An Open Letter to DMD: Please Allow More than Single Family Housing on City Streets

Last year, I wrote an article about the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development’s seeming devotion to neighborhood land use plans. This is still an ongoing issue, as mid-block duplex proposals keep getting denied by the Metropolitan Development Commission. This is a sure-fire way to raise housing costs, and stifle the growth of our burgeoning transit system.

And now, they are not even listening to their own advice regarding land use plans. Witness a few bullet points, starting on the 15th page of the latest MDC Staff Report:

This request would rezone the site from the D-5 District to the D-P classification to provide for
six, single-family dwellings for a density of 27 units per acre. The D-P District is a planned-unit
development that encourages development plans that incorporate and promote environmental
and aesthetic considerations, working within the constraints and advantages presented by
existing site conditions.

â—Š The Comprehensive Plan recommends traditional neighborhood with a transit oriented
development overlay. “The Traditional Neighborhood typology includes a full spectrum of
housing types, ranging from single family homes to large-scale multifamily housing. The
development pattern of this typology should be compact and well-connected, with access to
individual parcels by an alley when practical. Building form should promote the social
connectivity of the neighborhood, with clearly defined public, semi-public, and private spaces.
Infill development should continue the existing visual pattern, rhythm, or orientation of
surrounding buildings when possible. A wide range of neighborhood-serving businesses,
institutions, and amenities should be present. Ideally, most daily needs are within walking
distance. This typology usually has a residential density of 5 to 15 dwelling units per acre.”

â—Š The Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) overlay is intended for areas within walking distance
of a transit station. The purpose of this overlay is to promote pedestrian connectivity and a
higher density than the surrounding area (15+ dwelling units for this site). This site lies within
a ¼ mile of the proposed Blue Rapid Transit Line that would run along Washington Street
between Cumberland and Plainfield.

â—Š Staff recognizes that density is needed to support transit-oriented development, but
redevelopment should be harmonious with and not detrimental to the neighborhood and
surrounding land uses.

So, basically, this is exactly what we asked for, but because it doesn’t match the existing infrastructure, we are going to deny it. What is this controversial proposal about, after all? This:

Image Credit. Indianapolis DMD
Image Credit: Indianapolis DMD
Image Credit: Indianapolis DMD

It’s 6 individual houses placed upon two lots, with a walking path placed in the middle. This is a unique new proposal, but such places do exist within the city. Witness Washington Court, or College Avenue’s Cottage Houses, or 1725 Cottage Avenue. Today’s DMD would likely deny all of them.

City streets should be more than owner-occupied single family homes. Even my own block in Meridian-Kessler has duplexes and rental houses. Just one block away from my house is a small mid-block apartment complex, which likely would not exist if an identical copy were proposed today. This all begs the question: How well does DMD know its own city?


Comments 8

  • I agree, Kevin. Especially in the “compact context area”, which is in the daggone zoning code update of 2016 and includes this site (and much of Center Township).

  • DMD needs to lead and not stifle the city.

  • Perhaps the city could fix some of the drainage issues like are shown in the picture if they would just let people build homes in neighborhoods with empty lots.

    This is beyond a joke. Our city is functionally insolvent and they are turning away tax dollars.

  • I appreciate the sympathetic and contextual design of this proposed infill. It seems to follow the setbacks and scale of the surrounding (1-1/2 to 2-story) houses and doubles and strikes me as a compatible infill development. The rendering immediately brought to mind Studio Court at 1912-1924 N. Talbott Street in Herron Morton Place.

    There are so many historic precedents for development of this type in Indy neighborhoods that have (or had and have lost) similar building stock. To your list, I’d add the following historic rowhouse courts: the Vera and the Olga at 1440-1446 N. Illinois Street, Garfield Court at 2415-2419 Shelby Street and three similar examples in Irvington (two on Washington Street and one on Johnson Avenue in comparable proximity to the Blue Line). The historic rowhouse courts are higher density than this proposed development.

    • I didn’t know about the studio court, very nice. Are there floor plans anywhere? Also 2909 broadway st, a cottage court. Very nice.

  • I love this proposal! What a great way to promote affordable home ownership and a respectable density of new development in an existing neighboring in need of infill. Each house is efficient and compact and thus more accessible to lower household incomes. The thoughtfully designed walking path in the middle would create a balance of access and privacy as well.
    Cheers to NEON for a job well designed! Thanks to the DMD for being open minded to this unique proposal.

  • This would be a great way to redevelop most of Southeastern Ave. The forgotten Gateway to the Cincinnati and into Indianapolis…..

    Southeastern Ave. has such potential for great development and streetscape redesign…. I hope the City holds key elements in place and encourage proper development of housing, retail and business as a mix use….

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