Urban Gas Stations in Historic Districts, Pt. II

A gas station proposed in Ransom Place Conservation District at the corner of 10th St. and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.?

Nixed by the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission (IHPC).

A gas station proposed in Herron Morton Place Historic District at the corner of 16th St. and Central Ave.?

Passed by IHPC, but neighbors sue the developer to block construction (case pending).

Gas station proposals in protected historical neighborhoods have not fared well recently. Nevertheless, another developer is proposing one in Fountain Square Historic District at 1015 Virginia Ave. Not only is this site in a protected neighborhood, it’s directly adjacent to the recently-completed Southeast Corridor of the Cultural Trail. Needless to say, the developer faces an uphill battle with this one. It would be quite a slap in the face for the city to spend 10’s of millions of dollars on a world-class piece of cycling and pedestrian infrastructure only to have one of the unholiest forms of vehicle infrastructure built directly adjacent to the trail.

A city zoning map showing the subject site in white dashes at center.

The developer has filed with the city for a “Variance of development standards of the Commercial Zoning Ordinance to provide for the construction of a two-story, 9,290-square foot convenience store / gasoline station and office.” The IHPC case for this project was heard on April 4th and continued to May 2nd. A separate case before the MDC Hearing Examiner is set for April 12th, but will likewise be continued to May 10th to “allow for the anticipated revision of proposed development plans.” No siteplan or renderings have been released as of yet, but you’ll see them as soon as we can get them.

Comments 14

  • Like we don’t have enough gas station/convenience stores around already! And they always like to tell us they only make a penny or two on gas or even sell at a loss.

  • There’s no reason gas stations have to be a blight on the city. Turkey Hill opened a store on High St in Columbus.


    You can walk down the street and never realize you’re walking past a gas station – the convenience store is brick and pushed to the sidewalk with a street entrance and windows. The pumping area is in back, and the whole property (except at the convenience store) is surrounded by a brick screen wall.

    I’ve never seen a gas station so well-integrated into the neighborhood.

    • The problem with “pumps in back” is that they’re even closer to residents. And it is absolutely nuts that strip of Virginia is zoned C-5, which allows every kind of heavy automotive activity (sales, repairs, etc.).
      Idling and revving cars and loud (to understate) bumpin’ car audio at 2am. Any takers?
      My house is about 100 yards from a c-store gas station. Even with windows closed it provides enough noise to be a disturbance many evenings. Way more than normal traffic on its busy corner.
      Historic neighborhood or not, gas stations do not belong next to residences. Mobility/accessibility isn’t an issue. By definition, if you need gas, you’ve got a vehicle.

      • Agree 100%. It is completely ridiculous that gas stations are allowed to be constructed immediately adjacent to residences and in as low a zoning classification as the C-3 (neighborhood commercial) district.

    • It is less about the design and more about the overall impact. I completely agree with Chris. The pumps and general service style of a gas station/c-store would be detrimental to residents and other human based businesses, but the issue to me is the continued support thrown behind auto based lifestyles. The city and the people of this area have spent literally decades of their lives turning Virginia Ave back into a neighborhood and regional destination for people. This comes after the state blasted through the existing fabric with the interstate destroying the connection that once served this awesome pert of town. Allowing a gas station does more than place an undesireable look along the Ave, it creates a sense of expanded entitlement for cars. This is similar to the JitB that was proposed on Meridian near 16th. The drive-thru, while devastating in terms of looks, would have crippled any efforts for a pedestrian based environment. The aesthetics of the building were argueably the nicest they could have provided, a limestone building, come on! The issue was the devotion to the car. What is the point of having a dense, interconnected neighborhood within a stones throw of Dt if we support a suburban business model?

      • Patience, grasshopper.
        There are many very good arguments against these things without resorting to phrases like “car-based lifestyle is bad”, or “creates an expanded entitlement for cars”, or my favorite, “sells unhealthy food”. Quite clearly, the vast majority of decision-makers you’re making this argument to are car-owners and drivers who go to such places. An opinionated approach can get their hackles up. Not wise to insult zoning board members who probably drove to the hearing and might have stopped at Mickey D’s for a portable lunch on the way in.
        Regarding JitB, it wouldn’t really have been anti-pedestrian. It would have shared an existing driveway cut and an existing alley, something the RC guidelines favor. It would have provided direct ped access to the front door from the public sidewalk…only the second fast food on Meridian to offer such a thing (Kentucky Fried Taco is the other). Mickey D’s and Wendy’s require walking across parking lots to enter: THAT is anti-pedestrian.
        The real issues with JitB were saturation (seven fast-food drive-throughs within a mile), the anti-urban very low density (2900 sf building on 29000sf lot, even less lot coverage than CVS next door!), and proximity of the drive-through to residences.
        These kinds of fact-based arguments win zoning cases for remonstrators, such at the JitB and the last gas-station proposal at 24th & Meridian. (I prepared the remonstrators’ talking points.)

        • You need not teach me the ways of Zoning Boards. They have a set of guidelines to follow and must be held to them. I could walk into a meeting and say I hate their children, but they must rule on the case from a semi-judicial perspective. If they vary from the Findings of Fact, I have a decent appeal case.

          This discussion forum isn’t a line of communication for public hearings, it is often opinion based and responses to stories. If i were speaking in front of a Board, I’d probably wear a suit, I am not as of now.

          The drive-thru for JitB was anti-pedestrian, I know….from real life. People zip in and out and it has nearly cost me my life multiple times.

          A gas station and a drive-thru are promoting a car based lifestyle. IMO, it is a social subsidy for vehicles and a social expense for humans. If it becomes easier for me to drive and access fuel, there is less incentive for me to try any other lifestyle. If a gas station were expressely permitted, then the business would be allowed by right there and we move on to less specific arguements.

          • Gas stations are allowed by right in C-5 (and C-4) zoning districts. The issue here is whether there is a historic district overlay and the fact that such a hearing would be before IHPC. They previously looked at underlying zoning in allowing the 16th/College gas station.
            Zoning boards typically have great latitude in determining the findings of fact for a variance of development standards, whether “the grant will not be injurious to the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare” or “the use and value of the area adjacent to the property included in the variance will not be affected in a substantially adverse manner”.

    • The Turkey Hill in Carmel is nice, too.

  • Design a gas station like the Turkey Hill Mini Mart at Carmel Dr and Range Line in Carmel, IN and I don’t care where you put it.

    • The thing is though, Carmel demands urban structures. Indianapolis, for the most part, doesn’t give a sh*t.

      • Carmel just has the legal budget and dedication to strictly enforce design guidelines……Indy doesn’t put their resources to that case.

  • SoBro,
    When you say Carmel demands urban structures, do you really mean urban density? Urban structures may be a bit misleading, lol! I would just like to know when zoning laws will change in Indianapolis to promote community oriented density? It seems Virginia Avenue is the one corridor where it is happening naturally. Mass Avenue doesn’t have the diversity and affordability like Fountain Square. I believe the historic districts around Mass Avenue really limits natural, diverse growth. I would love to see the industrial area (MAYFLOWER grounds) south of the the EAST END of Mass Ave. be built up into a unique mixed use development.

  • To be correct, the legal case regarding the gas station at 16th St. and Central involves Old Northside and Herron Morton neighborhood associations (and a few individuals) vs. IHPC (city of Indianapolis). The developer has no involvement in the suit. This case has broader meaning–namely, how IHPC interprets and upholds the historic preservation plans and whether or not neighborhood approval/disapproval is considered.

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