Indy’s 2012 investment in parking: $19 million to date

The past year, civic boosters have cheered new infill development occurring in the city. Noteworthy among these developments, are 2 that I would like to focus on here. The first being the multi-use parking structure in Broad Ripple, something we have reported on heavily in the past, and the second being the new Block 400 project located in the NW quadrant of downtown Indianapolis’ CBD (core business district).

Broad Ripple Parking Structure Rendering (image source: City press release)
Broad Ripple Parking Structure Rendering (image source: City press release)

Broad Ripple’s structure has been raked over the coals multiple times at this blog as well as other local blogs about it’s cost, necessity and location. While those are valid topics of discussion, the bottom line for this story is that the structure represents 350 spaces for $6 million.

The block 400 Project is an infill project that will be replacing an existing surface parking lot with 487 apartments, a grocery store anchored by Marsh and additional commercial retail space available along Michigan Street. When announced, the project details indicated that the city would be backing the costs of a 930 space parking structure to be placed at the intersection of Illinois and New York Street; to make up for the parking spaces being taken away from the surface lots for One America employees. The dollar figure cited ranged from $11-$13 million.

Block 400 Site Plan (image credit: City of Indianapolis)
Block 400 Site Plan (image credit: City of Indianapolis)

This week, the initial step of Block 400, the aforementioned parking garage, is up for approval through the MDC regional center hearing examiner. With the exception of a couple of minor requests from the examiner, the garage appears to be headed for a green light. The IBJ is reporting the financial impact to be $13 million.

From an urbanist’s perspective, this thing is horrendous. It devours half of an entire city block of the CBD, soars 5 stories into the air and is comprised of design ques taken from the One America Tower; itself an uninspiring and ground level activity deflating structure. What’s more, this structure will stretch from New York St on the south side, to Vermont Ave on the north side, totally decimating any chance of activating either Illinois or Vermont Street.

Block 400 Parking Garage Plan (image credit: City of Indianapolis)
Block 400 Parking Garage Plan (image credit: City of Indianapolis)

It strikes me as odd that our city’s administration props up the concept of connectivity as one of the core principals behind infrastructure investment, and yet it chooses to invest our tax dollars in a mammoth structure that defeats the concepts of walking and biking and takes an entire city block worth of frontage to do so.

Block 400 Parking Garage Initial Rendering (image credit: City of Indianapolis)
Block 400 Parking Garage Initial Rendering (image credit: City of Indianapolis)

The bottom line here is that with the Broad Ripple multi-use structure and the Block 400 parking structure, our city has now committed $19 million of taxpayer money to structured parking which could be invested in numerous other projects with a higher social return on investment such as our underperforming park space, the Downtown Indianapolis Streetcar Corp starter route , or any other number of projects that don’t encourage more driving in a city and state already over the belt line in the obesity department.

These are the facts folks. Digest them as you will.

Editor’s Note: Design was delayed on 5/24. Developer has until June 14th now to resubmit a design that is more inviting to pedestrians – See story at the IBJ.

Comments 37

  • Wow! My 8-month old could have designed that parking structure for One America! Seriously? And how in the world does this fit into the CBD design guidelines?!?! And no street-level retail? Why the hell not?

  • It seems pretty clear that absolutely no consideration was given to the Regional Center Plan in development of this design because under it this design and site plan is completely indefensible. Will MDC have to approve this design?

  • As you mentioned about the parking garage and the One America Tower sucking away the street life – The parking garage has an enclosed pedestrian bridge linking the garage to the tower, removing any pedestrian movement at the street level even further.

    Whereas I don’t agree that the garage is necessary, they could have designed the structure to become a design statement or at least have retail to provide some sort of value to other people in the city instead of catering only to the people who work at One America who drive to work.

    What a waste of $13 million dollars… Nothing like spending ~$10,500 per person working at One America (I’m guessing they don’t carpool).

  • I guess that if it’s this versus the status quo (a parking lot on that parcel as well as parking lots on parcels to the north and to the northwest), I’d rather have the parking garage and the development that comes with it on the adjacent parcels (400 some residential units in a mixed use development that will have street level retail, including but not limited to another downtown grocery store).

    Don’t miss the forest for the trees – the parking lots that currently exist on those sites don’t do anything to engage the streets or enhance connectivity, either. At least the parking garage is proposed as part of a larger development which provide amenities that urbanists should be excited about. The status quo is really the only other option on the table at this point; while I don’t know for sure that this development couldn’t go forward but for the garage, I’m guessing that’s the case – if so, let’s at least get as good of development as we can, even if it includes a parking garage.

    • Amen. Incremental progress is how things happen. Making provision for the cars already parking in the sea of surface parking is a GOOD urban-design decision that opens up the surface for redevelopment.

      • I think the problem is that there is nothing in the plan that engages the pedestrians. With all people walking in the neighborhood (400 Block residents, visitors to Marsh) there is a huge opportunity to put in other commercial space on the first floor of the garage. As it is, there is no secondary use except for shuttling people from the burbs to One America. What a waste.

  • I’d sure like to know what amenities the Broad Ripple Parking garage provides that should excite urban planners and urban planning enthusiasts. Another bank with a drive thru? A Walgreens? A chain pizza joint?

    • Trying to look on the bright side of things, retail space, decent design, and a Park & Ride argument for a future street car along College again are starters. That’s at least something more to be excited about than the One America monstrosity.

      • The retail space, so far, leaves little to be happy about. It seems that the garage is likely to charge a lot for rent and will make it hard for any type of unique business to actually be able to afford to do business there.

        I think the Park & Ride could be possible now with Indy Go. But I fear that the likely hourly charging will make it very costly to park at that specific garage.

        If I recall correctly, the in-garage bike parking as well as the electric/hybrid car charger was eliminated according to the latest ground plans.

        Really, I see little difference between the two structures other than a lot of people here seem to think the One America one is ugly looking.

        • I kind of wish I could edit the above post because I really would like to look in more detail at the One America garage because this is the first I’ve heard about it, and I hate to cast judgement on something based on 5 minutes of thought with one source of info (this initial posting and the subsequent comments)

  • I see what you did there.

  • I definitely think this garage is necessary in order to get the ball rolling on the development of the sea of parking lots along the Capitol/Senate Ave corridor. $10,500/parking space is actually about right and even on the lower end of things. I just would prefer a better designed structure from a planning, concept, material and design standpoint because I believe this design falls flat on all those points. They need to take a cue from the mall garage at Maryland & Illinois. I also think the bridge is unnecessary and will look really bad because of how far back the OneAmerica building is at that point.

  • I’m going to attend this meeting at 10am. This is just ridiculous. The Site Configuration Guidelines clearly REQUIRE mixed-use and street-level use “designed to activate the adjacent pedestrian ways.” The staff is “satisfied” evidently because their will be an f-ing sign with clever word play on the corner!!! If this structure meets requirements for the Regional Center Plan, that plan is meaningless.

    • Just around the corner, 15,000 sf of Cosmo I ground floor is vacant commercial. I’d argue it is WORSE than a plain garage frontage since it screams “EMPTY” and has for years.
      There is a limit on how much retail space can be supported downtown, and the available space already exceeds demand by quite a bit. At the Hudson, the “ground-floor retail” has become office. Ditto on the older sections of the Canal.
      I suspect the dogma built into the RC guidelines is increasingly being challenged by developers who have to pay for space that has no prospects for leasing.

      • The problem is that if you don’t build the structure to accommodate future retail, you have just eliminated a city block. Yes, it is better than surface parking, but is that our benchmark?! The ground floor of Cosmo is no longer vacant. It is office space, and there is nothing wrong with that. If you build it, they will come.

        I attended the hearing, and it was enlightening to see that the “suits” had not even considered pedestrian “activation” on this project. They mentioned they planned to incorporate maybe 1500sqft of retail on the New York/Illinois corner, but only if the witty sign can be accommodated.

        It seems the real issue here is, of course, cost. If the Illinois frontage is enclosed for commercial, they would have to install ventilation in the garage. If it is left open, no ventilation is necessary. Problem is, if they don’t build ventilation now, there will never be enclosed commercial space. Nonetheless, the hearing examiner continued the hearing until June 14 so petitioner can provide plans for how to address the pedestrian activation issue per RC guidelines. He clearly indicated he would accept something less than true pedestrian interaction with the building, suggesting maybe some landscape or design features that would soften the look of the building.

        • “If you build it, they will come” is why you can buy houses cheap in the Inland Empire, Vegas, Phoenix, and the West Coast of Florida today. That’s bubble thinking.
          The office vacancy rate in Indy is between 15-20%; we don’t need office or retail in this block.

          • That’s an issue out in my neck of the woods at Pike Township. In the Park 100 area, there is no shortage of empty or rarely used office space that has been sitting there for years. It absolutely boggles my mind whenever I hear about a new building being expanded or built for office space when there is so much available as it is.

  • I was talking to Curt on Twitter about this. I mentioned that $20M is roughly the amount Indy spent on their parks last year. He mentioned that $20M is about half the IndyGo operating budget. That are many far better ways to spend this money.

    • You are comparing capital investment into infrastructure that could potentially generate future tax revenue with operating expenses. I’m not even saying that this is the money well spent (time will tell), but I would definitely be against using “a one-time infusion of cash from Citizen’s or parking meter deal” for operating expenses.
      BR garage – I dislike the way Keystone Construction does business. But, I can’t say that I’m totally against this project. It’s better than having a new gas station (like the one recently built on corner of Keystone and 62nd). And yes, I do have some reservations about the financial arrangement between mayor and his friend(s).
      Block 400 – I’m with Chris B. on this one. Overall, the deal looks more favorable for the city than the BR deal. And it’s an incremental improvement. I know this might sound wasteful, but I can only wish that 20 years from now someone buys the garage and demolishes it because there would be enough demand for residential/commercial space downtown. In the meantime, this is a step forward.

  • Also, I’m bummed that BillyBoy’s comment got removed. That was a classic.

  • The Broad Ripple Parking Garage pretty clearly is for the purpose of parking for the people who visit the businesses located in the building, not a parking garage to cure problems with parking in Broad Ripple. After the plan went through, they immediately increased the commercial space in the building. We taxpayers pay to build the thing while Keystone gets 100% ownership of the building, 100% of the commercial rents and 100% of the parking revenue. The location of the garage is simply awful. It may never get built due to the flood level issues, but given Keystone’s clout with the administration, I wouldn’t bet against the company.

  • To Joshua: Glad you attended the Regional Center hearing. Its good to hear your insight on what happened at the meeting. One suggestion I think the developer should consider would be re-orienting the parking garage to run on the half block that fronts the north side of New York Street. This would leave the northern half of the block – fronting Vermont Street free from having a large parking garage taking up half of ithe street frontage on this block. Vermont Street is one of the best streets in the mile square for pedestrian oriented residential and retail uses — all the way from West Street across to Lockerbie Square. If they just moved their garage to the southern half of the block – it would allow Vermont Street to have future residential built all along it – which could keep that corridor a great, walkable, residential / mixed use corridor in the heart of downtown (and keep it from having a six story, ugly parking garage built right in the middle of it).

    • Another remonstrator actually sent a letter to that effect. Petitioner’s response was that frontage on New York would pose a problem for ingress and egress due to heavy traffic at New York/Illinois intersection. The current design is set up for entry from the half-block surface lot on Capitol, from Illinois and also off of Vermont (right in, right out). That’s all beyond my “expertise” though.

  • Agree with Joshua and TJohn on this …. this structure is awful and irresponsible, contributing absolutely nothing to the urban life of DT Indy; if One America wants/needs the garage so bad, it should be situated along NY Street – less of a walk for employees and does less damage to this already dead block along NY (the “access” argument doesn’t hold water). If the City is indeed funding it, it should lead by example of how such a structure should be sited/designed and honor the RC guidelines. The hearing examiner’s request for a “little landscaping” is simply lipstick on a pig. Given the architecture firm, I am hardly surprised by the rudimentary, block-killing, hostile design. At the very least, the corner and 50% of the frontage should have ground-level retail; this project and the other nearby apartments under development will increase the density enough to support it. The architects should then head over to IUPUI to take a look at how a competent designer handles the challenges of scale and mass of the upper stories of a garage; IU has recently built two very nice structures – one near NIFS and the other at North and Blackford.

  • Just a general comment here. Anyone is welcome to reply with a valid argument. Poking fun and being a pest will not be tolerated.

    • Curt, just what comments and positions will you allow? You seem to delete everything outside of a very narrow range.

      • This is a website for rational discussion. If people can defend their position without tossing out incendiary bombs such as “if you want to ride a bike, ride on the Monon”, then be our guest. Those positions already have a welcome home on the Indy Star website, but not here.

  • well, i left a little rant in the mayor’s inbox *and* made a facebook post about it. surely that will start a tidal wave of opposition to that awful parking garage :\

  • well, i left a little rant of a letter in the Mayor’s inbox, *and* i posted about it on Facebook. So surely, this will start a tidal wave of public opposition to that terrible parking garage :\

    reminds me of a conversation i was having with a friend the other day, about just how happy Indy seems to be to remain so mediocre, and always seems to be taking two steps forward and three steps back.

  • Can you cite a source for the claim that in-garage bike parking and electric/hybrid car chargers were eliminated from the design? The structure will also be LEED certified (not sure what level) and BRV is particularly interested in how the stormwater will be handled. The community is encouraging the developer to work w/ IndyGo on upgrading the bus stops (shelter/bench at least) and we’re urging DPW to enhance the crosswalks to reflect BRAVE designs. Urban planners and urban planning enthusiasts can be cheered by the removal of a gas station that had blighted the visual landscape for decades. (As JP notes below) Marathon indeed suggested it wanted to put an interstate-style gas station w/ quick-mart in that location – hardly an improvement to the streetscape in this dynamic location. The City has a valid contract with the developer and they will proceed with construction as per the terms of the agreement.

    • I’m assuming this was directed at me, since I was the one mentioning that in-garage bike parking and the charges weren’t in the plans for the BRPG. I was basing that on a previous analyses on one of the new re-designed floor plans that were posted here at Urban Indy. I’m not an architectural analytical expert so I based that comment strictly on someone else’s analyses and I’d be happy to be wrong.

  • Just to clear a myth, there is no such thing as an evironmentally friendly parking garage. Even if the structure captures all rainwater for reuse, purifies it through green roofs and cisterns, is wrapped in solar panels and wind turbines…… is still an incentive to drive a car which “leeds” to living further out in a more auto-centric design pattern.

    lipstick on a pig…blah blah blah

  • You guys don’t like cars do you? 🙂

    • My comment wasn’t intentionally lashing cars, but more the LEED rating system.

    • I don’t think there is an author on our blog that is completely car free. But most of us would at least like the option to live car free or car light (meaning one car per household) in the future. The city makes it difficult for that to happen at the present, but we are trying to help change that.

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