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Kosene condo plan rankles residents: Broad Ripple developments would undermine character of village, neighborhood groups say

January 9, 2006

Kosene & Kosene Residential LLC wants to follow the success of its sold-out Monon Row condominium project in Broad Ripple with two new projects. But it's facing strong opposition from nearby residents, who say the high-density projects are out of step with the small-town character of the village.

The Indianapolis-based developer is seeking rezoning that would allow it to build 23 condos at 66th and Ferguson streets and 28 condos along the Monon Trail south of Broad Ripple. Buildings would be 2-1/2 to three stories high. Condos would start at about $200,000.

The separate petitions are both scheduled for a Jan. 12 city hearing. Two neighborhood organizations have voted to oppose both plans, and the developer may face a horde of remonstrators when the cases are heard.

"I'm totally aghast at these two plans," said Ann Kaplan, owner of Artifacts Gallery at 6327 Guilford Ave. "This is pure greed."

For Kosene, which recently wrapped up the five-phase, 75-unit Monon Row project, the stringent opposition comes as a surprise.

"We're shocked," said Kosene principal Tadd Miller. The developer worked with the Broad Ripple Village Association on the Monon Row project, making design and other changes but facing no significant opposition, Miller said.

This time around, BRVA voted to oppose both plans.

"It seems like their whole philosophy has changed," Miller said of the organization.

Opposition is largely based on the projects' proposed density-23 units on 0.76 acre at 66th and Ferguson and 28 units on 1.43 acres along the Monon Trail. Residents and landowners also object that the plans are out of step with a Broad Ripple Village land use plan adopted by the city in 1997.

That plan recommends low-density, mixed-use development for the 66th Street site and low-density residential for the second site, on Winthrop Avenue just north of 61st Street.

As proposed, the buildings also wouldn't fit well with the surrounding neighborhoods, opponents said.

Plans call for the $5 million 66th Street project to be clustered in five buildings resembling the Monon Row condos-three-story buildings with garages on the first floor and two-story living units above. Neighboring buildings are mostly small, one- and two-story frame houses and offices.

On Winthrop Avenue, Kosene's $7.5 million plan calls for 28 units in 10 buildings. Those buildings are designed to resemble Craftsman-style bungalows common in Broad Ripple and other north-side neighborhoods. Those facing Winthrop Avenue would be clustered in doubles, with other buildings facing an interior courtyard or the Monon Trail containing more units.

Garages would be underneath the living spaces, but would be excavated to reduce the height of the buildings, according to the latest version of plans filed in late December.

As of IBJ deadline, city staffers had not made a recommendation on the zoning petitions.

Both sites currently have houses and/or small office/retail buildings on them, which would be torn down.

From Kosene's perspective, the condo projects would increase home ownership in an area with an abundance of absentee landlords and 20-somethings attracted by the stumbling-home proximity to Broad Ripple's nightclubs and bars.

The site on Winthrop, Miller noted, includes abandoned cars and trash that would be removed along with the houses if the condo project is approved.

The projects would also give Kosene more supply of what has proven to be one of its most popular condo offerings, Miller said. The developer also has several developments on the east side of downtown Indianapolis and elsewhere near Broad Ripple.

"Monon Row has kind of been our showpiece," he said of the condos, which sold for $150,000 to $300,000.

But from opponents' perspective, Kosene's high-density condos would further chip away at the already-eroding small-town feel of the village and change the character of the neighborhood that drew them there in the first place.

Existing large-scale Broad Ripple condo developments, including Monon Row and the Reserve, lie on the northern edge of the village's boundaries and aren't as intrusive, said Linda Shikani, owner of Marigold clothing boutique and a member of the BRVA board who voted against the new proposals. She said she was not on the board when Monon Row was approved.

The two new plans, by contrast, are in an existing residential area and an area where many homes have been converted into businesses, she said.

As proposed, Kosene's buildings would "dwarf all the other houses," she said.

Shikani and Kaplan said they will oppose Kosene's plans at the Jan. 12 hearing, despite the fact the projects might increase their pool of potential customers.

"I'm never against more customers," Shikani said. "[But] I've been here 16 years. People come for what's here, whether they live here or not."
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