Broad Ripple project to get $2.7M boost from city bonds

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday approved issuing nearly $2.7 million in developer-backed bonds to support a 87-unit mixed-use apartment building project in Broad Ripple that’s been in the works for about two years.

The $18.9 million River House Broad Ripple project, located at 6311 Westfield Blvd., will use the funds to assist with public infrastructure and demolition and utilities work. The money will also be used to add sidewalks and street prints; repave a road; improve the Monon Trail; and pay for part of a parking garage associated with the project.

It will also create part of a trail that in the future will connect with Broad Ripple Park. The River House project is being developed by Todd Morris of Birch Tree LLC.

The six-story project on Westfield is near where the canal converges with the White River. It offers waterway views. Morris bought an existing building on the property in 2006 from Broad Ripple property owner Sherry Rising-Moore, and paid $1.8 million, according to county assessor records.

The council approved the bond proposal 24-1, with council member Christine Scales voting against it.

Under traditional tax-increment financing deals, the city assumes the risk of a bond issue and must make up shortfalls if additional property tax revenue generated in a defined area falls short of debt payments. With developer-backed bonds, the developer is on the hook for shortfalls.

The city employed the same strategy to help finance an $18 million mixed-use project in Fountain Square, and in general is turning more to developer-backed bonds to shift the risk onto developers rather than the city.

Council member Colleen Fanning, whose district encompasses the project, called it a “win-win for everyone” and called the developer’s work a model for future projects.

Morris also has pledged to include public art and nine affordable housing units in the project, which is expected to be completed next year.

“We don't often have projects that aren’t extremely controversial,” Fanning said. “There were no known remonstrators here. The developer, Todd Morris, worked really hard through two years to really respond to the needs and desires of the [neighborhood]. They took a decent project and made it really outstanding."

Council Vice President Zach Adamson said at a Dec. 11 committee meeting that he normally doesn’t like to see the council investing TIF dollars “in an area that’s doing pretty well.”

“But because it is developer-backed and it is going to be creating a much larger increment that will more than service the debt, I think it’s something we can do,” Adamson said.

The project had the support of the Broad Ripple Village Association. Elizabeth Marshall of the association, said the project has “unanimous" support among her group.

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