The Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC) will be hearing cases related to two gas stations at their hearing tomorrow, September 7th.Â It’s fairly unusual to see a gas station proposal for a historic district, let alone two at once.Â Here are the locations for the proposals (click links for staff reports on the plans):
- The northwest corner of 10th St. and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. in the Ransom Place Conservation District.
- The northwest corner of 16th St. and Central Ave. in the Herron-Morton Place Historic District (and across the street from The Old Northside Historic District).
The parallels for these cases are numerous:
- Both are in protected districts.
- Both have historically been the site of a gas/filling station (about 50 years for the Ransom Place proposal and nearly 100 years for the Herron-Morton proposal) and are already zoned for this use.
- Both are proposed for relatively small sites that present maneuverability issues.
- Both are uniformly opposed by neighborhood associations in and around the sites.
- Both had previous petitions to build gas stations and convenience stores denied by the IHPC.
Unfortunately, while staff reports are available for these proposals, neither includes visuals of the current proposals (note: visuals in this post are from the previously rejected proposals).Â Both are now recommended for approval by IHPC staff, with particular emphasis placed on the fact that these plans were drawn up to address the concerns listed in the “Reasons for Denial” for each prior case.Â By addressing all concerns, staff sees no reason for the cases to be denied.
Having read through the staff reports, I can’t help but note that these cases seem to be evaluated on different scales.Â The Herron-Morton staff report notes that the intersection is a gateway between neighborhoods and particular emphasis is placed on the convenience store siting and the materials used in that building.Â As should be expected for an urban design, this plan puts the convenience store directly on the corner with an entrance at the corner and uses high quality building materials throughout.Â The Ransom Place plan pushes the convenience store to the far NW corner of the site and wastes valuable land at the 10th/DMLK corner for landscaping buffer.
Consider below a potential siteplan for the Ransom Place site (apologies, I’m neither an architect nor a graphic design expert).Â It places the convenience store directly on the corner of 10th and DMLK and uses the 10th St. curb cut for the alley behind the adjacent strip mall for entrance to the site.Â High traffic volume is an issue in this area but the clear sight triangle at the corner has not been violated.Â In fact, by carving out the corner of the building to maintain the triangle, you create an excellent location for a pedestrian entrance off the sidewalk.Â By pushing the building to the corner and using the alley for entrance, you also improve site maneuverability and keep the vehicle entrances as far back from the intersection as possible.
I would not argue that gas stations are the highest and best use for either of these sites.Â However, if you accept that there is a need for gas stations — and recall that these sites were historically gas stations and are already zoned for that use — we should not accept anything less than sound urban design and high quality building materials.Â The Herron-Morton gas station appears to fulfill these expectations while the Ransom Place gas station does not.