Mass Ave project works toward April approval

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A Massachusetts Avenue project announced two years ago is zeroing in on financing but will face some opposition over the amount of parking the plan calls for when it seeks city approval next month.

Trail Side on Mass Ave would include 69 one-bedroom apartments and about 23,000 square feet of ground-level retail space in a four-story building. The project is proposed for a site at 875 Massachusetts Ave. now occupied by a building owned by the Center Township Trustee.

Riley Area Development Corp., community development corporation that encourages development in the northeast quadrant of downtown, would develop Trail Side. Riley anticipates tearing down the building after gaining control of the site by entering into a long-term land lease with the trustee.

The trustee is expected to approve the land lease at a meeting this month, said Bill Gray, Riley Area’s executive director. The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission then must sign off on the design of the new building and the demolition of the existing building. The project is on IHPC’s March 3 agenda, but Riley Area has asked for and expects to receive a continuance to the April 7 IHPC meeting.

Approval of the project in April would allow Riley Area to move forward with its plans to finance Trail Side with low- to moderate-income housing tax credits. The $10 million to $12 million project would be financed largely with the credits, which the state of Indiana approved for sale last year.

Gray said Riley Area has a letter of intent to sell the credits to Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Alliant Capital, which buys and resells such credits. Closing on the sale of the credits could come as early as June, which would allow demolition of the trustee building in September. Gray said construction could begin this fall, with completion about a year later.

If Alliant buys the tax credits, it will be a sign that the market for such credits is thawing, said Evan Voight, a financial analyst for Herman & Kittle Properties, a local firm that develops affordable housing, often through the sale of such credits.

A year ago, the market for the credits had all but evaporated. Banks and other investors buy the tax credits to offset profits. For buyers, the question a year ago was whether there would be any profits to offset. With buyers on the sidelines, companies like Alliant were steering clear of the credits, too.

Voight said one reason for the thaw is the federal Community Reinvestment Act, which mandates a certain level of investment in urban areas where banks have depositors. The CRA isn’t new, but it's driving improvement in the market, he said. The bigger the city, the more likely banks are to buy the credits to satisfy their reinvestment obligation. Voight said Trail Side’s location would make its credits more marketable than credits tied to a project in one of the surrounding counties.

Trail Side, designed by the local architectural firm A2SO4, would feature units of between 600 and 700 square feet. They would rent to tenants with incomes that range between 30 percent and 60 percent of the median income. Rents would range from $325 to around $700.

Tom Battista, a long-time property owner in the 800 block of Massachusetts Avenue, objects to the project because he said it doesn’t include enough parking to satisfy demand.

“I think it would economically jeopardize the other businesses in the area for lack of parking,” said Battista, whose commercial building across the street houses R Bistro restaurant and a number of other merchants.

Battista said more than 40 people work in the businesses that occupy the 9,300 square feet of retail space in his building. Those employees and customers of the businesses only have access to angled parking spaces on Massachusetts Ave.

Trail Side, theoretically, would attract even more employees and customers to its considerably larger retail space. Add in the 69 apartments and parking plans for the project are inadequate, said Battista, who said he will oppose Trail Side unless it significantly increases the number of parking spaces in the plan.

Gray said his group estimates Trail Side will result in about 50 new spaces in the area. Half or more of those would be in new surface parking to be built behind the structure. Gray said Riley Area figures it will be about 33 spaces short of what is needed and will ask for a variance of parking standards at its hearing with IHPC.


  • Why Not Build Senior Housing
    Forget about the unnecessary retail, build an affordable senior project - many of us don't or won't drive, so there won't be as much of a need for parking for the residences.
  • EastEnder
    "How about they make 35 1500sqft apartments so there are enough spaces? How about they just build a parking deck."

    How about they just build 69 apartments and forget about the retail and community portion? Then they don't need a variance.
  • Huh?
    What Paul said!
  • Huh?
    Let me get this. The economy is in the toilet and there are people willing to build, willing to spend money, willing to create jobs, take a risk and there is some merchant that is upset about a few lousy parking spaces? Charge the folks to park in the spaces that will get the turnover up. Put in some meters for $1.00 an hour and get those that are roosting in the spaces the heck out of there.
    • old coke plant
      When the market recovers it will be redeveloped.
    • What is "right'?
      You claim that the developer should do it "right" and not cut corners. Nothing kills an urban neighborhood like vast expanses of parking lot. The "right" thing is to have no parking requirements at all, let the builder decide how many spots he/she needs to make the project successful. And the city needs to stop giving it away for free!

      On another note...why is IPS using some of the most expensive real estate in town to park buses? The old coke plant desperately needs to be redeveloped.
    • Parking
      You really should read up on Donald Shoup's work. Parking standards in most cities, like ours, are the same for urban and suburban development. However, the dynamics are much different. In most urban areas, including this one, there is plenty of parking. It just needs to be used more efficiently. A parking structure isnâ??t needed in that area. Much more densely developed areas, such as around the City County building/Cirlce, have garages that arenâ??t even close to full. Passing unnecessary parking structure cost along to housing and retail customers is a poor practice, especially if the housing targets low-income residents.

      New construction done right? Look at Lucas Oil Stadium. It seats about 70,000 and has 7,500 on-site parking spaces. Yet, there is plenty of parking, and the stadium sells out. The market steps in to make it work.
    • New Construction is different
      When new land is developed it should think of the future and the impact it will have on the existing businesses around it. While Mr. Battista can't change the historic property that he holds, there is no reason that a new developer should be able to build a brand new development and ignore current building codes. I can make any development worth while/economically feasible if I cut enough corners! If the project isn't feasible with the parking requirements, then it isn't feasible. Do things right or don't do them at all.

      How about they make 35 1500sqft apartments so there are enough spaces? How about they just build a parking deck. How about they actually get a signed contract with the trustee saying they will have guaranteed rights to the "shared" spaces.
      • urban parking??
        Increased demand for parking is what retailers, and those that own retail buildings, should want. The market will force the issue when patrons are no longer willing to park (for free) 5 or 6 blocks away. Then landowners will convert idle lots to for-pay parking lots or garages. This pattern has been repeated in countless urban cores. If urban developments were curtailed due to insufficient, onsite parking, nothing would be built. Downtown Indy (and the Mass Ave East End) doesn't have a parking problem. It has a lack of retail mass problem. Nothing is a bigger inhibition to attracting retail customers like vacant, decrepit buildings.

        "Build it and they will come" (and they will find a place to park). Someone always feels compelled to denigrate an idea just because it isn't theirs. Let's get someting going downtown.
      • pay for parking
        If the residents and merchants didn't 'sit' on the street parking all day there would be plenty for shoppers. (Shoppers hog free parking as well...)

        The parking should be priced appropriately (i.e. not free) to incentivize in order to insure that there is adequate parking for the retailers. Parking is not free.

        Ever visit the rest of Mass Ave. or the Irvington shops? Guess who's parking there: the merchants and employees. They need to park further away and walk a few blocks to work or carpool, or pay for the privilege to park right in front of the shop.

        We need less parking, not more. Parking requirements make development difficult (more costly, sometimes impossible), and furthers a transportation paradigm (single-car travel) that is not sustainable.

        Mr. Battista may feel better after reading some of Donald Shoup's work.
      • Let me get this straight...
        Battista has NO parking on his site, with only street parking available for HIS tenants. So he wants a neighboring developer to put in parking to compensate for Battista's tenants using all the PUBLIC spaces available?


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