Dunkin Donuts angling to take over Bonjour building

June 2, 2010
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Bonjour CafeDunkin Donuts and Baskin-Robbins have agreed to take over the former home of Bonjour Cafe & Bakery at Meridian and 24th streets if the owner wins city approval to add a drive-through. Travis May of Greenfield-based HSM Development Inc. has asked for the zoning variance for the 1,969-square-foot building at 2402 N. Meridian St., in front of the Library Services Center. New drive-throughs are not allowed for businesses along Meridian Street, in part to encourage the development of a more urban and pedestrian-friendly corridor. The proposed drive-through would not even meet the code if it were allowed in the area; the property only has room for five stacking spaces for cars, less than the required eight. That's why the city's planning staff so far is recommending the request be denied. But David Kingen, an urban planner who represents the building owner, says the drive-through will be along the building's western façade, hidden from view of Meridian, and the new tenant will bring life to one of several vacant buildings in the area. The Dunkin/Baskin concepts also should attract a moderate level of traffic throughout the day, rather than in one rush, he said. "The notion of no drive-throughs is admirable until you look at all the existing drive-throughs that aren't going away," said Kingen, who is courting support from neighborhood associations. He said the deal is a no-go without the drive-through. A hearing is scheduled for July 6. How would you vote?

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  • NO
    Mr. Kingen doesn't understand the point of the drive-through ban if he thinks placing it on the far side from Meridian somehow makes it better. That simply moves the pedestrian conflict zone from the Meridian to 24th St. sidewalk. How about we don't create unsafe zones at all?

    Vote NO.
    • YES
      Sorry, Corr. I normally agree with you, but as someone who lives at 21st and Meridian, I would much rather have a stable business like Dunkin/Baskin in that building that just have it be vacant. You're biting your nose off to spite your face. I would support it for new buildings, but since this is an existing one (pre-ban or no), I support filling it with an established business.
    • Don't Give Up That Easily!
      I see what you're saying Nick, but I think you're too quickly trading the pedestrian experience in your neighborhood for the ease of someone DRIVING through to get a cup of coffee.

      If it were me, I'd rather fight for a business that wants to serve the people of the neighborhood. Since Dunkin Donuts says this is a no-go with a drive-through, it certainly sounds like they care a lot more about cars than you.

      I know the "pedestrian experience" aint much around there these days, but it won't get any better if you set the precedent of giving in to every business that wants to cater to cars.
    • I'll take it!
      As someone who owns a home about two blocks from this site, I'm all for the drive through. I've walked to the other fast food places on Meridian St. and the life threating part will be actually getting to this location. They can try and create a pedestrian friendly corridor, but until the street scape (physical roadway) is changed, there's almost no hope. Change has to start somewhere and the site layout is as pedestrian friendly as you can get for Meridian street. A drive through would be an easy add on on the west side, and if it makes a profitable business that can stick around - I'm all for it. For 10 years I've watched everything but the fast food restaurants open and close. I'd settle for a business that can survive - even with a drive through.
    • NO
      I agree 100% with CorrND. Dont give up easily. Find someone else to go in there. Stop being a slave to the car downtown..
    • A couple of things. 24th and Meridian is not downtown. It is at least a mile north.
      That is more midtown.

      I agree pedestrian friendly is good, and adding a drive through will not make it that much less.

      Kingan is stating that putting it on the west side will shield it from the traveling public which I agree is better than the side loads or heaven forbid front loads seen up and down the corridor.

      I disagree with Kingan when he says "The notion of no drive-throughs is admirable until you look at all the existing drive-throughs that aren't going away,". If you keep adding them David, then they will never go away. What you do is ban them and eventually they will reduce in number. Doubtful that a 20 year old McDonalds building will still be around. They eventually go away.

      Of course that leads to the point that how many quick serve restaurants will actually build without a drive through? How many coffee shops? Ice cream etc...? With an absoulute ban in place, you will free yourself of drive throughs, but also free yourself of services for the community and taxpaying businesses. The density at 24th is not enough for all walk up crowds. Allow drive throughs, but be restrictive on where and how they are allowed. Require the requester to go overboard on installing pedestrian friendly devices.
    • Subway nixed drive-through
      Indyman -- just two blocks south and one year ago, Subway was convinced to change plans and build without a drive-through. They complied. Why should Dunkin Donuts get different treatment from regulatory bodies? There need to be defined, equally-applied standards for all business.

      http://www.ibj.com/blog/article?articleId=3510
    • Walk away
      No way. Even if it were appropriate, the site cannot handle it. Something better will turn up next year. I would walk (not drive) away from this developer's threat.
    • Of course a Subway has some of the most underutilized drive throughs. I rarely if ever have seen a customer at their drive through. Not so of Dunkin Donuts which thrives off of drive through business as do most major thoroughfare coffee shops.

      How long has that coffee shop been empty, and how long will it be until some non drive through dependent business shows up?
    • Yum
      I like donuts.
    • Yes
      1. The Subway proposal wasn't comparable. It was on a corner with a traffic signal, and proposed to dump its drive-thru exit within a few feet of the signalized corner onto Meridian. That wouldn't have been okay anywhere, even in a part of town where drive-thru is allowed.

      2. An ice-cream shop is a neighborhood-serving use, and the neighbors who've responded all have indicated they'll go there. It seems they are saying that they'll put up with the morning drive-thru in order to get the afternoon/evening ice cream shop.

      3. This site is about as pedestrian friendly and midtown-urban as they come. The big caveat is that it's damn near impossible to cross Meridian there on foot, something that might be EASIER if a drive-thru caused traffic to slow appreciably.

      I just don't think you can say that there can NEVER be cars crossing sidewalks, NO ped-car conflicts on the Meridian Corridor, or that a drive-thru isn't appropriate in that area.

      I walk the corridor fairly often at lunchtime and don't find the existing fast-food places to be a significant problem for a pedestrian; I don't expect this to be any different.

    • Go for it!
      There is a drive-thru right across the street at KFC, why not here especially if it's going to be shielded from view on Meridian St. I think it's better to have a business than an empty store/building. And that area isn't so heavy on residential and
      pedestrian anyway. I say, let 'em have it.
    • Interesting - What about this?
      How about they think about moving this idea to the former Starbucks located at Fall Creek and College? I believe the concept would work. Thoughts?
    • what's the big deal?
      I agree with Indyman and Thundermutt and find the suggestion of using the old Starbucks interesting as well (prefer Dunkin coffee anyway!). It seems to be a location that relys on a good deal of transient traffic and I don't see how the current residential neighborhoods will fully sustain this without the drive thru option.
    • GREAT PROJECT
      This is great! It is on a main drag to downtown for all the commuters and will fill an empty building in a very walkable neighborhood. This is the "RIGHT" side of the road as well. Way to stick it out May (whom i do not know)! But as a fellow developer that is great vision.

      To the small #, loud few who oppose I hope that you are out numbered by a great many as was the case with another project we fought hard for and is now thriving in the neighborhood it serves. This is something that should be approved; I just hope the city doesn't suck it dry with fees and taxes!!
    • I live here, and I say YES!
      Please Please Please allow the variance! I live a block away, and the only thing I donâ??t like about living in downtown Indy is the complete lack of businesses that the suburbs take for granted. I have to shop mostly at Southport and I-65. We need to designate a section of downtown, 16th Street for example or 22nd between Meridian and Illinois, and load it up with drive through restaurants! How about a convenience store (I do use the new CVS, but sad to see the IHOP go)! A non-Krogetto grocery store! A gas station! Iâ??m all for zoning and planning, but if you want people to live here, we need services. We built Fall Creek Place out and still very few service businesses have moved in. There is an obvious development model that works for suburbia, make all the aesthetic requirements you want but start permitting some businesses to open up here in Midtown! Please Please Please!!!
    • Hey Bob...
      I'm with you on the grocery store and other essentials; it's too bad that Ace Hardware pulled out of the 22nd & Delaware development.

      (There's a gas station/c-store at 25th & College on the east side of FCP and 21st & Capitol to the west. How many more do you think are needed within a mile of your house?)
    • ok
      I wish we could get a Tim Hortons instead!
    • Awesome, another drive thru in Midtown...
      This is exactly what Midtown DOESN'T need. I'm of the philosophy that doesn't believe "any development is great development." This part of the city would benefit greatly from strategic placemaking.

      Our city's flagship street does not deserve to be saturated with chain businesses and/or drive-thrus. I'm not opposed to adding development, but can we at least attempt to create a pedestrian-friendly vibe in Midtown?
    • What exactly?
      What exactly is pedestrian-unfriendly about re-using this existing building (which has a front door facing Meridian and a welcoming patio) and retrofitting it with a drive-thru that will help assure the economic health of the venture that locates there?

      People keep asserting "pedestrian-unfriendly" but no one has explained how or why this is so. When it was open before, cars came and went from the corner (but not enough of them to keep the doors open).

      People keep asserting that this isn't an appropriate use. What is more appropriate than something that finds a way to serve both commuters and residents with something they all want and will pay for?

      Do the perfectionists not understand that business owners look for signals of safety and investment before investing their own money in an area? National brands provide a "seal of approval" for small-business owners.

      The 30,000 (speeding) cars that pass this intersection at 40+mph because it's vacant and dead now make the area pedestrian-unfriendly; slower traffic (when there is something people want to go to) will benefit pedestrians.
    • IHOP or Le Peeps
      I think IHOP should go there or maybe
      Le Peeps could have a midtown location and neither of those require a drive through.
    • Where were you?
      Wasn't there a bakery and cafe here before? Weren't they "pedestrian friendly?" Didn't they serve coffee and bakery products? And they are now out of business because all of the pedestrians couldn't/wouldn't support the business. If you want sustainable development in a community to fit what the residents want, then the residents have to support it and make a point to visit the establishment. Obviously, the community would not support this development. As a business owner, I want to support the community, but make no mistake, I am in it to make money - not lose it. I have to do what I can to make my investment a success. If all of the "pedestrians" don't like the plan - they need to come up with a better one and make it happen. It's not that easy to make it people - obviously!
    • Bonjour = Bad
      Jim -- I suggest you check out the comments when Bonjour closed:

      http://www.ibj.com/blog/article?articleId=3548

      Bonjour didn't close because people wouldn't support the business or walk to the building. They closed because they were a bad business.
    • reply
      Of the comments on Bonjour, 3 said they thought the food was average but overpriced, one of those comments only went once. Another comment stated "too bad," and another stated they never went but wanted to. This wasn't a commentary on Bonjour, more a commentary on local establishments. CorrND, I believe you even posted that you had not tried it. Bistro 936, Tavola, the rest. at Buggs - they all had great food but people didn't support. If you want quant mom/pop, pedestrian, community friendly businesses, the choice is simple. You don't say, "I live around the corner and just couldn't make it." Please don't take this as antagonistic, it is not meant to be. Support is survival to small business - how many customers told the owners how they felt - looking for a change, and how many just never went again - that is not support to a local small business. Most small business owners take it to heart because we understand the community is our profit.
    • On idling traffic
      As a nation, we burn $125 million annually idling in drive-thrus. I do not think that there is any argument that this establishment would flourish. Heck, I like their coffee and donuts too. But more idling traffic only compounds the issues that we have. o-zone action days? These are the places that help caues it...
    • Patience In Transition
      North Meridian is in a long-time transition. Most of the uses are headquarter or other offices, fast food, social service... parking lot stuff. The goal is to become more pedestrian.

      If people are serious about that becoming a pedestrian hub, its going to take a while of patience and willingness to say no and live with slow-moving change. That street isn't so wide that it couldn't be better in the future. It reminds me of a typical boulevard in LA.
    • Traffic Lights
      Exactly Josh.

      Looking at this more broadly, there's a general pedestrian problem on Capitol/Illinois/Meridian between Fall Creek Blvd. and 22nd. Because the cross-streets are tiny and unaligned, traffic planners don't see the need for traffic lights. That leads to fast moving traffic and nothing to stop the cars and let pedestrians cross safely. It's worst on Meridian because it's two-way and cars don't arrive in one-way waves as on Capitol and Illinois.

      That whole area could use some traffic calming measures and a few lights to allow pedestrians to cross safely. It would show everyone that the city is serious about pedestrians and measures like drive-through bans won't sound as frivolous as most seem to think they are.
    • And there is the rub. Should Meridian be made pedestrian friendly, or is it a major thoroughfare for delivering traffic quickly and efficiently? The two are mutually exclusive, especially on a two way street.

      that would almost be like trying to make an interstate pedestrian friendly, which in its day Meridian was an interstate highway.
    • Not exclusive
      indyman, I must disagree. It IS possible to make the street more pedestrian-friendly without affecting its carrying capacity.

      In fact, if traffic were to move closer to the posted 35mph limit thru that section, the carrying capacity would be increased. It's counter-intuitive, but high speed increases spacing and decreases "traffic density".

      I also disagree with CorrND; more lights don't necessarily calm traffic. What calms traffic is narrower lanes, parking at the curb, and more things to look at and do along the street. That would include an enhanced streetscape.

      Folks in the neighborhood all agree that it's far easier to walk across Capitol or Illinois in the 2100-to-Fall Creek area because they are "platooned" one-way streets, which have pavement widths the same or wider than Meridian.

      It is no coincidence that the 2400 block of Meridian has such fast-moving traffic; the blank frontage of the Library Services Center distorts (compresses) drivers' view and gives the impression that they are moving slowly even when they are not. The present uninteresting streetscape encourages people to speed up. Putting Dunkin' Donuts at 24th would give people something to slow down for.
    • lights
      cdc -- actually, we agree 100% that it's two separate issues: the speed of the cars and no safe crossing zones. If you read my comment, I specifically separated "traffic calming measures" from "lights to allow pedestrians to cross safely."

      On the cheap end of the spectrum, the city could add bump-outs to codify the parking lanes and reduce crossing distance, along with clearly marked crosswalk lines. On the much more expensive end, they could build a landscaped median -- which would require reducing vehicle lane width -- and add a signalized intersection at, most likely, 24th St.
    • crossing
      Agreed: crossing Meridian is the big issue in a couple of places between downtown and Ivy Tech. This is a big one.
    • bump outs
      Bump outs would be a cheap solution to the speed issues. Wonder what it would take to make this happen....
    • 2402
      Hopefully the drive thru, will slow at least one lane of the FAST moving traffic between fall creek and 22nd. They want it to be a pedestrian area however, the traffic is moving at speeds of 50-60 mph in that stretch of Meridian. I look forward to having ice cream on the outdoor patio!!! HSM, Thanks for cleaning up this stretch of Meridian by tearing down that old nasty gas station and building such a beautiful building....I hope the city allows the drive-thru if that is what it is going to take.
    • great idea
      When I travel downtown there is nothing more amazing than the idea of having some great coffee and a bearclaw with out leaving my car. I can't wait.
    • drive thur
      Yes, 100% drive thur, everyones lifes are fast pace. we need drive thurs. I vote YES
    • pro drive thru
      I owned the first drive thru for Dunkin Donuts in Tallahassee, FL. The drive thru accounted for 50% of my business and greatly added to my traffic flow. Women customers liked the added security of not having to exit their vehicles.
    • Broker
      The way of doing business and serving the public is constantly changing. If we want to encourage employment and business so that we continue to rebuild many locations that are empty then we should be flexible and promote what works! Look around at the successful business model of Dunkin Donuts!
    • zoning... what's up with that?
      What's funny is that the zoning code is so strict as to completely prohibit drive-thrus on this portion of Meridian Street, but along any other corridor outside downtown, a fast-food restaurant can be designed as auto-oriented and anti-pedestrian as one likes. How about some decent regulations that require that drive-thrus be designed to provide a decent pedestrian-oriented/accessible design all throughout the county? Or at least in the areas that are actually somewhat urban, such as the old city limits?
    • NO
      If you want some coffee to take to work or wherever...park the damn car and don't be afraid to walk 30 ft. - go in and get it!!
    • CorrND Wake up
      CoeeND..You are correct in saying the "Pedestrian Experience" is not much in that area, and in my opinion it won't be any time soon. The question is, why would someone park on Meridian to take a weekend walk or even to visit the food offerings?? The only foot traffic you see is headed to the pawn shop or the liquor store! This is area is never going to be a place where the neighbor hood is served. Lets face it, this is a 4 lane road, not a neighbor hood atmosphere. This will never be a Hamilton Town Center or a Mass Ave unless they plan on razing all the chain fast food, pawn shop and liquor store and office buildings. Not like there is a ton of vacant land for this area to all of a sudden become a pedestrian destination. I heard they are pushing a street scape, I have not personally seen this plan although it seems it would be a waste of time because again....why park and walk to Wendy's, taco bell, the pawn shop, the bank, the car dealership, the liquor store.... besides, there has been free parking on Meridian for years. If I want to park and walk around, I would go to the canal Mass ave or the zoo. What is the big deal if this property adds a drive through, seems to me it is the only place that does not currently have one.
    • Lets eat!!!
      Indy can be so anti-business. It seems like a petty deal-breaker given the huge economic trade off. The positive impact of two well known fast food establishments will likely have a long-term positive upside... so the only hitch is only a drive thru? If you can survive Indy's numerous roundabouts... negotiating a drive thru seems pretty harmless. It seems like a no-brainer to me. Let us eat ice cream and donuts!
    • Obese-city
      At any rate, the last 10 or so comments only help explain why Indianapolis consistently ranks as one of the fattest cities in the country.
    • Don't squelch obesity
      Obesity adds jobs.
    • Ped X-Ing
      Now if there were a foot bridge over Meridian close to that location... THAT might increase foot traffic in the area. Other than that, as a nearby resident to this area, I only ever see the aforementioned pawn shop or liquor store type customers walking around in that area.

      I say buck the zoning and allow the variance... Anything to get that block thriving again.
    • Approved
      It has been approved and will be built with the drivethru.
    • for the record
      I agree that having a drive thru is a plus. I tried it myself as the previous owner for Bonjour. The City Planner (I think his name was Jeff) told me that he would oppose it if I petitioned for a variance. Mr. Kegan also did not believe it will go. This location has its pros and cons. No businesses and pedestrians traffic around it does not help. These surrounding vacant lots will have to develop first before you see serious commercial action in this area. The building setback makes you unnoticeable for cars until they get passed you unless you have a high sign, which the City planner would not approve it. If you have enough money to hire attorneys you have a chance. It was just incredibly costly to get passed all the hoops. Everything needs an attorney. If you try to do the paperwork yoursel, good luck with the officials. For the regular store sign you need two permits from two different city agencies. Operationwise. I admit we had our mistakes and flaws but we listened to those who sincerely and unbiasly provided advise to improve. Obviously we could not satisfty everybody. Nevertheless we had many repeat customers from all professions and backgrounds. I mean people who frequented our business at least three times every week during our 10 months of operations. I would like to thank the library staff, the neighborhood association, and all those who supported us whether by giving us the opportunity to serve them and supported our business.

      I also want to let it be known that we did not want to give up so soon. The rent was too high (nobody forced me to accept it and i blame nobody but myself). However, when the economy downturn became so severe, I attempted to negotiate with the landlord a relief or temporary reduction so that we can survive the first couple of years, which are very crucial for any startup business. Instead they decided to evict us because we were late 10 days and they showed up one morning with the lock smith and called the police to kick us out. The female officer that day was a judge, a contract expert and law enforcer in the same time. They confiscated the equipment which were eventually sold at auction by order of the court. After our eviction they attempted to lease it at least to one other tenant as a turn key operations. IT didn't work out because at the lease signing they wanted to increase the already very high rent (according to industry experts). My advise: count your fingers before and after you shake hands with them.


      Best of luck for the honest and the sincere.

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