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Tackling 16 Tech Part 2

Last July, Urban Indy brought you the 30,000 foot view of the newly announced 16 Tech Plan. We asked Develop Indy a lot of questions about the project which would take a currently underutilized tract of land on the NW side of downtown and turn it into an office/industrial park for the urban core.

16 Tech Site Plan - Initial Renderings (image credit: Develop Indy)

16 Tech Site Plan - Initial Renderings (image credit: Develop Indy)

Urban Indy specifically pointed out the nature of developments such as this, and that being the large amount of required parking. We asked what was being done to address this since large surface parking is already an issue downtown; an issue which the city is purposefully trying to eliminate. Develop Indy responded by stating that structured parking would be, “encouraged and required.”

At the time, this sounded like the best approach. At Urban Indy, we constantly debate the merits of parking and it’s non-contribution to the urban built environment. If required, structured parking is the best way to go about it from the point of view of utilizing the limited and valuable urban core land. It could be argued that initial costs are more expensive for building structured parking vs surface lots but long term efficiency tells us structured will win out.

16 Tech Plan - Revised (image credit: Develop Indy)

16 Tech Plan - Revised (image credit: Develop Indy)

So, it was with a large amount of disappointment when I saw the latest document from the city that divides the land for 16 Tech into individual parcels, with a complimentary parking layout. Obviously, absent from this document, is any mention of the aforementioned structured parking. Indeed, it resembles a suburban office park instead of an urban employment cluster as was originally sold when the announcement was made last year. So what happened? Was the wrong team of designers assigned to tackle the project initially? With a lack of properly focused planning and no policy in place to support ab urban style land use, the existing zoning will result in more of what we are used to seeing.

In my original post, I mentioned what we would NOT like to see, additional large surface parking lots. It appears that if things proceed as the city has laid out, we will indeed get more of it. This presents a fantastic opportunity to change the direction before any earth is moved, to co-locate all the planned surface parking into one structure and plan for additional uses of the land that do not include expensive and wasteful automobile parking.

11 Responses to “ “Tackling 16 Tech Part 2”

  1. christopher. says:

    Is there a place where we can tell the city, “This looks like a Duke office park, not an urban tech development,” because I would really like to tell the city that.

    • ahow628 says:

      I’ll send a note too. Just let me know where it is best directed.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        Send a note to Aaron Renn at The Urbanophile. He is the one who coined the best description ever of what the Downtown Canal has become: “a suburban office-park amenity”.
        .
        I think enough influential people respect Aaron’s opinion that if he calls this project out on his blog, someone might say “hey, wait a minute here”.
        .
        Now, in all fairness: this is not a place where the parking can be buried. It is full of drinking water wells and buried water mains. That’s pretty important infrastructure.
        .
        On the other hand, it is also not a place where we want a whole lot of cars dripping salt-water, road sludge, oil, grease, metals and antifreeze that will seep into our drinking water supply…so there is not a way to “green” the parking by making the pavement permeable or by capturing the runoff in infiltration basins.

  2. Chris Corr says:

    Simply put, this plan is a stunningly bad use of land.
    .
    Setting aside the specifics of what the city envisions being built on the land, let’s look at it even more broadly: the city has a 19 acre site and they’ve managed to whittle that down to 12.34 acres for sale. I understand the need for infrastructure to access the site, but they’re using up 35% of the available land with those uses. That’s grossly inefficient.
    .
    Look at the street infrastructure. There’s the primary road in the area (Indiana Ave) the secondary access road (Waterway Blvd) the internal crossing streets (Helix Park and the smaller roads to be built) and then the driving lanes in the parking lots themselves. Why are 4 levels of road infrastructure necessary for vehicle access of a site this small?
    .
    And why is Helix Park necessary at all? They’ve set aside a huge amount of greenspace next to the old Riverside Pumping Station, not to mention that they’re a hop skip and a jump from the Fall Creek Greenway.
    .
    UGH. I could go on and on about this plan.

  3. Eric says:

    This plan is not that much different than the initial rendering. The difference is the elimination of the portion of the roundabout, and instead of a dense development with 3 large buildings taking up most of the frontage there are 8 smaller buildings at the street and parking has been expanded into the side yards. What should be asked is why this phase lost so much density going from 3 to 8 buildings. If the developer wants smaller office buildings, make that a part of mixed-use buildings or group the buildings at the street and the parking to the rear. Don’t spread everything out like suburbia ruining the walkability and density.

  4. Eric says:

    Email contact for project- nlangdon@developindy.com

  5. Andrew Troemner says:

    Imagine if the offices were decoupled from the parking lots. Would it make sense to build more surface parking lots if they didn’t come as an attached packaged? I’d say no, especially since there’s still tons of parking available in Speedway that’s unoccupied every non-race week. It would be a two mile transit — easily accessible by shuttle. You could double the per-parcel office density (if not triple it — a lot of the building offsets seem to be to accomodate parking needs).

    The IUPUI campus is significantly densifying, especially with mixed-use development at 10th and University Boulevard. A glut of parking-dependent office space just up the road would be inconsistent with both traffic patterns and neighboring development.

    • Eric says:

      You’re not going to sell off-site parking and transit to any office tenants. The goal should be to create an urban realm by putting all of the buildings at the street and putting shared parking in the rear at secondary frontages or provide structures as initially stated. This development actually mimics the layout of IUPUI’s campus with the buildings spread out along the roads to all corners creating vast, unwalkable expanses between them.

      • Andrew Troemner says:

        If there’s a good part about IUPUI’s master plan, though, it’s that these “vast, unwalkable expanses” are planned to be filled by parking garages and mixed-use development, including more apartments, offices, and restaurants. Of course, they’ve got a 30-year timetable, so take that as you will.
        .
        I think, though, that you’ve struck on a very salient issue: can small office development even happen in an urban environment? With so much land devoted to car infrastructure in the current model, it really begs the question as to how much value renters are going to get from renting in the shadow of IUPUI at suburban levels of car infrastructure.
        .
        Compare this to office development in Lockerbie Square, where several law firms have taken up residence in older buildings. Parking is extremely limited, but this is offset by the human capital-heavy lawyers operating out of the residential areas. Surface-lot parking is virtually non-existant (except for nearby Fifth-Third Bank and the Citgo gas station). Meanwhile, anyone who needs more parking off-site is able to rent them out from the various parking garage outfits in the vicinity.
        .
        Granted, I don’t think of this as ideal – in an ideal world, the site of the former Market Square Arena would be fully developed. However, it does provide more flexibility to businesses within the area that otherwise would be burdened with constructing and maintaining their own large surface lots. At some point, though, the real estate costs will outweigh the benefits of maintaining one-to-one parking in the immediate vicinity, and more parking flexibility will be needed in the form of better transit options or satellite parking shuttles.

      • Chris Corr says:

        Honestly, I don’t think this resembles IUPUI at all. IUPUI pretends to be an urban campus while it’s really a suburban campus. But it IS still a campus. Once you’ve parked at the edges and gotten into the center of IUPUI, it’s highly walkable.
        .
        16 Tech would actually be slightly — but only slightly! — better if it were oriented more like IUPUI. Put all the buildings on parcels 4-7 (the center space) and put all the parking to the east and west sides.

  6. Drewbie says:

    On the other other hand, its way better than what’s already there. And people aren’t going to build transit based density unless there is actual transit system in the ground.

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