North of South project clears rezoning hurdle

The downtown property where developers want to build a $155 million mixed-use project known as North of South won rezoning approval on Wednesday, but not without more resistance from nearby businesses.

Members of the Metropolitan Development Commission voted unanimously to rezone 14 acres of land—now home to a parking lot north of South Street between Delaware Street and Virginia Avenue downtown—to accommodate the project.

Locally based Buckingham Cos. is leading the development, set to be built on property owned by Eli Lilly and Co. The city is offering to provide an $86 million loan and build $9 million in infrastructure to get the project off the ground. Plans call for a boutique hotel, retail space, a YMCA and 320 upscale apartments.

But a handful of longtime area businesses, led by fabric wholesaler Mayer Paetz Inc. at 321 S. Alabama St., wants a commitment from developers that the project will not disturb right-of-way and on-street parking configurations.

Mayer Paetz is particularly concerned about semitrailers being able to access loading docks to make deliveries.

“What we have been looking for in these multiple meetings is an actual binding commitment,” the company’s attorney, Larry Whitham, told the commission. “We’re looking to you for guidance.”

Commission members, though, said they’re confident Buckingham will cooperate with Mayer Paetz to ensure semis have access to the docks, and work with businesses to make certain visitors have access to on-street parking.

Attorney Tim Ochs, representing the developer’s partnership known as NOS Innovation Partners, argued that right-of-way issues aren’t even relevant to a rezoning request.

“Nobody wants to see those businesses suffer,” he said. “But we’re entitled to [the street] just as much as they are. To have us make a commitment to property that we don’t own, it’s impractical—it’s impossible.”

Ochs said the proper city entity to air their grievances is to the Regional Center hearing examiner. Because the site is located within the Regional Center overlay district, its design needs to comply with Regional Center Urban Design guidelines.

The examiner is set to hear site plans Dec. 23, but a continuance could push it back to Jan. 13.

Earlier this month, the MDC approved a potential financing arrangement for the project involving the city.

The city is offering to provide the $86 million loan by issuing bonds and using income generated by the development to pay off the costs.
The $155 million price tag for the project includes the city loan and infrastructure-improvement pledge, as well as a $7 million contribution from Buckingham, a $6 million grant from the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the $29 million in land Lilly is donating and $18 million for the YMCA branch, which the YMCA will fund.


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