Canal Tower Redesigned

It’s still massive, just not skyline-altering-ultra-massive. A proposed student housing tower at 9th St and the downtown Canal Walk has been redesigned and reduced in size, whittling the original 26 story proposal down to a more palatable 10 stories. That reduction in height reduces the total capacity by about a third but still places it among the largest apartment complexes in downtown Indianapolis. Here is a rundown of the changes proposed in the developer’s MDC case to be heard March 21st:

  • Tower structure reduced from 26 to 10 stories
  • Base structure reduced from 6 stories to “4 to 5” stories
  • Total units reduced from 485 to 293
  • Total garage parking spaces reduced from 434 to 236
  • Total commercial space increased from 4,595 square feet to 10,847 square feet
  • Building materials would be a significant amount of brick, metal and glass, with less emphasis on exterior insulation finishing system (EIFS)

Below we have the siteplan and some renderings included in the MDC staff report.  Staff recommends approval.  What do you think?

For comparison, here is what the original 26 story proposal looked like. Comparing it to the “Canal View from the South” rendering above, it appears that new rendering removes 16 stories but adds brick on the exterior for the full height of the south facade.

Comments 29

  • Blah, rather uninspiring; resembles a housing project.

  • It’s hard not to like this project. Its design might not be impressive, but considering this is a high density residential/commercial infill project, it checks pretty much all of my boxes. I still think there is too much parking considering they will target primarily IUPUI students.

  • The project is obviously positive for the residential situation, however I am no longer impressed with the project. Honestly the development along the canal is rather dull. I guess a 10 story brick structure will make the current canal residents happy. It’s a shame to loose out on a opportunity to develop a unique structure. I still believe this is a gain for Indianapolis.

  • Well, this is depressing. I was looking forward to an impressive high-rise in the city.

  • My response to this WHAAAATTT an F- ing joke just when i thought indy was finally stepping back up to the big leagues as they had done back in the 80s , that the boom was so powerful, it almost landed us a 70 plus story tower, that even would had given us #2 in the midwest and top 5 of cities in america for tallest, Thats how powerful the mind sets were of the guys of yester year were. Now only a hand few remain in this city. Just look at the developments in Auston tx., even Orlando and tampa, Houston, and other big cities and they putting them up like hot cakes 15 to 45 plus stories and yes some midrizers to with no issues about height and they have the full city leadership backing/support, for their projects as these mayors hunger for growth and popularty stats. But over all not a bad looking tower just another shorty thoe.

  • I don’t need to see a residential mega tower along the canal. But this structure, with her massive amounts of brick and odd relationship with the canal, resembles an old hospital or housing project. It feels like a bunch of tired, old developers/engineers got together and envisioned what could be built with Cabrini Green and Lucas Oil Stadium being the source of inspiration. Very uninspiring design as expected along Indy’s slowly developing canal(yes there is a reason for this). The residential density and commercial space is the only good out of this deal but what’s the point when the canal feels like a…….hmmm, what was it that Aaron Renn called it? It was the perfect description, needless to say.

  • I’m disappointed to see the structure has been downsized so much. The canal needs lots more people who live there.

  • My first post was friendly at best on the subject at hand. These people who complain about height and unbalanced development can move out of the city. Those who believe that downsizing a development can be an attracting move are completely blinded. As a college student looking for Urban environment will look elsewhere if these types of decisions are continually made. This news has sickened me, I wish this was a financial problem and not a suburban mindset problem!!! Beautiful canals across the states have beautiful structures. Same is said for the city as a whole, please don’t miss that.

    • “Beautiful canals across the states have beautiful structures. Same is said for the city as a whole, please don’t miss that.”

      What does this even mean in light of the proposed project?

      And while I don’t have any strong opinion on the height of the proposed project, you might think twice before lobbing complaints at people who raise questions about massing and scale. A lot of us have lived downtown for a very long time, and in some respects, have made it possible for new developments to be proposed and for you to even have something to complain about.

  • Yes yes I see what you mean Jeffery. My rant was out of hand, the beautiful structures comment was pointing towards what has been proposed. My opinion is that the proposal is somewhat of a bland structure. I am however thankful that the development is even taking place.

  • I think the problem with us (general public) is that we put too much emphasis on showcase architecture vs. urban design. Rybczynski talks about it in his book “Makeshift Metropolis”: “The real challenge for cities today is not to create more icons (aka “Bilbao Effect”), but rather to create more such settings.” Cities that we consider “beautiful and urban” are characterized by the quality of their streets and squares, and canals, and the orderly beauty of their everyday buildings.
    People expect every new development to be like Sydney opera house or Bilbao museum. Those are great buildings, and and such buildings can really benefit the city, but I think we would be better of thinking more like urban planners. I am generally pleased with this development. It’s a step forward (which is not what one would conclude by reading most comments here).

  • Major bummer that this got downsized. I liked the height of the original proposal but it could have done away with some of the parking and interfaced better with the canal. Also, dump the stucco garbage for glass and steel. A JW-Marriott-alike on the canal would have been killer and cutting-edge.

  • Like it or not, this is probably as good as large-scale residential architecture will get in Indy for the foreseeable future. My reasoning:

    1. The super low property values here make high cost-per-sf buildings unrealistic. Developers are going to direct money to the parts of the building that generate income, which means exterior finishes, massing, etc, will always suffer.

    2. This is exacerbated by conservative regional attitudes and the fact that people in this market generally do not value “good design” as much as say, unit size, parking convenience, etc. Much of the growth in Indy comes from people moving from smaller towns or peer cities who are used to a more suburban lifestyle.

    3. Compelling, innovative architecture does not necessarily need to be more expensive, but comes with added risks (performance issues, divisive appeal, etc.) The local firms that get hired for these kinds of jobs fit in the strong-service niche and are not focused on “pushing the envelope.” Their skill set is to do the best they can within a very limiting set of constraints. A failure on a project this size would be devastating for an area trying to gain momentum, hence the safe, if relatively banal, approach.

    I know these are sweeping statements, but the Midwest is by far the hardest region in the US to practice architecture and the least likely to produce consistent, outstanding design.

  • Yes, Indy’s canal is definitely a suburban office park amenity. And I totally agree with Scott’s assessment of our conservative regional attitude which shapes our town.

  • Overtime this could potentially change, this city has already changed in the last decade. I don’t like the limiting comments though. I acknowledge those who helped develop the city, but there are also the ones who will guide us into the future as well. The city is developing cutting edge developments such as CityWay, things are happening.

  • Brandon, their needs to be stronger urban advocates / voices for Indy to move in the right direction. If everyone read this blog to find themselves merely content for any new development…then what’s the point for discussion? It proves once again that many here are used to accepting mediocre development because we’re from the Midwest. I believe the downtown canal should be much more than a suburban office park amenity. But that’s my opinion: I do not suggest everyone agree with me at all. I’m sorry but I do not believe in apologizing for being from here. I think we should not have to wait another 10-15 years for more appropriate, urban design…especially along the canal. It’s all too safe for politics sake.

  • Way too much parking for housing that will be focused towards student housing. The reason people will want to live there is so that they won’t have to drive regularly. They need to recognize their market. Depending on the design, that may then open up more space for retail uses. The canal could easily be a vibrant place if there was actually bars, restaurants, and shops along it. Maybe once a hotel decides to build along it there will be sufficient use on the lower floors and the high level of architectural quality that Indy residents require.

    • Even IUPUI’s own campus housing designated park is consistently full. Very few IUPUI students don’t own cars. Better they have too much parking than run out.

      • There is a difference between parking spaces at IUPUI and spaces per unit at other developments near campus. IUPUI brings in commuters from all over Indianapolis metro and should be one place rooting and pushing for better mass transit in Indy. That way they can stop wasting so much land as surface parking (sorry for going off topic.)

  • Thanks Micah!!! I have been traveling all over the world, I just want to see my hometown develop and win in the process. I want whats best, the best development possible. What will draw youth? What will provide sufficient housing? Indianapolis has the potential to win again and again.

  • I live in Carmel and have a friend who lives on the canal that I frequently visit. I am taken back by the stark difference in new development of Carmel vs. Indy. In my opinion it is out of scale, over the top, ostentatious development in Carmel vs. banal, boring, uninspired development in downtown Indy (with the exception of JW Marriot). I would like to see something in the middle from both communities. For Carmel a focus on architecture and landscape is a positive thing but if you look at the building by the Palladium it is an out of scale missed opportunity. Downtown Indy can foster neighborhoods with unique personality by building up. A 26 story building provides an anchor and brings in a lot of residents who will then frequent surrounding shops, restaurants (few in that area now) that will then bring more commercial and residential development. The more demand there is for housing downtown the more they will wish they built up and still of scattered little 5-10 story buildings on prime real estate.

    • There is an excellent example in Nashville, TN of how one over-scaled project has led to further development and was able to appeal to a demographic that previously preferred living further from downtown. It is known as 12 South and if you want to check it out on Google maps it is at the intersection of South 11th and South 12th avenues.
      Here are 2 sites that will help you get acquinted with the area
      You will notice the excellent architecture and sustainability efforts. The existing project has neither.

  • Well said, David. I totally agree with your comment.

  • Well stated David, great thought expressed here.

  • I live on the east side of the canal on Fayette Street, a conservation district. Homeowners there are mixed in their support. I’m not against the project, but I’m glad they redesigned it to look less like it took inspiration from the JW Marriott. Yes, it’s safe architecture, nothing we haven’t seen before. But now it won’t be casting such a big, wide, brick shadow on us.
    I wish more could be done to encourage a greener, less car-dependent lifestyle for the people who will live there. No doubt there will be IUPUI shuttle transportation as there is now on Fayette Street.

  • Maybe someone could foward this message to the developer to at least build it to 15 storys vs 10,It would look much better and would show up on the sky line and aerial photo as another succesful and cool project/development for dt.indy as most dt. residential here at 15 stories or more would work wonders on thoes parking lots, and great fill in, hold more people in single type structures and give them even better skyline views and still have space for more developments.

  • It seems that the forms and function of a new (contemporary) mid-century modern architecture would be well suited for a landlocked place like Indianapolis. Just my opinion to acknowledge our agricultural & industrial heritage? The craftsman bungalow should be our staple style of the past. Downtown would be more livable with a regional identity. Not living in suburbia with an identity crisis!

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