Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lockerbie Residents Give City Officials Thumbs Down To Fire Station

Lockerbie residents heard from Deputy Mayor Deron Kintner and other city officials at a neighborhood meeting discussing plans to relocate Fire Station #7 from Mass Avenue to the vacant North Lockerbie parcel to make room for a $40 million redevelopment plan in the 500 block of Mass Avenue. Kintner confirmed the Lockerbie site is the City's number one and only site currently under consideration by city officials. Kintner and Fire Chief Brian Sanford acknowledged they had not expected such strong opposition from neighborhood residents to the planned location. Residents last month voted unanimously to oppose the proposed site.

Many residents were angered they didn't learn of the proposed site until after the City approved the adoption of a TIF ordinance expanding the downtown TIF district to include proposed redevelopment areas along Mass Avenue and the North Lockerbie parcel to the TIF district. Kintner insisted the City's hands were tied by state procurement laws which did not permit discussion of the content of competing proposals during a confidential RFP process for the redevelopment of the Mass Ave block that currently houses IFD's headquarters, Fire Station #7 and a credit union.

Kintner told residents that after the City began undertaking the RFP process, it was approached by developer Joe Whitsett about gaps he had in his proposed redevelopment of the North Lockerbie parcel, which he said required city assistance. The City retained the services of CBRE, which tasked Gordon Hendry, a vice-president of its local office and a veteran of Mayor Bart Peterson's administration with finding a suitable site for relocating the fire station. Hendry told residents that it was his determination that the North Lockerbie site best fulfilled the criteria for a new fire station. Whitsett, who was not in attendance at the meeting, agreed with city officials to modify his original mixed use development project he had proposed to the neighborhood association which met with community approval. City officials confirmed the proposed fire station would substantially alter Whitsett's original plan, which called for dense residential blended with a mixed use of commercial and retail space.

The new state-of-the-art fire station envisioned by city officials would face College Street and include drive-through bays with an apron on the street-facing side. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles would exit on to College Street, which would be converted from a one-way street into a two-way street from Mass Avenue to Market Street. Returning fire trucks and emergency vehicles would enter the parcel on the south side from Michigan Street on a reconstituted Cincinnati Street in the middle of the block. City officials said a two-level underground parking garage would provide off-street parking for fire station personnel. Residents pointed out, however, that a prior development plan had to be discarded because the water table at that site did not permit construction that deep below the grade.

Residents' opposition to the proposed site focused on the fact that it was not consistent with the guidelines for the historic neighborhood, which had always called for dense residential with mixed use at the proposed site. Based on the requirements of the fire station, it does not appear that it will permit the retail development envisioned at the corner of Michigan and College Streets. Several residents suggested the former Market Square Arena site was a more suitable site. Kintner said a fire station at that site would hinder a more comprehensive redevelopment envisioned by the City for that site.

City officials confirmed that council approval will be required for relocating the fire station and that no construction can begin on the ambitious plans for the 500 block of Mass Avenue until the City finds a new location for the fire station and completes construction on it. Councilors Joe Simpson and Vop Osili, who represent the affected neighborhood, spoke briefly and stated their opposition to the proposed location based on the neighborhood feedback. Fire Station #7 is the City's busiest and largest fire station, housing several tactical teams in addition to the standard ladder company and emergency response services.


Had Enough Indy? said...

This is yet another reason that full disclosure should be made when TIFs are being considered. Everyone except the neighbors knew the fire station would be relocated to this site. The neighbors were denied their inherent right to speak to the plan before taxpayer money was on deck to be raised and spent.

And, as usual, neighbors have key information nobody in city hall's echo chamber ever thought to ask about - like the water table scuttling cellar parking.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I should also add...

Kintner lied by non sequitur. The RFP included the demolition of the current fire station - a fact Kintner shared everywhere. The developer of the Mass Ave site will have nothing to do with the relocated fire station. So, the fact that there is only one site (ever) under consideration is completely irrelevant to any privacy issues involving the RFP proposals.

And, that being said, there was never a reason the winner of that RFP could not be announced with the caveat that a TIF was established as the source of funding. But, that would mean that the Councillors would have more information than Vaughn and Kintner wanted them to have.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The RFP did not foreclose a developer from proposing a plan that incorporated the fire station into the redevelopment of the existing Mass Ave parcel, but it would have required doing it in a fashion that permitted the current station to continue operating while construction was underway. I don't think the developers were too keen on that idea. The biggest rub is that putting the fire station at the North Lockerbie parcel is completely inconsistent with the area development plan for the historic neighborhood. It will, in effect, create the same dead zone in the middle of the neighborhood they complain that the current station causes to the Mass Ave corridor currently.