Monday, December 12, 2011

Ballard Administration Pulls Bait And Switch On Broad Ripple Parking Garage

The administration of Mayor Greg Ballard sold the Broad Ripple Village Association ("BRVA") on a city-financed parking garage deal on the promise of badly-needed off-street parking for the popular entertainment/business district. To entice a private developer to build and operate a parking garage, the Ballard administration kicked in $6.3 million for the construction costs, or nearly one-third of the upfront payment the city received from the politically-connected parking consortium it awarded a 50-year lease of the city's parking meter assets. The parking garage deal was awarded to Ersal Ozdemir's Keystone Construction, who just happens to be one of Ballard's largest campaign contributors. With approval of the deal in hand, we're now learning that the deal was all about providing public financing for Ozdemir's private development project that's more driven by new retail occupancy for the already over-developed business district and only incidentally motivated by the need for providing additional off-street parking in the Broad Ripple Business district.

As fellow blogger Pat Andrews reported last week, the BRVA in an unusual move came out against a zoning variance requested by the developer for the project because it had changed so drastically from what the BRVA had earlier publicly supported.

The requested variances, if granted, would allow the building to avoid the setbacks required by City Ordinance and reach up to the City's right of way (which would basically be the sidewalk), allow smaller than required parking spaces, and allow a bank drive through without required maneuvering space. The developer has also requested a vacation of the City's air rights and subterranean rights above and below the sidewalk so that the building facade can extend beyond the owner's parcel.
Particular sticking points for the BRVA group are the setback variance request for Westfield Boulevard and the proposed drive through for the bank tenant of the garage, among other disappointments that members of the committee have had with the overall project.
The Indianapolis Star, which has editorialized in support the deal despite the obvious cronyism at play with taxpayer dollars, has belatedly caught on to the problem Andrews first began raising months ago. Under the proposal, Ozdemir's company will get to own and retain 100% of the revenues derived from the project, notwithstanding the disproportionate share of public dollars that are being tapped to finance the project. As parking space within the proposed 3-story garage has shrunk, the proposed retail component has been greatly expanded from 14,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet, including space for a bank branch with a drive-up window. The BRVA's executive director explains why the association has withdrawn its support of the project as proposed:

"We're grateful (to the garage developers), and yet at the same time there are things we'd like to see to make Broad Ripple better," said Sharon Butsch Freeland, executive director of the association.
She said the association's members were surprised to find that plans for the garage differ from what the city requested in developer bids. Retail space had swelled from the requested 14,000 square feet to 25,000, a bank branch with a drive-through lane was added, and the garage's upper floors would be built so they cantilever out beyond the property line along Westfield Boulevard, requiring the city's air rights to be vacated.
The added retail space is a concern because it will bring more shoppers who will park in the garage and take up spaces that existing retailers want available for their customers, Freeland said.
When the Ballard administration first proposed this project, I observed that the proposed site had been considered in an earlier study prepared by one of the partners of this deal on behalf of the the BRVA, which actually discounted the site chosen for this deal because the triangular-shaped parcel of land prohibited construction of a parking garage with the maximum number of spaces. The variance request submitted by the developer points up the problem of configuring a public parking garage that provides both easy access and a sufficient number of spaces. It's obvious that ingress and egress to the site is going to exacerbate traffic flow problems at an already very busy intersection, and the expanded retail proposed for the site will consume many of the new spaces in the garage. It's really just turning into a project where the public is being asked to pay the cost of building a very fancy parking garage to accommodate the private developer's parking needs for his retail tenants. It seems that the motivating factor behind the deal--more off-street parking for the public--is taking a backseat to the upside private potential of the politically-connected builder. No surprises here. It's the Indianapolis Way.

1 comment:

M Theory said...

I am at that intersection often. When approaching Broad Ripple from Meridian Kessler using Broad Ripple Avenue, often you have to wait through six or seven lights to get through the intersection at College.

That's the same intersection they propose to place the garage.

Traffic will be even worse.