The time for Chatham Arch has arrived.
This Wednesday, February 1, at 5:30pm, on the second floor of the City-County Building, the Department of Metropolitan Developmentâ€™s monthly agenda will include the applications for 855 N. East Street and 812 N. Park Avenueâ€”the old Indianapolis Day Nursery Association building and more recently the home of the Todd Academy School. First announcedÂ by Kevin in November of last year,Â this is the same site upon which I wrote two lengthy articles called The Chatham Arch Question. Part IÂ focused on the mismatch between historic preservation and density, showing how goals among the neighborhood association to â€œpreserve the historic characterâ€ are disingenuous, since the density in 1890, 1920 or 1950 (when Chatham Arch clearly began declining economically) were all much, much higher than the density today. The extensive Part II looked at some of the aftermath of this anti-density mentality, and why this approach could kill all development in the neighborhood (one of the cityâ€™s oldest), even though most evidence shows that Chatham Arch Neighborhood Associationâ€”the most ardent opponents of high or medium density developmentâ€”does not reflect the interests of the majority of the residents of Chatham Arch.
Hereâ€™s a PDF of the full DMD agenda for this Wednesday, and here are some of the most important graphics: specifically the site plan and a rendering.
As is evident from the visuals, the changes from the previous proposal focus on lowering the density along Park Avenue, featuring more twins and single-family detached homes instead of townhomes, while increasing the density in the multi-family buildings along East Streets. The overall unit density is about the same as it was, and it will continue to host retail at the corner of 9th and East. The aesthetics will show greater diversity than in the previous proposal, so that it looks far less like a single, uniform development.
All said, this is an excellent chance to instill good urban design principles to the Chatham Arch neighborhood for a site that, based on land values, carrying costs, and the need to demolish the existing structure, will never be feasible for the sort of low-density development that CANA prefers. Quite simply, a developer could not build low density at this site without going bankrupt: the revenue generated from just a few units is far lower than the costs for preparing, clearing, excavating (for underground parking) and subdividing of the land.
The proposal also involves rezoning the site from its existing district (an institutional/charitable use) to a mix of Dwellings and CBD2. My suspicion is that this aspect of the case, despite the fact that the current zoning allows next to nothing, will be the most contested aspect at the hearing on Wednesday. The promotional website for the development, named Chatham Park, offers a greater array of renderings and descriptions of the proposal, which of course involves far greater diversity and intensity of use than an institutional classification.
We encourage supporters of the development to use this blog post as a chance to organize so that you can help IHPC and the DMD recognize that most people in Chatham Arch and Indyâ€™s other oldest neighborhoodsâ€”the neighborhoods featured in Urban Times magazineâ€”support this and other developments that add activity, value, and the historically supported population levels.