Chatham Center Approved by the IHPC

Last night, the IHPC gave the go-ahead to the Chatham Center Project. It was certainly an interesting meeting, and I gained a new appreciation of the process.

The meeting started with the principal architect explaining the changes that have been made to appease the commission and the neighborhood. One key change was taking a retail space away from the first floor on 9th Street, and adding an apartment. This seemed to go over well with the board as they felt it respected the residential character of 9th St.

Next, the council asked for public comment in support of the project. Steve Tegarden, owner of the Nestle Inn, was very impressive, stating the project just screamed for approval. The next person who spoke was a bit in-your-face for me, but he definitely made his point that this is a city, not a suburb. Overall, though, these comments were good enough to justify the project.

However, the time came for the public to speak against Chatham Center. A long line of remonstraters followed, and I felt my urbanist pride take a hit with each one. Strangely, one of the people against the project was Chatham Arch resident Meg Storrow of Storrow Kinsella Associates. One look at the site shows that she has an obvious understanding of smart growth principals, but she was against this particular one. Other remonstraters had some pretty curious objections, with the most memorable being that “we can’t send Christmas Carolers to a Massage Parlor like we did with the Nursing Home.”

The developers were allowed a rebuttal, which was delivered by Larry Jones. He delivered what I believe to be the key line of the night; that people against the project have been using the Historic Preservation Plan for Urban Planning purposes. He also mentioned that East Street is a transitional street and that it is not necissarily residential in character.

Then the IHPC staff read their report, which was highly supportive of the project. The council then voted on the report, which was approved 6-2. I wasn’t sure if that meant the debate was over, but then I saw the developers greeting each other with smiles, and then those of us who supported the project left the room and the building to much rejoicing.

Comments 11

  • I watched the meeting on Channel 16 last night. I was really excited to see the project gain (deserving)approval. I thought that Commissioner Kienle’s statement was especially good regarding the adaptation of the project by applicant, the character of the location of the project, and the manifest benefits of this proposal.

  • Thanks much for the comment…

  • Didn’t this project have a green rooftop as part of the proposal?

  • I don’t have an opinion one way or another about this particular project because I don’t know enough about the details, but I have to take serious issue with Larry Jones statement.

    IHPC *is* for urban planning purposes. That’s why the entity exists, and why they get to dictate urban plans.

    For our historic districts, keeping the character of the neighborhood intact trumps everything, including and especially business dealings.

    Thirty years ago, before IHPC was put in place there was a very real proposal on the table to bulldoze large swaths of historic neighborhoods downtown and make them parking lots.

    People fought against it at great cost, restored the old houses and made the neighborhoods attractive and desirable to live in.

    And now businesses are looking at these gorgeous, prosperous neighborhoods and seeing the almighty dollar – one they couldn’t be bothered with when those people were fighting to keep the beauty intact.

    It’s great that businesses want to invest and build in historic neighborhoods. But needs of the residents who restored them to their former glory are first and foremost.

    And the residential historic neighborhoods of Indianapolis are NOT urban landscapes. They definitely have a residential feel, and for good reason.

  • Yes, anonymous, it does have a green roof.

    Steph, I appreciate your comment. I’m glad that the IHPC stopped the bleeding and saved our historic structures. I’m a member of Historic Landmarks of Indiana, so I love old buildings. However, this is obviously not an old building. And Larry Jones has lived in Chatham Arch since 1983. So this is not the case of some developer coming in and trying to profit. If you want to see something like that, look at the Villagio in Fletcher Place. That place is a disgrace, and should have been stopped or severely modified.

    Projects like Chatham Center are a major reason people live downtown. It will give them more options for walking and replacing a car trip. The more of these places are sensitively built, the less people in the inner city will need cars, and maybe go from a 2-car to a 1-car or zero-car family. Many of these older neighborhoods were built around public transportation, which would also get better and more practical if we add density.

  • Steph, I just wanted to respond a little to your comment, keeping in mind that you are unfamiliar with the details of this project.

    I absolutely agree that IHPC is for urban planning purposes. The problem is that in some cases the commission and its professional staff have given too much control and deference to neighborhoods. In this case, I feel the neighborhood had too much control in the creation of the historic plan. This has been seen as the plan, and its “residential core” designation, have been used to fight a number of recent projects in areas that really are not residential.

    Two have been on east street, this project and the condo building at East & Walnut. East St. is a 4 land one way street with commercial, retail, institutional, and residential uses in this short 2 block stretch. This is hardly the residential core. The Plan also designates portions on college, 10th and 11th street as residential when they should probably be more mixed development.

    I was born in Lockerbie Sq back in the early 80s, have lived in downtown historic districts (Lockerbie, Herron Morton, Cottage Home) for most of my life, and have worked for Historic Landmark so I can assure you that I appreciate the historic character on these wonderful neighborhoods. But I am also a member of the Urban Land Institute and believe that these neighborhoods will have to adapt to an extent as the city grows and make concessions. I believe they can do this and maintain the historic character of the neighborhoods, which is part of IHPC’s mission according to Indiana Code.

    A number of the members of the commission agreed that this site, buidling, and area are special, and had this been proposed on a street like Park Ave, it would most certainly not have been appropriate.

  • Thanks for giving me a lot more context; I can see my reaction was pretty knee-jerk, and I appreciate where you’re coming from.

    I know that in Old Northside we’ve had a few skirmishes with developers and that has colored my thinking, along with not having all the details of this particular project.

    In the case we dealt with, we were concerned about a many small lot being developed as multi-unit condos rather than single family homes, and the impact of the additional traffic, etc.

    One of the local Realtors tried to make a case for the condos with the argument that downtown was moving in the direction of Chicago’s Lincoln Park – vibrant and well-populated, but with congestion, high traffic an numerous parking problems being “the price you pay for living in the city.”

    That hit a nerve with me because after living in downtown Indy for 16 years, we did at one point scout out Chicago as a more politically friendly place to live, and Lincoln Park was one of the many neighborhoods we visited to get a feel for what that sort of change would be like.

    We ultimately rejected Lincoln Park and Chicago altogether because of the very problems the Realtor wanted to introduce to Old Northside – traffic congestion, cramped quarters, parking problems.

    And we found a great house in the Old Northside – settling on the issue of politically friendliness in favor of better quality of life.

    Having Lincoln Park bandied about as “the direction that Indianapolis is moving” was disturbing to say the least.

    If I wanted to live in Lincoln Park, I’d actually move there and get the bonus of better political climate, too.

  • If you look at Lincoln Park or other Chicago hoods, and then any Indianapolis neighborhood,
    you will realize which of the two is more sustainable over the long-term. Sad to say, it is not Indy.

    Many people in Lincoln Park don’t use their cars very often because they don’t need to do so. I imagine if I moved there I’d sell my car immediately and release myself the massive burden that is the urban automobile. And I’m sure there are people there that have done that. So, you may have a more dense neighborhood and parking might be a problem, but then you get to look at it and laugh because you won’t have to deal with it.

  • We have to enjoy our few victories when we can… Congratulations!

  • Here’s an E-mail I got from Mr. Jones:

    First I would like to thank Kevin for assembling and hosting the Urban Indy blog. This is my first personal experience with the posting of info to a blog and the ability to review the comments is truly a valuable experience.

    A Developers primary activity is usually to change things. In the Private Sector the simple measure of a projects success is whether or not it makes money, either thru sales or rent or appreciation. The basic problem is people don’t like change. Hence the “Evil Developer” is changing things for their “Profit” at the expense of the “People” will always quickly arise in any discussion.

    The reality is that before the “Evil Developer can slip out of town with the Profits” the project (whatever it may be) needs to be accepted by the People. The benefit I have enjoyed from the postings on Urban Indy is the ability to review how the Project and I are being received by the People.

    Previously on Urban Indy there were comments made about the Chatham Centers design. It appeared to look like a “school” or a flat “strip mall” type building. In response to those statements I had the opportunity to respond and request PVA Architects to create additional, detailed renderings (see prev post) of the Chatham Centers facade. The benefit of the process was an additional level of acceptance was gained and we (I & the Architects) located and area of our presentation we needed to improve.

    The other topic I would like to discuss was my statement regarding “The Precedent is that the Neighbors should not be allowed to revise the Historic Guidelines into an Urban Planning Guide”.

    This is my attempt to make a long story short.

    Six years ago I purchased 919 N East & 901 N East (I’ll send Urban Indy some pics). At that time I proposed rezoning 901 N East to CBD-2 which would allow for the development of a mixed use project. The Chatham Arch Neighborhood Assoc (CANA) voted to support the rezoning. The same group of individuals which were in opposition on Nov 7th was in opposition then too.

    This is the part where I skip a lot of info, I can provide it if anyone wants to hear/see it.

    The net affect of what transpired was as part of creating the new Chatham Arch Mass Ave (CAMA) Guidelines certain changes or recommendations were included in the revised and expanded package. These revisions created a listing of certain properties whose future development would be considered “Site Specific”. The locations listed include:
    901 N East St Chatham Center
    919 N East St BABECA Building
    855 N East St Day Nursery site
    625 E 11th St Irish Mech Bldg
    846 N College COCA COLA Property
    658 N College corner @ St Clair

    The basic problem is that what the neighbors recommended for these sites and included in the revised CAMA Guidelines was that any future re-development should be single family or townhome style units. Without a lot of explanation these properties are not particularly suitable for this type of use. Primarily it is because of traffic, land costs and development costs associated with these sites they can’t be successfully “Changed” given the new restrictions in the CAMA Guidelines.

    My comment about the “Precedent” being set is that what has transpired is that the Guidelines were revised to reflect what I consider to be the typical “Suburban Development Mentality”.

    IE. “The only type of house that will protect the value of my house is a house just like my house next to my house”.

    When a Fisher’s subdivision is built the Developer states we have “36 New & Exciting Models!!”. The math is (4) House Plans X (3) Vinyl Siding Colors X (3) Shingle colors =(36).

    Obviously this is a gross oversimplification of the issues. Chatham Arch has probably the strongest Neighborhood Assoc. downtown. The same people I am complaining about are also the same people who have helped push thru the Cultural Trail, brought Historic Street lights to the Neighborhood, constantly search for funding sources for alley renovation and other neighborhood infrastructure repairs, support the local Schools, Arts, Businesses, etc..

    I personally serve with and benefit from the efforts of all the involved people. But… I am also a strong supporter of the different “Smart Code” and “Form Based” Zoning and Development guidelines available.

    My opposition to some of these CAMA Guideline issues will continue to surface. As A Developer I will continue to search for and promote projects which will Change the existing Urban Environment. Hopefully these projects will be mutually beneficial to all parties.

    There is always a way to negotiate an equitable solution to any issue. Open discussion, as provided by the Urban Indy, usually is the best method to reach consensus and acceptance.

    Thanks for everyone’s time who have read this far. I need to go get some breakfast other than 4 cups of coffee.

  • I am so glad this project finally was approved. We need more of these projects downtown, on the near northside and in broad ripple!

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