MDC and IHPC Quick Hits – 11/8/11

Here’s what I’ve come across in Metropolitan Development Commission (MDC) and Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC) filings as of 11/8/11 (click links to read staff reports on these cases):

1. MDC Hearing Examiner 11/10/11 – The previously reported plan to put a gas station at 324 W Morris (SE of the I-70 West/Missouri exit downtown) has been modified to remove the truck filling portion of the plan. From the staff report, it appears that site maneuverability and noise from the trucks were at issue. Staff previously recommended denial but with this modification now recommends approval.

The proposed gas station at 324 W Morris. The modification in this filing removed the truck filling area that would have projected to the north from the convenience store building.

2. BZA II 11/15/11 – The Jack in the Box proposal for 1521 N Meridian requires variances for a pylon sign and a drive-through (rendering and siteplan available in a previous Quick Hits). Staff recommends denial with pointed language regarding the need for the sign or drive-through:

There is no condition peculiar to the property that causes the need for the drive-through service unit or the proposed pylon sign. The petitioner simply wants the drive-through unit and a particular type of sign. A restaurant without the benefit of a drive-through unit or a pylon sign can be successful in an urban environment, therefore, there is no hardship presented.

An establishment of any drive-through units after the recent amendment to the Regional Center Zoning Ordinance and the adoption of the Urban Design Guidelines is wholly against the Plans’ goal of dense, urban development that is pedestrian-friendly. The petition interferes substantially with the goals of the Near North Plan and the Regional Center Plan 2020, which discourage all drive-through units.

3. BZA II 11/15/11 – The City-financed parking garage proposal for the SW corner of College and Westfield requires variances related to the width of parking spaces and a bank drive-through component. Staff recommends approval. The following rendering was included in the staff report.

A rendering of the Broad Ripple Village Parking Garage.

Note: “MDC and IHPC Quick Hits” is not comprehensive coverage of all cases before the Metropolitan Development Commission and Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. If we missed a noteworthy case in a recent filing, let everybody know in the comments section.

See the previous Quick Hits here.

Comments 27

  • VERY pleased to see the city taking a stance on the JIB variance and site plan.
    As for the garage, based upon the renderings, it really doesnt LOOK like a garage. I like the use of multicolored materials (glass?) on the upper portions and the facade is broken up really well. I hope that the materials aren’t cheap in appearance and present a structure that at least fits in and doesn’t look like it was yanked out of a suburban strip mall.
    As for another point of discussion, what do you, the readers, think about a glut of bike parking at this location?

    • It seems strange to me that we are argueing over too much bike parking in a parking structure for cars. As I mentioned before, BRV is a walkable community and a destination for a majority of users. Some people go to BR to eat or something, but a lot of people go to BR to shop or walk the Avenue or whatever. I know I don’t like going places where I will be at several destinations and walk my bike to each one. This garage provides somewhat climate controlled storgae for bikes and could help to reduce congestion along the avenue of bikes and pedestrians. If you are just going to one place to eat or whatever then toss it on a pole or tree or bike rack if they provide one, but I appreciate the bike parking provided. It is located in space that would be difficult if not impossible to park cars. This could also become the BR version of the Indy Bike Hub.

    • Here is an article in IBJ that talks to the redevelopment of the site by the Monon and Canal………also mentioned is the importance of bikes to the project. Another reason to advocate for concentrated bike storage.

  • I am glad they removed the truck filling portion of the gas station, but it is still an ugly elephant in an urban room. Wish they would locate the pumps behind the store, after all, the snacks and merchandise are where the money is at.

    I hope JIB can work around not having a drive through, but I prefer strong urban design over a chain fast food store any day.

    • Agreed Joe.
      I’ve thought a lot about this Jack in the Box plan. My primary issue with their plan is land use. Drive-throughs should be banned in urban environments because they (a) prioritize vehicles and create unnecessary curb cuts (usually two) that introduce pedestrian-vehicle conflict and (b) are nearly impossible to implement while also making efficient use of land.
      In the case of JIB, their drive-through really doesn’t produce any problems with pedestrians because everything is internal to the site and they’re using an existing CVS curb cut to enter and exit the site. Their main problem is land use. And the thing is, even if you told them they could build this without the drive-through, it’s still a land-use abomination!
      To me, the drive-through is just a convenient excuse to deny this proposal even though the primary issue is land use.
      I suggest their architect drive by the neighboring CVS and note their parking lot usage. CVS has about 75 spaces (!!) and never uses more than maybe 25. That leaves sufficient parking to accommodate a wide variety of uses on the JIB site without adding a single parking space. Might I suggest a modest mixed-use building with multiple retail spaces on the ground floor and residential or office use on the second floor?

      • I must disagree (a little) on the CVS parking. Not often, but I have been there or been past there at times when the lot is more than half-full. (IIRC, they have 78 marked spaces, and the zoning code would have allowed somewhere between 48 and 55; there is a 10% discretionary reduction allowed to the Administrator of Planning for areas served by transit.)
        I think one of the JIB arguments about site utilization is that they don’t “require” the normal amount of fast-food parking because of an agreement with CVS.
        The drive-through variance is at the heart of the case, not merely “convenient”. There are lots of negative externalities associated with a drive-through adjacent to residential buildings (light, noise, fumes). The drive-through part of the deal is a potential 24-hour use.

        • Ok, so we accept that probably no more than about 40 spaces are ever used in CVS’s lot. Let’s assume there are 35 spare spaces and we could add a row of about 15 spaces along the alley edge of the JiB site. We could get a pretty large proposal approved for the JiB site with 50 available parking spaces.
          Even if you go by the upper end of code that you mentioned (55 spaces required for CVS), we still have 23 extra available and 15 along the alley. 38 spaces would get you a one-story use on the rest of the JiB site.

          • You’ll get no argument from me; I tried to talk CVS down to 50 spaces, partly so that the remnant development lot would be bigger.
            But they decided to pay (my estimates) $50/square foot for the extra parking land and maybe $10 more to drain, grade, and pave it. Those might be $18,000 parking spaces. The extra spaces could have cost the developer as much as $350-500,000 upfront that’s baked into their lease payments.
            The driving factor appears to be one key measurement: guess how many parking spaces Walgreen’s has across the street?

          • Sorry, bad math. $25/sf for land @ approx $1million/acre; $10,000 parking spaces, and $200-300K “extra” parking cost above requirement. Again, estimated.

      • Oh, one more thing: that is a two-way curb cut and most of the 40-75 cars per hour will come AND go through it. Regardless of whether it’s existing or not, it will have an impact on pedestrian traffic on Meridian. (Those with knowledge of the neighborhood will use the alley to avoid it…which will create a whole different problem on 16th where cars exiting McDonalds will be facing cars exiting JiB.)

        • Don’t get me wrong, the drive-through is horrible and I understand that substantially more people would use the existing CVS curb cut. I just think that in terms of urban design, the issue of the drive-through is subordinate to the issue of overall land use. We cannot continue to allow developers to get approval for low-intensity plans like this and the McGowan Insurance building that’s going in on Indiana, no matter how “urban” the buildings might appear.
          Out of curiosity, would you support the JiB plan without a drive-through, but otherwise as-is?

          • I have to make clear here: my opposition to JiB is both personal and professional. I agree with you: 10% lot coverage and a single-story, single-use building is not great for this site. But I personally think that the drive-through is a bigger urban-design and planning “evil”.
            I guess my position is that the drive through is the bigger evil in this location, that a less car-oriented but still single-use restaurant building would fit the mix in this immediate vicinity. We’re not going to “plan and zone” the parking lots at Walgreens, CVS, and Chase off the corner of 16th & Meridian. The only thing that would do it is a transit line on Meridian or Illinois: the land would simply become too valuable for parking.
            If this were (say) a Qdoba without a drive-through, with maybe twice the footprint (20% lot coverage) or a functional upstairs with the franchisee’s “regional office”, I could probably be persuaded that the building and use would be okay for the site.

  • A different perspective.

    In the past decade, very few in-fill projects have happened on that stretch of Meridian Street from I-65 to Ivy Tech. The main ones – CVS & Walgreens. A few others – the bonjour bakery building – now Virgina Kay, and the Subway (that building is a complete failure). Some good rehabs have happened to a few commerical spaces and apartment buildings. And they replaced the old McDonalds with a new McDonalds, with an really bad site design and very visible drive through.

    JIB, like most fast food groups, will have a short economic lifetime for the building, and that assumes they actually survive.

    I look at the building and think its got a good site layout, that could improve with adding more building to it in the rear when the area will support it. But, the area doesn’t support it yet.

    Approve it knowing that eventually it will change, and its design allows for change without starting from scratch. Try and say that for McDonalds.

    • The economic life of the building may be short, but a drive-through variance is forever. If we give a big corporate chain like Jack in the Box a drive-through now, it’s NEVER going away. In that sense, I do agree that the drive-through is a critical issue.

  • The JIB is really a tough one. Obviously, we’d love to have a much greater floor area ratio (building space to land area), but I can’t help comparing this to every other restaurant (McD’s Wendy’s Hardee’s, White Castle) in the area and thinking that it is light years ahead of those sites, so it must be ok. The irony is that I believe it represents what would be the best urban design, by far, for a drive-through restaurant anywhere in Marion County (please remind me if I’m forgetting about a gem out there), but yet it’s not good enough, because it’s on Meridian Street, south of 30th. Does it really make sense to have these ultra-high urban design standards for one single street in a 400-square mile county, when there are virtually zero design standards most everywhere else in the county, including many of our most cherished urban neighborhoods?

    So, here’s my question, would we rather see this JIB get built here on Meridian, or would we rather see one that looks like just like the White Castle or Hardee’s get built at the corner of 16th & Capitol?

    • I believe these urban guidelines apply to Meridian, Pennsylvania, Washington and either Market or Maryland and also the Mile Square of DT……maybe?

      • Well, there are two separate issues here. One is the drive-through. They’re prohibited in the Mile Square as well as the special extension of Meridian and Pennsylvania that includes this site. You need a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals in order to build one, which is what the case referenced in this post is about.

        The other issue is the Regional Center Design Guidelines overlay district. That’s a relatively new set of design guidelines that adds an additional regulatory step to ensure compliance with urban design and land use goals that the city has outlined. The northern border of the Regional Center is 16th, so JiB has to get approval from the Regional Center Hearing Examiner as well. That’s a separate case.

  • Looks like the JiB report made it onto Property Lines on I think this is the first time I have seen Cory talk about a pending plannign case.

  • Good catch. It looks like it is actually Meridian, Pennsyvania, Washington, & Market as well as the Mile Square, per 735-604 of the city code. I think it might have only been Meridian before some code revisions a few years back. Nonetheless, I think my main poin and question are still valid. I’d take this design on Meridian rather than another typical fast-food drive-through box a block or two to the west.

    • Let’s consider 16th. On the south side, west of Meridian, there are only four or five landowners. One is Walgreen’s. One is Circle K/Shell. One is Bon-Air Apartments, which is wedged between Walgreen’s & Shell. An owner of several vacant fenced parcels is on record opposing this development, and one more is an IU Health hospital that promotes healthy living/eating. On the north side, it’s Chase, hospital, existing fast-food land, or the old Crawford bakery. It’s highly unlikely that JiB or anyone else would get in there. About the best they could do is to buy one of the existing restaurants (White Castle, Hardee’s, or McDonald’s).
      East of Meridian there is historic district protection to Central Ave.
      I don’t think this should slide through out of fear of what JiB might try to get away with nearby. Remember, Rally’s tried to get a variance at 16th & Illinois a couple of years ago, and they got stomped.

  • Dear JiB,

    When the city won’t let you build here, there’s a nice parcel where Crawford’s used to be. Imagine how happy everyone would be if you demolished that nice historic structure for a typical JiB. Now there’s a win-win. *Note Sarcasm*

    But honestly, they probalby could do that without much problem and then imagine what the outrcy would be.

    • What I am hearing is that you don’t believe the urban design guidelines go far enough?

    • Much smaller parcel; Hardees and Crawfords combined are probably smaller than 1521 Meridian. Plus, Hardees has some joint/easement control over parking. Jack won’t go there unless they buy it all…then it’s my scenario of replacing one of the older places. Not a net loss or gain for the neighborhood.
      Further, the Crawford’s property is zoned HD-2. Even though the RC design guidelines don’t apply there, that site’s zoning does require plan review and approval.
      Finally, I’m reasonably sure IU Health doesn’t want Jack there, and might try to buy the corner defensively. So I think it’s adequately protected.

  • Crawford’s was where I was thinking also. Maybe the size of the parcel and existing easements would make that spot unworkable for them. I still find it ironic that we have such high standards for Meridian (which don’t even get applied evenly), but crap like the Starbuck’s can go in two blocks west on Capitol. Maybe Chris is right, but I’m not quite as confident that JIB won’t find another location nearby. Having said that, I’m not one to buy into the “let’s approve it, because it could be worse argument.” I just have a hard time saying “let’s deny what would be the best urban design for a drive-through restaurant in all of Marion County.” It could be used as a model of how to design drive-through restauarants in other neighborhoods that don’t have the stringent standards of the Meridian Street Corridor. If your argument is against this type of business in general, you need to be pushing for more comprehensive ordinances restricting them. For me, until we have higher standards for the rest of Center Township, that even come somewhere near what we have for the Meridian Street Corridor / Regional Center, then I think this is fine.

  • Objecting to this is not inconsistent with pushing for better standards countywide.
    Now that JiB has shown this picture, why wouldn’t every neighborhood push for “their” Jack to look as nice? 🙂

  • Agreed on the first point Chris.

    The problem is that in the vast majority of locations, neighborhoods wouldn’t have any opportunity to push for a design that is anywhere near this nice. So, let’s join forces and all push for some legit urban design standards throughout the old City limits, if not the entire county.

  • Oh, and Virginia Kay’s is closed after what…1 month? Who would do business on Meridian from 38th to 10th Streets without being centered around the vehicle, fast food and drugs? Nothing will change this street for a while, sorry to say. I guess the Health Science development to the West may help attract better residential development for the area in the future?

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