Browning Investments’ controversial plan for a $25 million mixed-use development in Broad Ripple cleared its first hurdle Thursday, despite a strong showing from area business owners and residents opposing the project.
The local developer is seeking a zoning change and variances to redevelop the 2-acre property northeast of the intersection of College Avenue and the Central Canal. Browning has planned a 75-foot-tall apartment building for the site and a 33,500-square-foot grocery store, earmarked for a Whole Foods.
On Thursday, the Metropolitan Development Commission’s hearing examiner, Rex Joseph, recommended approval of the changes. The MDC will consider the issue on Sept. 4.
Upon announcing his decision, Joseph said he wasn't sure what economic impact his decision would have on the neighborhood’s small businesses, but, “as you look around Broad Ripple, you don't see a lot of change.”
That no other firm has stepped forward with plans to redevelop the property, a portion of which contains a vacant Shell gas station, also swayed his decision.
Besides the retail component, Browning’s project would contain 104 apartment units and a four-story parking garage with 340 spaces.
About three dozen opponents appeared at the Thursday meeting, many of whom pleaded with Joseph to deny Browning’s requests.
Rudy Nehrling, owner of the organic Good Earth Natural Foods grocery, located just a few blocks away from Browning’s site, said he had collected more than 3,200 signatures opposing the project.
“The bottom line is that this project is too big for Broad Ripple Village,” Nehrling said.
He said he was more concerned about the additional traffic the development would bring to the area than he was about the competition he likely would face from a Whole Foods store.
Following Joseph’s recommendation, Browning Investments principal Jamie Browning said he was pleased with the outcome.
“The project will have a positive impact on Broad Ripple, and hopefully the process will move forward,” he said.
Construction could start next year.