Judge rules on residents’ challenge to $10M Ransom Place project

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A lawsuit brought by Ransom Place residents challenging the city’s approval of a large residential project in the neighborhood has been dismissed by a Marion Superior Court judge.

In a one-page order, and without explanation, Judge Michael D. Keele on Wednesday granted the city’s request to dismiss the case. The city had filed a motion to dismiss along with Bloomington developer Olaf Lava LLC.

Olaf Lava received approval from the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission in early November to build its $10 million development along Martin Luther King Jr., California and 10th streets on downtown’s northwest side.

The project includes a four-story building with 27 units and a three-story structure with 19 units, in addition to four single-family homes.

Ransom Place residents Danny Pham, Paula Brooks and Karl MacDorman responded by filing the suit against IHPC and Olaf Lava on Dec. 4. The complaint asked Judge Thomas J. Carroll to revoke IHPC’s approval and issue a stay to prevent work on the project from starting. The case was later transferred to Keele’s court.

The residents objected to the project’s density and even suggested race might have been a factor in IHPC’s decision to approve the development.

“There is a very real concern that the residents of Ransom Place are not receiving equal protection under the law because of their race,” the suit said. “If racial discrimination played even a small part in the IHPC’s decision to issue the certificate of appropriateness, it must be reversed.”

Present-day Ransom Place represents what remains of a once larger African-American neighborhood where many of the city’s black leaders lived during the early part of the last century.

IHPC in 1998 adopted a Historic Area Preservation Plan to help protect the neighborhood.

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