City delays approval of downtown parking garage

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The developer of an $85 million downtown project faces a delay after its design for a parking garage failed to meet city approval Thursday morning.

The Indianapolis Regional Center Hearing Examiner denied recommendation of the design and instead gave Flaherty & Collins Properties more time to resubmit plans that he said needed to be more welcoming to downtown pedestrians.

Approval of the garage design now will be considered at the examiner’s June 14 meeting.

“These are high-traffic roadways,” David DiMarzio said. “We would like these to be more pedestrian-friendly.”

The project, announced in January, originally called for 487 apartments, a Marsh grocery store, the parking garage and additional retail space on properties bounded by Michigan Street, Capitol Avenue, Vermont Street and Indiana Avenue. Revised plans call for 330 apartment units.

Overall, the project would replace a block and a half of surface parking lots owned by locally based OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc., which uses them for employee parking.

The five- or six-story garage would be built at the northwest corner of New York and Illinois streets.

Flaherty & Collins is planning 1,500 square feet of retail space, which could grow to more if there’s enough demand, said Jim Crossin, the company’s vice president of development.

But two Indianapolis residents who attended the meeting insisted the retail plans are inadequate, especially since city guidelines say parking garages fronting pedestrian walkways should include “retail shops, restaurants, business services and offices.”

Because the site is within the Regional Center overlay district, the project needs to comply with Regional Center Urban Design guidelines and requires initial approval by the city’s hearing examiner.

“This particular garage is a less-than-inspiring design,” said Joshua Brewster, who works downtown. “This simply looks like an ice-cube tray, basically, and I think the downtown deserves more.”

Crossin, however, countered by pointing out that the main purpose of the garage is to serve OneAmerica employees and tenants of the company’s tower.

“You can’t escape the fact that it is a parking garage, and some things aren’t achievable,” he said. “By no means is it more than a utilitarian garage, so we think [the design] is appropriate.”

DiMarzio, the hearing examiner, said he could overlook the small amount of retail space if the developer improves the ground-floor design and provides more landscaping to make the design more pedestrian-friendly.

A groundbreaking is scheduled for this summer.

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