UPDATE: The Hearing Examiner Recommended granting the petitioners’s requests for two variances (one for set-back and one for height). This has been appealed and will be heard by the Metropolitan Development Commission on Wednesday November 1, 1pm at the City-County Building.
NOTE: I know this isn’t popular with everyone, as this has been a divisive issue since the TWG days. Many constituents were upset at my position of neutrality. After thoroughly reviewing the project and seeing support grow, I decided remaining neutral was no longer the best option. Here is my letter of support to the Hearing Examiner.
October 12, 2016
METROPOLITAN DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
Re: 2016-CZN-818; 2016-CVR-818
5870 North College Avenue
Dear Hearing Examiner:
Though MKNA, Midtown Inc, and City planning staff all recommend support of the petitioner’s requests, I originally decided to remain neutral out of respect for the level of emotion attached to this project. After a subsequent review of the facts, I have decided to support the petitioner’s requests. This project is too important to my district, and as a nearby neighbor I no longer see remaining neutral as beneficial.
Those who remain opposed to this project are extremely passionate. I have, however, seen support grow over the past months while the opposition has shrunk. I have followed this parcel since last year when the TWG project was on the table. The TWG plan was problematic for a multitude of reasons. While TWG responded to neighborhood concerns and modified their proposal in density, parking, and other aspects, ultimately it did not align with the desire of the neighborhood. A compromise was never reached. I facilitated the end of that project by forcing the financing conversation between TWG and the City earlier in the process.
We are at a very different place today. There have been numerous meetings and conversations between Milhaus and the adjacent residents. I have closely followed this process since March, and in my view Milhaus has been extremely responsive and thoughtful in their modifications. They have scaled back density and height, increased parking, stepped back the building height near the alley to lessen the shade impact on nearest neighbors, and presented a design aesthetic both in line with the character of the neighborhood and relevant to the College Avenue corridor.
With so much compromise in response to neighbor requests, I am surprised that there is still so much opposition to this project. As one of the most important remaining parcels outside the Mile Square, this parcel will undeniably be redeveloped. It is essential that we have a developing partner that is committed to quality, while also remaining respectful of the neighborhood’s vision. Milhaus is committed to maintaining ownership of the project and supporting local businesses that the neighborhood could embrace in its retail/office space. From the way they have handled the process thus far, it is reasonable to infer that they will be responsible owner/operators and good neighbors.
This project fits well into the MKNA neighborhood plan. While change is difficult for all, thoughtful development is necessary to bolster our economy and support the independent businesses that we all enjoy in and around Broad Ripple and Midtown. The present proposal contains an excessive amount of parking and maintains mature trees. It requires two variances; the set-back variance is a request to accommodate neighborhood requests and bears little contention. According to the many emails I’ve received, the height is the primary reason for objection. Rather than lay out the height specifics that are detailed in letters from many parties, including MKNA and City staff, I’d like to express the longer-range issue of treating the College Avenue corridor differently than the interior streets that house Meridian-Kessler, Forest Hills, and Coil Farm. College Avenue is one of the most important thoroughfares in the city, connecting walkable neighborhoods with small and medium-sized businesses, and linking the North Side (including the suburbs) to MidTown and downtown. While aesthetically it is important that any development along this corridor maintain the integrity of the neighborhood, there should be more variety permitted in both scale and design. I believe this project to be an immense improvement over its TWG predecessor, as well as a huge step in the right direction from the existing eyesore that helps no one.
I humbly ask you to support this project.
Indianapolis City-County Council