Developer withdraws plans for controversial $61M Willows project

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The Willows Event Center (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

The team behind the proposed redevelopment of the Willows Event Center near Broad Ripple has withdrawn its proposal, just hours before it was set to be considered by a city commission.

JC Hart Co., Chase Development and Willows owner Evergreen LLC had been expected to present a request to the Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday to move forward with the development of more than 250 apartments and townhouses on an eight-acre site at 6729 Westfield Blvd. The project was expected to cost about $61 million.

Evergreen LLC was seeking city approval for the rezoning of the property to a designation that allows high-density residential development.

The project was met with fierce resistance by neighboring property owners and others in the Nora neighborhood of Indianapolis. The proposal was continued from a May MDC hearing to give the parties more time to find middle ground. City planning staff had recommended approval for the project.

The development team said it plans to continue fine-tuning the project in hopes of gaining broader support.

“The Willows redevelopment project is a smart and well-planned residential project, with the support of zoning staff, that would benefit the broader community. It includes a range of housing opportunities, ecological sensitivity and connectivity to the Monon Trail for residents and neighbors,” the team said in written remarks.

“In consultation with [City-County] Councilor Keith Potts, who asked us to continue our engagement with neighbors, we are withdrawing our petition today to see how we can refine the proposal to gain broader support. This may delay our timeline, but not our intentions to bring this quality development to the community.”

The $53 million apartment component from J.C. Hart called for three buildings totaling 238 units and 303 parking spaces along Westfield Boulevard, just north of an oxbow—or U-shape—in the White River. Apartments in the complex would range from $1,200 to $2,100 per month.

At least 10% of the units—23 total—were expected to be set aside for those making up to 50% of the area’s median income, a minimum requirement to receive financial support from the city

Chase Development would have spent at least $8 million to build the town houses, which would range from three to four stories, have two-car garages and cost $700,000 to $1 million. Those homes would front North Dawson Lake Drive, along the southern edge of a 13-acre pond.

The Marott Island Community Association—a recently formed group representing neighbors of the proposed development—has largely led the opposition charge, joined by the respective homeowners’ associations for the communities of Winston Island Woods, Oxbow Estates and Spirit Lake condominiums.

In a statement, the group’s president, Peter Lander, and vice president, Lindsay Scott, said they welcomed the withdrawal.

“Our grassroots coalition is made up of hundreds of residents who love our city and tried for months to offer reasonable alternatives which the petitioners rejected. We were prepared to mount a thorough presentation today focusing on the fact that the developers were demanding two to five times the density called for in the Comprehensive Plan admittedly to make a better return on investment,” the statement said.

“We hope the petitioners’ action is finally a long-awaited recognition by them of the important principles set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. The coalition stands ready to engage constructively on future plans that comply with the Comprehensive Plan and recognize the city’s designation of this site as environmentally sensitive.”

Evergreen is expected to present a formal withdrawal during today’s MDC hearing.  If it so chooses, the development team can refile a petition for rezoning in the next three months, but doing so will require it to start the rezoning process from scratch.

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23 thoughts on “Developer withdraws plans for controversial $61M Willows project

  1. Yup
    Stupid people screwing up a great Developement and income to our community. Im sure the shooting in the area helped them make the decision to pull back.
    Thanks Libbys.

  2. Broad Ripple isn’t a village anymore. Too many high rises already. I have nothing against anybody making money, but the density being achieved in Broad Ripple is getting a bit ridiculous, and causing BR to lose its charm.

    1. It hasn’t lost its charm, it’s just evolved to match existing users and conditions.

    2. Murray I am afraid it has to me as well, the traffic alone keeps me from visiting the area any more than I absolutely have to. If you ask me those that are looking to invest should require that the city invest in the infrastructure and roads around their developments.

  3. Why have a comprehensive plan if your are not going to follow it? Double the density that is permitted in the comprehensive plan? That is not a deviation; that is deviant.

    1. The plan does not “permit” or cap density figures. Perhaps you should read it – and furthermore, comprehend the role a comprehensive plan plays in the development process. It’s is neither law nor ordinance and shouldnt on it’s own merit be used as a basis to prevent development – especially invented language that doesn’t appear in it.

  4. The petition was a greedy over-the-top and impactful monstrosity. Chuckled at the creative assertion that its withdrawal was occasioned by a request from the district councilor– who supported it against the interests and welfare of hundreds of residents. More likely, the petitioner finally realized that the neighborhood opposition had persuasive community-based arguments, and might indeed prevail. “We need to restore an all-but-lost art in America– the art of making good places.” James H. Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere.

  5. Unfortunately there will most likely be another developer ready to construct a cheaply made high rise that is not needed or wanted in the area. So while the NIMBYs won this battle, I’m afraid they need to be ready to go to war. I say this from experience as I look out on the 5 story (altered height variance that was approved!!) monstronsity that is near me. Our council person sat with the developers and not her constituents during the hearing. Suffice it to say said coucil person no longer reprensents the district where I dwell. Hang tough Marott Island Community Association and don’t forget to vote.

    1. 100% and now the property is on the radar of 10 other firms. That location is destined for development and anyone that doesn’t see that is clueless.

    2. I lived in BRip for 5 years and questioned how/why it still hadn’t become a multiuse townhome/apartment or single family houses.

  6. It is totally irritating how every news outlet, including the IBJ, has swallowed the developers’ term “pond”. What pond would be 13 acres large? It is a lake, with many fish, at least 3 species of turtles, Bald Eagles and herons hunt for fish, many migrating shore birds land for a time during their migration. It flows directly into Dawson Lake and from there directly into the White River, affixing the environment. Therefore it needs to be protected. But the developers have consistently called it a “pond” to diminish its ecological importance. IT IS NOT A POND.

    1. The White “River” is also just a creek, but for some reason, we try to make it more than it is 🙂