A city commission on Wednesday green-lighted talks to bring a privately-developed $19.6 million community center and health clinic to Broad Ripple Park.
The Metropolitan Development Commission voted 7-1 to allow the Department of Metropolitan Development to enter negotiations with BR Health Holdings LLC, a partnership between locally-based firm Avenue Development LLC and Community Health Network.
BR Health Holdings has proposed a 39,000-square-foot building to replace the existing family event center at the park.
A major component of the mixed-use project is a health clinic operated by Community Health, which would occupy about one-third of the structure. The rest would be used for community activities, classes and other events.
The proposal for the 4.5-acre site also includes some new parking and a relocated boat ramp area.
While city officials have declined to share additional information on the proposal—by law, municipalities aren’t required to share bids publicly until negotiations are finalized—they have indicated it was one that best fit the Broad Ripple Park Master Plan developed last year.
Indy Parks’ long-term vision for the Broad Ripple’s largest public space also calls for a new outdoor aquatic area, a revamped river walk and updated sports fields throughout the park. If realized, the master plan could cost about $70 million to develop over the next 20 years.
The community center project is not expected to be eligible for economic incentives and will not have an impact on a nearby outdoor swimming pool, according to officials with the Indy Parks Department.
Community Health expressed interest in having a health clinic at the park as early as February 2018, when the city put out an initial request for information on a potential private development there. The master plan was finalized several months later.
The BR Health Holdings bid was selected last week by a panel of city officials and community stakeholders from a total of three submissions—the other two were from local developers Lauth Group and Browning Investments.
The proposed community center at the park would replace the existing family center, which has long operated at overcapacity, according to Indy Parks representatives. The 11,000-square-foot building is used for hundreds of classes, day camps and other family activities each year.
Talks are expected to begin in the coming weeks between DMD and representatives of BR Health Holdings, including firming up details on a requirement for the developer to pay about $50,000 per year to lease the land.
The city will have an option to buy the structure at a later, unspecified date.
The MDC’s approval for negotiations and the land lease to BR Health Holdings also means the DMD will not have to seek further consent from the governing body to move the project forward. Instead, the City-County Council’s space allocation and real estate advisory committee will be asked to give the OK once negotiations have concluded.
Community Health and Avenue Development, which specializes in senior living and medical facilities, has partnered with several other firms to help develop the project, including some that were directly involved in developing the Broad Ripple Park master plan: Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc., Context Design, Meyer Najem, Arc Design, and Williams Architects/Aquatics.
The new center proposal has been met with opposition in recent weeks by a group called the Broad Ripple Park Alliance, which among other things disagrees with the public-private development approach being taken for the project, as well as whether there is a need for another health clinic in Broad Ripple.
There are two health centers within a mile of the park, as well as other immediate care offices in nearby neighborhoods. The Broad Ripple Park Alliance has also objected to the use of public lands for private entities.
The project is backed by the Friends of Broad Ripple Park, the Broad Ripple Village Association and Colleen Fanning, the City-County Council member who represents the district.
Indy Parks director Linda Broadfoot told IBJ last month that the parks department and the city view the private-development approach as the best option for the park to receive necessary upgrades. She said the decision to seek a partner in the project was the result of a need to “get creative” in finding funding sources for new park initiatives and projects.