On the north side of Indianapolis, a new development has been proposed for the former Woodfield Center located at the intersection of 86th Street and Keystone Avenue. The newly proposed use has made waves with the surrounding neighborhood to the west upset over the design and an official remonstration has been filed which will be heard on February 20th, by the MDC.
The proposed use for the site, to be named Ironworks, would level the previous (and now long vacant) shopping center and create a new L shaped building that rises 5 stories above Keystone Avenue. It would include commercial space, residential space and would put back on the tax-rolls a parcel that has managed to remain vacant for a number of years now.
It’s fair to ask, is this design really too urban? The developer has termed this development “mixed use” and the staff report from the city acknowledges this as a new use for the area. An examination of the plan might also conclude that as well due to the large number of apartments and abundance of commercial space contained within the same building; 120 apartments and 31,000 square feet of office space would be provided. Indeed, the only other similar mixed use in this area consists of a recently converted hotel to apartments located within the Keystone at the Crossing complex.
However, a tremendous amount surface parking, coupled with some underground spaces, makes this proposal decidedly un-urban. The location, in what could arguably be called an edge city (Keystone at the Crossing), is an overly automobile oriented environment. Additionally, the area scores low on the walkability scale. Furthermore, immediately to the south, are a number of office buildings which when viewed by passers by, will not be substantially differentiated from the proposed Ironworks building. There are not a significant amount of transit offerings in this area yet for residents of the proposed development to take advantage of. However, the recently announced IndyGo 86 route will begin service in June offering connections to Castleton and the NW side of Indy.
So where is the rub? Is Nora concerned that commercial development here will erode the residential nature of the 86th street corridor west of Keystone? Will the addition of Ironworks spur further development on the NE side of 86th & Keystone?
To be sure, this development could be a catalyst for continued growth in this area. However, Nora should not be concerned with an erosion of the quality of life that is currently experienced in this area. Most of the residential housing in this area is highly segregated effectively shutting out 86th street and any increased traffic or commercial activity that may be generated in the future.
In conclusion, with history as a guide, Nora should welcome this development with open arms as it represents non-city supported commercial investment in a suburban area that could be perceived as old and ripe for decay in the coming decades. Insuring that higher quality commercial and residential interest continues will only serve to keep the highly segregated neighborhoods desirable in the coming years.