City not impressed with offer from Di Rimini developer

October 5, 2010
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Di RiminiWhat makes a developer think he can win approval for one design and construct an entirely different building? How did no one at the city notice until the structure was almost complete? What happens now? Those are the big questions surrounding the Di Rimini apartment project at the southeast corner of Capitol Avenue and St. Clair Street. The Department of Code Enforcement issued a stop-work order in September for the project at 733 N. Capitol Ave., and senior city planner Jeff York gave developer Di Rimini LLC a list of 35 points where the project built differs from the one approved. Developer Jeff Sparks met with city planners on Friday to offer proposed fixes, but York tells Property Lines the developer's offer was not adequate. "The plans we received from Mr. Sparks were less than what we were expecting," York said. "We are continuing discussions internally to figure out next steps."

If the developer can't come to terms with city planners, the current approval could be voided and ultimately the fate of the project could wind up in court. The fact the project is almost complete could play in the developer's favor. So why didn't the city notice sooner? Because "the property owner is ultimately responsible for performing the work they say they will," said Kate Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Department of Code Enforcement. In this case, the developer secured permits for a project that matched the approved plans but went ahead and built something else, she said. The department doesn't inspect properties for plan compliance unless they receive a complaint. "The fault is the developer's," York added. "We don't have the staff to doublecheck to see if every project is built as approved."

IBJ reported on the front page of Monday's print edition how neighbors had wondered for months whether the Di Rimini eventually would resemble the renderings they had seen. The 31-unit building taking shape had fewer and different windows, less limestone and more synthetic stucco than promised. Two-story aluminum and glass storefronts were missing. The portion along St. Clair had three stories instead of four and was missing vertical columns. The violations pose the biggest test yet for the city’s 2-year-old urban design guidelines, as neighbors and other developers watch closely to see whether the city enforces the new rules. The city’s planning staff met five separate times with Sparks and his attorney to ensure the project would meet the guidelines. And after the developer agreed to a long list of changes, a hearing examiner approved the proposal in October 2009. Construction began early this year. Planning Administrator Mike Peoni said the developer thought “they were getting the project approved conceptually” and not each specific detail. He said Sparks, who refused to discuss the building with IBJ, was apologetic and humble in a meeting with planners.

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  • http://www.urbanophile.com/
    Let's be blunt: the city encourages this behavior. Look at what happened with BW-3, for example. They built a design that was out of compliance with codes, but were able to keep most of what they built - creating a downtown eyesore in the process - with only minor changes.

    What are the odds this guy is required to actually correct all the defects? If not, it's just another message to the next guy to do the same thing.

    What's amazing is that the development standards in downtown Indy are depressingly low as it is. But that's apparently even too much for these jokers, the folks who brought us BW-3, etc.
  • Wow!
    Code Enforcement has increased it's staff over the past two years, during the worst recession since the Great Depression. This is their response to this fiasco "the department doesn't inspect for compliance unless they receive a complaint.". So, what do they do? I picture them sitting at their desks waiting for the phone to ring.
    • "Indianapolis -- OK with UGLY"
      That's a slogan you could put on a bumper sticker to promote the essence of our existence here . . .
    • Disappointing
      This not only is bad for the design side, but also for the future of the City being able to trust and work with developers as partners - an absolute necessity to accomplish economic development and job growth. I hope the City sticks to it's guns - this would not be tolerated in Austin/Denver/Minneapolis much less New York - it should NOT be tolerated here.
    • wow is right
      I'm glad someone complained.

      I'm even more glad Cory and the IBJ editors see the importance of raising all these issues.

      This one touches everything: design, approval process, and enforcement.
    • U-G-L-Y
      You ain't got no al-i-bi.

      I wondered how this crab building was approved when I drove by the other day. I've seen interstate motels that look better than this. I can't imagine anyone driving by and thinking, hey I want to rent there.

      Ugly. Just plain ugly.
      • Lack of Communication
        Maybe this is a situation where the building inspector and code enforcement officer could have worked together. It seems that if the building inspector had studied or taken the renderings with him to certain inspection points he could have been aware of the diversions and notified both the developer and the city. Instead, a lack of communication brought an ugly project with no oversight! Let's start to have standards in Indy. People want to be downtown, don't compromise liveability and design with pushing through development!
      • developer losing money
        There are 31 units renting for $1590/month. That's just shy of $50k per month. The developer should think of the money they'll lose if this thing goes to court and just fix it correctly NOW.
      • Lender
        Anybody have any idea who the lender was on that? I wonder which set of plans went through loan committee, the "conceptual" ones, or the actual.
      • Yikes
        That is one ugly building. I agree with others who say that accepting this would completely devalue any standards we have.

        At the same time, the process of oversight needs to be managed better. The idea that the city does nothing to ensure projects are built correctly is crazy to me.

        Every project needs some sort of management or they will NEVER be built per plans... ask any designer in town. Whether they should be is another story. Even if it is totally the developer's fault, it is really rare that construction is completely reworked to match design. There is always compromise and noone ends up happy with the results. You have to manage these things and stay on them if you want good results.
      • DMD favorites
        If you haven't been inside the DMD system you haven't seen how they mysteriously favor some developers (personal relationships) with crappy projects and then harass the dickens out of decent projects.
        Please publish the total budget of this department and let's look at saving a few million by letting them all go. I know they have pent millions fighting my projects for their "friends".
        • Original Design
          Here is a blog that outlines the specifics.

          http://www.urbanindy.com/2010/09/28/from-sketches-to-shovel-how-the-de-rimini-fails/
        • Difference
          There really is a difference between enforcement of construction standards -- ensuring that the building is structurally sound and meets safety requirements, for example -- and design standards, which are mostly aesthetic appearance rules. The facts may be that the code enforcement staff were hired to ensure compliance with construction, safety, and structural codes, not the difference issues of aesthetic requirements as negotiated in a hearing. Nonetheless, the builder clearly knew what he agreed to, and this type of blatantly and illegally cutting design corners and reducing costs is why the construction industry gets a bad name.
        • Hideous
          This building makes me cringe every morning when I drive past it! I am so glad to hear it differs from what the city approved and hope it is changed to reflect the type of construction our first-class downtown deserves!
        • Awful!
          Like thousands of others who drive by here every day I've wondered about this project. It's just plain awful. Make 'em tear it down and start over. That's the only solution.
        • OMG
          Oh My God! I can't believe this. Only in Indianapolis. This just adds to the horrible haphazard streetscape along both Illinois & Capitol Streets. Please the City of Indianapolis don't allow this. Maybe the City or Owner can hire an arsonist. Where's the Canal arsonist?
        • What's new?
          Nothing! What makes a developer think he can win approval for one design and build an entirely different building? Because he knows he can! And others also know they can. Wait until the old market square gets sloshed around between the developers and the city and watch another incredible bait and switch coming down the pike. Why be shocked when it happens? Good job, again, IBJ!
        • Good story!
          I also wondered how something this ugly managed to slip through reviews. The only conclusion I could draw was that it was a jail or some other type of facility designed to make people want to stay out.
        • Jeff?
          Are you really suggesting that it ISN'T an Indianapolis building inspector's job to make sure that a building is built according to the plans that were submitted to get a building permit?
        • Cheap Southwest Apartment Building
          What they built looks just like the cheap Southwestern apartment building I saw go up when I lived in New Mexico near El Paso, TX...it's horrible and should be torn down. What a farce.
        • DMD favoriates galore
          I agree. The DMD has shamefully managed the city's developments the last several years. They have made deals with a few selective developers and have yet to work to generate tax revenue. Beyond their lack of code enforcement, all their efforts seem politically driven. The DMD flat out refuses to return calls regarding anuything, especially the grant restrictions in fall creek place or work with sellers and buyers to get good people into the city's homes. Further, without any legal grounds, the DMD required all grant homeowners to be under restrictions for 5 extra years without every offering anything. Plambrook needs to step it up or step down.
        • Downtown Development
          The Building Inspectors do not inspect to development standards. They inspect to the State minimum adpoted building, electric, plumbing, HVAC, fire and accessibility codes. The Planners who work out the development details work for the Dept. of Metropolitan Development, not Code Enforcement.
        • So...
          Building inspectors DON'T check buildings under construction for compliance with the plans submitted for building permits???

          Why make people submit plans for extensive and costly permit reviews? You could pull a permit for anything, and build what you want as long as it complies with building code minimums.

          I think most rational observers would have a problem with that approach.
        • Inspectors
          The contractor is to have approved construction documents available on site at all times. Any changes to those documents are to be submitted to the Division of Code Enforcement, and that division is responsible for periodic inspections of the project during construction, to assure its compliance with the construction documents, and all applicable building codes.
        • Right
          Except when they don't. In this case we have a developer who changed plans without review, and DCE inspector(s) who apparently didn't see the deviations from the approved plans.

          Creation of the DCE was supposed to make code enforcement better, faster, and self-supporting. So far they've done the self-supporting part by raising fees. If this is evidence of better enforcement, then there's still a long long way to go.
        • Next...
          Welcome to Indy, the new Detroit!
        • You Get What You Pay For
          When Code Enforcement pay's its inspections staff less than $30,000 per year it is not a surprise that things like this happen. I would have thought that the Planners would have taken a look in person as the project progressed given that it is in Regional Center, and was a difficult project to get approved in the first place. The Building Inspection staff checks for Code Compliance not Zoning and Elevation compliance. They're very different jobs and unfortunately its highly unlikely that a zoning officer ever went to the site. Of course the building inspector should have removed his head from his **you know where** and noticed the plans and the project were two totally different things. But when you pay people next to nothing for important jobs like inspections and enforcement, you get what you pay for. Shame on DCE Director Rick Powers for being an over-paid ego maniac with absolutely no ability or talent. The man gave himself a nice $20,000 raise as well as raises for his hand picked senior staff members, while all other staff went without a raise for another year... He should be fired.

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