Developer, Carmel VFW come to agreement on new hotel

A proposal to build an 88-room extended-stay hotel on Old Meridian Street in Carmel is gaining traction after city leaders and the neighboring Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10003 had initially opposed it.

The Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals on Monday granted variances that will allow the developer to move forward with a modified plan for the five-story hotel, which would also have an indoor pool, fitness center, meeting room, breakfast area and patios.

Ohio-based The Witness Group first submitted plans last year to build a 62,790-square-foot Home2 Suites by Hilton at 12845 Old Meridian St.

The plan called for the hotel to be constructed directly in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10003 building, which opened at the site in 2009.

The hotel and its parking lot would eat up parking currently used by the VFW. According to a somewhat unusual land deal struck 10 years ago, the veterans’ group didn't receive ownership of the parking lot. The agreement instead calls for shared parking.

In its original site plan, The Witness Group proposed 125 parking spaces for the project and told VFW officials they could have 37 of those spots. But VFW members argued 37 wouldn’t be enough to meet demand during busy times.

The developer had requested three variances from the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeals that applied to signage, buffer areas and building height for the proposed hotel, and all three were denied in January by the board, whose members were concerned about parking.

Since then, the developer and VFW leaders have been meeting to find a compromise. Now, they’ve found one, and the BZA granted variances that allow the developer to move forward.

The plans now call for 143 parking spots, 53 of which will be reserved for the VFW. The developer has also agreed to construct a visible sign for the VFW that includes landscaping and a flag presentation.

Alex Beatty, the attorney representing The Witness Group, told the Board of Zoning Appeals the tweaked plans will allow both parties to co-exist. The land is under contract by The Witness Group to purchase and redevelop, he said.

VFW Post 10003 Commander Steven McDanield agreed, saying The Witness Group has met and exceeded the post’s requests by mitigating all concerns members had about parking and visibility.

“We feel this will make a great addition to the neighborhood. It will vastly improve the appearance and the lot,” he said.

The VFW opened its building on Old Meridian Street as part of a deal with the city of Carmel and Indianapolis-based Keystone Realty Group.

The post had previously been at the northeast corner of First Street Northwest and First Avenue Northwest in downtown Carmel. But, in 2008, the city approved plans from Keystone to redevelop that property into a four-story mixed-use building.

Initially, the VFW was going to remain at the location in the new building, but then Keystone proposed constructing a new headquarters for the VFW on property the construction company already owned on Old Meridian Street.

The VFW members voted to relocate to the new building proposed by Keystone on Old Meridian, rather than stay downtown. The facility opened on Nov. 11, 2009.

At the time, the property on Old Meridian had also been approved for a four-story office and retail building that had been expected to locate in front of the VFW headquarters. Plans for the building never came to fruition.

The BZA approved the variances with one condition, asking the developer to consider using a blade sign as opposed to a wall sign on the hotel’s façade.

Next, the site plan and design goes before the Plan Commission’s commercial committee for approval. That meeting is slated for Thursday.

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