Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Lockerbie Residents Say No To Fire Station 7

A closely-guarded plan by the Ballard administration to relocate Fire Station #7 from its current location on Mass Ave to the Lockerbie North parcel at the corner of Michigan and College Streets, which is being redeveloped by the Whitsett Group for mixed use, met with strong opposition from the Lockerbie People's Club, the neighborhood association immediately impacted by the development plan. After a lengthy discussion at a neighborhood meeting tonight, members voted unanimously to urge the Indianapolis Fire Department Chief Brian Sanford, the Department of Metropolitan Development and the two area city councilors, Vop Osili and Joe Simpson, to oppose efforts to relocate the fire station to the Lockerbie North site.

During debate over passage of Proposal 15, which expands the downtown TIF district to include areas along Mass Ave and the Lockerbie North parcel, Deputy Mayor Deron Kintner publicly stated for the first time that a previously announced development plan by the Whitsett Group scheduled to break ground next year might hinge on the redevelopment of the firehouse parcel on Mass Ave without specificity. As part of the Ballard administration's plan to expand the downtown TIF district, it has been proposed that the fire station, the offices for the Indianapolis Fire Department headquarters and the neighboring credit union all be relocated to make room for redevelopment of the prime property located within the booming Mass Ave business district. The administration has narrowed proposals for redevelopment of the parcel to three competing plans, none of which it has publicly disclosed.

Joe Whitsett confirmed that after he had already drawn up plans to redevelop the vacant parcel for a mix of market rate apartments and retail/office space for which the neighborhood association had previously expressed support, the Ballard administration approached him about the possibility of using part of his Lockerbie North parcel as a new location for Fire Station #7. "The City has expressed interest in the northern portion of our site (by the church building) for the fire station," Whitsett said. "[W]e have not come to the neighborhood yet. However, that is only because the City had no way of pulling the trigger on any kind of deal with us until they knew they could finance it [with TIF funds]." Whitsett indicated that he still plans to move forward with retail and housing development on the south portion of the parcel and a four-story building along the western side of the lot behind the town houses previously developed along Park Avenue.

During tonight's meeting, neighborhood residents also learned that the Lockerbie North site is not the only site under consideration for the fire station. The administration will not disclose what other sites are under consideration. IFD Chief Brian Sanford will have to give his approval to a new fire station. Sanford could not make tonight's meeting due to a scheduling conflict but agreed to attend next month's meeting. Staff for the IHPC, who were unaware of the plan to possibly relocate the fire station to Lockerbie North, confirmed that no change in zoning would be required to locate a fire station at the site. It has also been confirmed that the City has decided to make College a two-way street from Mass Ave south to Market Street. The fire station site under consideration for the Lockerbie North parcel would front College Street just south of North Street adjacent to the church building currently being renovated for use as the new headquarters of the A2SO4 architectural firm, which was co-founded and co-owned by Councilor Vop Osili, the sponsor of Proposal 15. A close friend of Osili claims he knew nothing about the plan to relocate the fire station to Lockerbie North, which actually resides within Councilor Joe Simpson's district.

On a side note, does anyone have information on why IFD is having to pay firefighters over time to perform fire watch 24/7 at IMPD's east district office and homeland security center housed in the former Eastgate shopping mall because the building supposedly doesn't have an operating sprinkler system?

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