Councilor takes aim at Browning’s Broad Ripple apartment project

A City-County Council member who threatened to block the rezoning that Browning Investments Inc. needs for its Broad Ripple apartments-and-grocery project now says he'll stay out of the matter. But a fellow Democrat continues to oppose it and might throw up a new hurdle.

“I'm going to take a hands-off approach on the zoning and focus on the financing,” said at-large councilor John Barth, who had.wanted to stall the project.

Barth has been in talks since spring with Mayor Greg Ballard's office about directing tax-increment financing revenue from the newly created North Midtown district toward the area around 38th and Illinois streets, in addition to Broad Ripple.

Browning hasn't publicly requested a subsidy for its $25 million, mixed-use project, but Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Deron Kintner has said he expects TIF money to be part of the equation.

Browning's request for rezoning will go before the Metropolitan Development Commission Wednesday afternoon, and the hearing is expected to draw a large crowd of opponents. At-large councilor Zach Adamson has spoken against it, and he said that if the MDC approves it, he might try to block it when it reaches the council on Oct. 14.

The City-County Council approves most zoning changes on consent, but members have the ability to call out agenda items, forcing an additional hearing. Adamson said he's motivated as much by his concern over zoning matters as his opposition to giving Browning TIF money.

Browning's plans call for a 35,000-square-foot grocery—earmarked for a Whole Foods—and 104 apartments on a 2-acre site northeast of College Avenue and the Central Canal. The site includes a long-vacant Shell station that faces College Avenue, as well as several low-rise apartment buildings.

The rezoning would allow retail uses on the site. Browning also is requesting a variance of development standards for outdoor seating, some architectural elements, and to build fewer parking spaces than required for a project that size. The firm's plan calls for a four-story garage with 340 spaces.

Adamson said he thinks Browning's proposal counters the “Envision Broad Ripple” plan that the city wrote in conjunction with the neighborhood. “They put together this plan, and then we disregard it?” he said.

Supporters of the project include Will Gooden, the councilor who represents the area; the Broad Ripple Village Association; and Midtown Indy, a not-for-profit that promotes neighborhoods north of Fall Creek.

Adamson acknowledged that the council typically defers to the district councilor on zoning issues, but he said Broad Ripple, like Monument Circle and Massachusetts Avenue, is important to people who don't live there. "They sort of belong to everybody," he said.

Among the opponents is Rudy Nehrling, owner of the nearby Good Earth Natural Foods. He said he's not worried about competition from the organic grocery giant. He said his concern is that Broad Ripple is losing its village character.

Broad Ripple is becoming home to more bars and more national-chain businesses, he said. “I've had a lot of people tell me that would be it,” he said of the Whole Foods. “That would be the straw.”

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