Indianapolis locks in new transit-focused zoning changes

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A new set of transit-oriented development standards passed a final oversight requirement Wednesday, changing requirements for how developers will operate around Marion County and especially near bus rapid-transit lines.

The city’s Metropolitan Development Commission unanimously approved amendments to the measures. That follows the Democrat-controlled City-County Council’s 20-5 vote last month to adopt the new development standards, which emphasize density and mixed-use districts county-wide while limiting car-only services such as gas stations within 1,000 feet of bus rapid-transit lines.

The ordinance is increasingly relevant with construction on the second of three rapid-transit lines starting as soon as February, thanks to an $81 million federal transportation grant IndyGo landed last week

“As Far Eastside residents prepare for construction of IndyGo’s Purple Line, I’m excited to see the [transit-oriented development] ordinance be adopted by the Metropolitan Development Commission,” said Councillor La Keisha Jackson. “For many communities of color in Indianapolis, a lack of mobility has translated into a lack of upward mobility. This ordinance … can help bring both of those to neighborhoods like District 14 that have long been cut off from the economic growth of our city center.”

Urban planners say the changes will also give developers already working on dense, mixed-use projects the ability to continue “by right,” cutting out the lengthy and expensive process previously required to get permission.

“This approach makes clear that investments in our public transit system will positively impact the health, safety, environmental and economic outcomes of our residents,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a written statement. “From safe streets to walk and bike, to easy access to jobs, to improved public spaces, TOD prioritizes equity for neighbors across our city.”

The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect Nov. 1, nearly 99 years to the day since Indianapolis started regulating development, according to a city timeline.

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2 thoughts on “Indianapolis locks in new transit-focused zoning changes

  1. Good. Hopefully Indianapolis can return to reasonable planning for a city, not a suburban enclave. In fact, many Carmel, Westfield, and Fishers neighborhoods exhibit more urban-like planning aspects than Indianapolis. Support higher-density development along rapid transit and frequent transit lines is neither a new nor novel guideline, but a return to sound proven planning aspects which supports great cities. One need only look at what are essentially streetcar and commuter rail suburbs in other cities. For Marion County, Broad Ripple and Irvington reflected streetcar ‘suburbs.’ And, the dense(r) development along College Avenue, the last streetcar to operate in Indianapolis, and East Washington Street, indicate the planning principles which once guided development. To the east and west of College and to the north and south of Washington fewer multi-unit buildings exist as single-family residences predominate. Denser development does not necessarily mean structures of 4 stories or greater, it does mean properties that may be closer and utilize a greater share of the lot . . . . not unlike West Clay.