Planners balk at proposed Jack in the Box on Meridian

November 9, 2011
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Jack in the Box MeridianCity planners are recommending denial of a variance request for a Jack in the Box restaurant proposed for Meridian Street just south of 16th Street. In a staff report, planners expressed concerns about the proximity of the restaurant's sign to a neighboring sign for CVS, its lack of adequate landscaping along Meridian Street, and a proposed drive-through along the building's east façade. Urban design guidelines prohibit new drive-throughs along Meridian or Pennsylvania streets in the downtown vicinity. The noise and lights from cars and the drive-through speaker would adversely affect residential properties nearby, the report notes. But several businesses in the immediate vicinity, including CVS, Walgreens, McDonald's, Chase and White Castle, already operate drive-throughs, a point that won't be lost on attorneys representing the restaurant chain. The plans are scheduled for a Board of Zoning Appeals hearing Nov. 15. Jack in the Box, which also owns the Qdoba Mexican Grill concept, decided to revive its plans for the restaurant at Meridian and 16th streets earlier this year as part of its plan to open at least 10 central Indiana locations. The proposed design shown above is a departure from the San Diego-based chain's standard-format restaurants. Thoughts?

UPDATE: The Board of Zoning Appeals denied the request by Jack in the Box in a 4-1 vote.

  • Incorrect data

    This is not a rezoning petition. It is a variance of use and a variance of development standards. Further, staff is not opposed to the landscaping request. Staff has taken a strong, but correct stance to this proposal. Readers must note that each variance must be granted based on the individual site, not what others have done in the area. While it may seem strange to argue against this petition with the other stores in the area, they ultimately have no consequence. Staff was correct in citing drive throughs as a suburban characteristic. This is a premiere corridor near the heart of DT. JiB has several planned units around the city and in suburbs. If they don't think they can operate here without a drive through, then this site isn't correct for them. It also goes to speak about our lack of transportation options. I don't mind who goes there, but the urban form must be kept or DT simply becomes another mediocre suburb.
    • Jack in the Box
      I live in a building that would be one of the closest to the new restaurant. There's an empty building across the street of Meridian, and a huge empty limo company across the alley to the east. It's all pretty empty right where they propose to build, so I'm not sure what the concern is?

      Why would the city would rather leave that area sit desolate and empty than let new business come in?

      I'm not sure why, but I feel pretty strongly against the city's decision on this.
    • residential?
      If they can work out something with staff to address their concerns about negatively affecting the existing residents, I'm all for it! The rendering - which I understand is ONLY a rendering, makes it look really nice, with adequate landscaping IMHO.
    • Joe is right
      Joe's right. It's so much more urban and neo-Detroit to have abandoned lots littering downtown. 24 hr food service is sooooooo suburban.
      • Let them come in
        I think the location, both for a Jack in the Box AND a Qdoba are fantastic. They will be able to support Ivy Tech students, nearby residents and near northside commuters on their way home. I do question the need for a drive through however, especially on the east facade. This faces it at the back door to the residents on Penn. A north facing, if possible by site constraints, would be better. If the new CVS was permitted a drive through, then the city should have no right to deny this facility one.
        • Correction
          Joe: Thanks for the heads up. I've updated the post to reflect this is a variance request rather than a rezoning petition. The staff report does point out that the proposed 6 feet of landscaping falls short of the 10-foot minimum requirement of the Commercial Zoning Ordinance, but it is not the reason for the denial recommendation.
        • JiB
          After re-reading the article and Joe's comments. I don't see the residential area as a big issue, but I can see traffic bunching up there more after adding another fast food drive through.

          If that's a concern, and I'm sure there's been studies done in the area, then it might be best not to have it.

          I'm super lazy though, and the idea of walking across the street for food sounds awesome. Maybe they can have a walk through instead.
          • Close Residential
            There's a multi-family residential reuse proposed for 1450 N Pennsylvania (the former Payton Wells body shop/lot between this site and Pennsylvania), so residential proximity is a serious issue as regards the drive-through and potential 24 hour use.

            The BZA very much needs to deny this proposal.
          • Greg and others
            1. Land across the alley (former body shop lot that faces Penn) was just rezoned for apartment use with the support of Planning staff and neighborhood. The drive through would impact planned/future development on that site.

            2. Have you ever seen more than one car at the CVS drive-through? Have you ever seen less than 10 cars at the McDonald's drive through (north across 16th)? There's a significant difference in intensity of use. Do you really imagine that another drive-through would have zero impact on both traffic and walkability in the area?

            3. This variance would allow 24/7 drive-through operation. That means lights, thumpin' bumpin' car audio, squawk-box ordering, car engine noise, exhaust fumes and greasy kitchen smells across the alley from apartments 24/7. Good way to guarantee "low-rent" neighbors.
            • Suburban
              Yo Jack Box,

              no one argued about the geographical presence of 24 hour food service. This is about demanding an appropriate design and urban form for Indianapolis and Downtown. If the market for this franchise is people who drive, then locate out in the burbs where people drive. This lot is a prime piece of real estate and will be filled by something. Indy is not hurting for a Jack in the Box, trust me. JiB needs us.
            • Jack in the Box
              I missed the news about the development coming in, are there details for it yet?

              This definitely changes my opinion on the new JiB location.

            • Zoning Issue
              Is this really downtown, though? It's outside the mile square, I'm pretty sure.
            • back The Jack
              Where's the love for the Jack?? Incredible Ultimate Cheeseburgers, great curly fries, full-time breakfast menu . . . Indianapolis needs to embrace the Jack; Ronald can always use some genuine competition
            • ^^needing fast food???
              There is no NEED for Indy to let this Jack in the Box come downtown. Its no different than a McDonalds, Burger King, Hardees, White Castle,Sonic, etc., etc. Indy should not bend to the desires of JiB. We don't need this on our primary corridor. If they want to be here - they need to meet the city's requirements. I would not miss them a bit if they were not downtown. (And yes, 15th and Meridian is downtown.)
            • Now that makes sense!
              Sure, who in their right mind would prefer to have a new restaurant facility in this area, when it's so much easier to have vacant, dilapidated buildings over 50 years old?? Let's keep the downtown corridor looking abandoned!!
            • Too Close to Home
              Let's be real. This property is just a little to close to home for some DMD staff. Since they don't want it, no one else should either.
            • Vacancy

              Every parcel was vacant at one point. The idea that something is better than nothing is a terrible falicy. What if it were a gas plant or coal plant and you lived near by, you would certainly be concerned about the smell and air quality. What if it were a liquor store or porn store, you would fear for your children. What if it were a national chain store who promoted a sedintary lifestyle while pushing extremely unhealthy food? The point is that we have the ability now to protect the future and that opportunity shouldn't be thrown away for 12 low wage jobs and mediocre food.
              • Opposed
                I agree it should not be built there. Instead build it at 116th and Allisonville in Fishers on the Northwest corner. Can't wait to get Jack in the box tacos in Indiana
              • Really??
                So now you get to decide what's a reasonable commercial entity in a mixed-use area within spitting distance of McDonald's?? Protect the future?? God help us, it's a restaurant, and in case you didn't notice there are several others in the greater Indianapolis metropolitan area.
              • Really??
                Joe, it ISN'T a gas plant or a coal plant, and it ISN'T a porn store or a liquor store. Please . . .
              • mediocre?
                and Joe, STOP dissing my food; millions enjoy it every day
              • Really......
                James, obesity is one of the nations largest killers and adult onset diabetes in children is on an alarming rise. I ultimately don't care what goes here, I care about the form. The proposed building isn't terrible, but the parking lot and drive through are. If you can't get out of your car to stuff your face, chances are you already stuffed your face once that day. My issue isn't with JiB, it is the urban form!
              • Yes, empty is temporary condition
                The logic that because this stretch of Meridian needs economic development so any development proposal should be welcomed with open arms is rather faulty. I suppose we could turn all the empty lots in the city into processing sites for radioactive waste and then crow about creating full employment, but would anyone want to live in such a city?

                Meridian Street is the premier corridor in the city, and that strip of it is not abandoned as some have suggested. Yes, it is a struggling area, but that does not mean allowing crap to go up should be viewed as progress. The West 38th Street corridor was developed under the anything goes plan, and it ended up a run-down, undesirable area. So, just allowing development for development's sake does not guarantee economic prosperity. The goal should be quality, not quantity.

                To answer the critics, YES, it is far better to forgo at best $100,000 or so in property and sales taxes, then to permit another janky fast food drive-in to go into an area poised for residential and quality commercial development. Furthermore, the choice is honestly not even about giving up tax dollars because the Jack-in-the-Box franchise will simply locate in another part of the city, probably along a high-traffic commercial corridor better suited for such development, so the city will still get the tax dollars.

                • what next??
                  So a new, modern and tastefully-designed restaurant has now been compared to a gas plant, a coal plant, a porn store, a liquor store, and a processing site for radioactive waste . . . if these people made up the P&Z dept for the city, we'd all be driving to Kokomo or Bloomington for dinner every night . . . but we'd certainly have a couple of beautiful apartment buildings somewhere along Meridian between the Circle and 465. Good development = growth, growth = expanded tax base, and expanded tax base = lower costs for all of us. It's a restaurant, not a nuclear waster dump
                  • Worng start
                    James, you hit the nail on the head. You assume there is a need to drive to eat and probably do anything else. This is Downtown (roughly) and there is a policy in place from the city and the surrounding neighborhoods to promote walkability. I suggest if you need a fast food restaurant so much, just live in Kokomo. I chose DT Indy because it has the potential to be efficient and promote great design and urban form, not because they can line a street with chain fast food places and drive throughs.
                  • Almost
                    You had a pretty good point going until the end of #3. I get what you are saying, but pointing out that it will lead to "low rent neighbors" sound a lot like complaining that it will attract more poor people to a neighborhood where we are otherwise trying to get rid of them. Very progressive.
                  • Agree with Joe
                    Joe, you are so right. Downtown development should not cater toward commuters needing their fast food fix from a drive-through. We need to promote walkability and healthy food options.
                  • What's Next Is Something Better
                    James, my comment was not comparing the drive-through to a nuclear dumpsite, but you already know that. I was making a point that development for developments sake is not sound policy.

                    As I noted, West 38th Street has been open to this type of fast food, strip mall development for decades, and now it is a rather depressed and dreary part of town with a fair number of commercial vacancies. Unplanned development does not lead to great results.

                    There are hundreds of better places in Marion County to locate a Jack-in-the-Box than a stretch of Meridian Street in the heart of the city. Your suggestion that if the city doesn't green light this development it will cause developers to look to the supposed greener pastures of Kokomo is ridiculous.
                  • right decision
                    I am not even looking at walkability or lifestyle, but just bottom line. Anyone who lives in the area can tell you that the stretch of 16th from College to the Hospital had seen a great amount of development in the last five years. This lot will soon be redeveloped into something that will generate a lot more tax revenue for the city than the fast food joint.
                  • DJ
                    "Low rent" was in quotes, used colloquially, to mean "undesirable", not to mean "low income". If I'd meant "low income", that's what I would have written.

                    Undesirable residential settings don't typically attract working people of any income level who have choices.

                    And "low rent" in a commercial sense means auto parts, dollar stores, and check cashing: other single-tenant, single-story buildings catering to cars.
                  • who will testify?
                    I'm wondering if anyone will actually show up to remonstrate at the public hearing next Tuesday. Anyone relying the City staff recommendation to get this denied is naive about how this process works. Rightly or wrongly, the decision makers don't typically go along with the staff when they recommend denial, but they do more often side with a room full of citizens who testify against something.
                  • Frings, Moby Jack, and letting a clown take your order.
                    Boy, I could sit here and talk about J-Box all day, but I have a life 2 live.
                  • I'm getting Hungry Reading All This!
                    This was a hot discussion last week...but as a reminder, in the late 1970's the City allowed (through variance) the fast-food drive-thru messs we still have at 22nd to 24th and Meridian, and that has been the obstacle for better development in that suburbanized looking strip area! Again, the mighty variance re-allowed the McDonalds at 16th & Meridian to keep their mess in the late 1980's. Once allowed they stay forever, as the Arby's, Subway, and White Castle has done along South Street! DMD Staff is right and the BZA needs to kill this JitB before it can also multiply! Urban edge, urban density, and urban space is what is needed along both Meridian and Pennsylvania, not fast food or drive thru's!
                  • The right decision
                    I live in Fall Creek Place and have to deal with Wendy's and the riff-raff that generates from the drive-through. Not only is the landscaping non-existent, but having a drive-through creates traffic problems as well as plenty of littering. I frequent Walgreens and CVS by the proposed Jack-in-the-Box, and if people are too lazy to get out of their car to park and get food, then absolutely there should not be a drive-through. The McDonald's is often a mess, the curb cuts are too close to the 16th/Meridian intersection, and this will only make it worse. If they must have a drive-through to function, then they ought to look at the vacant parcels on one-way streets such as Capitol, which would help deal with the traffic increase (that is, until Indianapolis decides to tear up a street or sidewalk).
                  • Denied
                    Just watched the archived hearing:
                  • Why are people against this!?
                    Reading through these comments, is everyone serious? Comparing a restaurant to a liquor store, power-plant, or porn store? Seriously... JiB is doing what a lot of restaurant would NOT do. This proposed building is completely different from their other locations. They tried to make this more urban and blend in while still separating it from the rest. I have driven past the proposed lot multiple times, it looks awful. When thousands of people are in Indy for super-bowl, they will think of us as a vacant city such as Detroit. Regardless it would not be constructed by Super-Bowl, but there would at least be dirt and a sign saying "Coming Soonish" like at the Greenwood location. And lastly, even though a drive-thru is planned, they are including much more outdoor seating than other nearby restaurants. I honestly cannot think of one flaw in this design. It is convenient, welcoming, has urban architecture, and its Jack in the Box!
                    • Nick
                      As a building, it wasn't bad. They did do a lot to try and sell this project, but that is because they knew they would have to. The standards against drive throughs are more than just a site specific issue. Drive throughs promote a car based lifestyle detracting from the human scale and pedestrian environment. All of the plans in and near this area call that very situation out and the residents and business owners demand better. While this is a busy commuter corridor, it is the gateway to DT and also the heart of a growing near northside community. JitB wanted to serve a population with little or no stake in this community, but what does that leave those who invested on the idea that this area was different? Again, most of us, I think, weren't against JitB or even the building, but the drive through is not a site issue, it is a lifestyle that as the staff report stated correctly is inherently suburban in nature and promotes the reliance on an automobile in an area very much set up and planned for walkability and a mich higher quality of place.
                    • Northside
                      WE WOULD LOVE ONE IN NORTH INDY

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