Village of West Clay developer pushing for more residential units, less commercial space

The developer of the Village of West Clay is nixing plans for future commercial growth, saying it’s “unfeasible” to wait for more office and retail possibilities.

Brenwick Development Co., which started building the “new urbanism” neighborhood in 1999, is instead requesting permission to add more housing to the community on the west side of Carmel. But some Village of West Clay residents say they're concerned about a loss of future retail and the impact of more homes.

The proposal, which is pending before the Carmel Plan Commission, would allow the company to exceed the maximum number of townhomes and density for two areas within the neighborhood.

In the heart of the community, known as the Village Center, plans initially called for retail and office space similar to a downtown atmosphere. But now Brenwick would like to construct future buildings with retail on the ground level and lofts on the upper floors.

It would add an additional 30 lofts to the area and nine townhomes, bringing the total number of lofts and townhomes allowed to 73 and 18, respectively.

“We believe buildings with retail and lofts above is a more viable option,” said Jon Dobosiewicz, attorney with Nelson & Frankenberger representing Brenwick. He said some some existing buildings already have vacant office space.

The 18 townhomes would be built along Apsley Lane and Rhettsbury Street.

Also, within the area known as West Clay Uptown—where CVS Pharmacy, Primrose School, Chase Bank and the National Bank of Indianapolis are located—Brenwick is seeking to add up to 60 more townhomes on the remaining undeveloped land. The property is southwest of the Towne Road and Main Street intersection.

Dobosiewicz said Brenwick has tried to attract a grocery store to the area for 12 years, but due to rezoning for commercial at 146th Street and Towne Road and 116th Street and Spring Mill Road, the developer doesn’t believe it will be possible to secure a grocery tenant. A 120,000-square-foot Market District recently opened near Spring Mill Road and 116th Street.

Several residents wrote letters to the Plan Commission and spoke against the request during a public hearing Tuesday evening. They said they were frustrated with the developer cutting back on retail possibilities and voiced concerns about increased traffic and density.

“The developer expects us to believe that changes in economic conditions over the past decade are requiring the proposed cutback in the space allocated for office and retail uses,” nearby Carmel resident Dee Fox wrote in a letter. “This seems unlikely, given that commercial growth has been robust in the Michigan Road and Meridian Street corridors during the same time frame.”

Fox also spoke during Tuesday’s meeting.

Brenwick is also seeking to commercially develop one piece of land on the southwest corner of Harleston Street and Towne Road that initially was planned to be included in The Stratford retirement community.

The current regulations only allow for commercial development associated with senior housing.

The Village of West Clay has struggled to attract and maintain commercial development for several reasons, including poor visibility from busy intersections, legal battles and attracting enough daytime traffic. Some local officials had been hoping that the openings of Danny Boy Beer Works, Pizzology Craft Pizza + Pub and Greek’s Pizzeria would have attracted more of the same.

“I fully understand the economic factors that are driving this, so we’ve got to come up with a solution,” plan commission member John Adams said.

But Adams said he’s worried Carmel could be over-building multi-family units.

“I would like some insight… on why they believe multi-family dwellings would be more advantageous than commercial space,” Adams said. "What's going to happen if that market saturates?"

The request will be discussed at a plan commission committee meeting Dec. 1.

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