends who worked there; friends who you already knew, and passers by, from across the country, who you would meet, sit , talk to, and many of them would be traveling musicians, who would play the flute or guitar... Broad Ripple was NOT a plastic redneck hangout like it was then.. there were bookstores featuring occult.. it was our hippie haven.. Sorry, but it is a landmark and in memory of Bob, the owner who is no longer with us at such an early age, I think that we need to keep fighting to keep it an alternative area, and the bars can go somewhere else. You are the ones that have ruined, this once serene, laid back space, where police were RARELY needed. Now, it is a group of drunks, causing problems.. go somewhere else and take your plastic building with it.
                            • Need to Change
                              Broad Ripple is quickly falling behind areas such as Fountain Square, Virginia Avenue and Mass Ave as the cool places to visit in Indy. I loving going out but will not visit most places in Broad Ripple...get with the times and let change happen! Good Earth might actually get some NEW customers from this development. It's all about customer service.
                            • Never Again
                              I will no longer be a patron at Good Earth. The lengths they are going to block this development is a joke and all about not wanting competition. I am sick of the vocal minority constantly trying to put up road blocks for this. This development is going to end up being the best thing that could happen to they slowly dying Broadripple Cultural District.

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