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Parking lots in historic districts or Why IHPC was right to deny the firefighter’s credit union

Original proposal for Starbucks and bank development in Irvington

Original proposal for Starbucks and bank development in Irvington

Back in 2005, I sat on the Historic Irvington Community Council’s design and zoning review committee. Irvington had just recently become a historic district and was under the jurisdiction of the Indianapolis Historic Preservation Commission. Not long into our life as a historic district, a developer submitted an application to redevelop the northeast corner of East Washington Street and Audubon Road, a prominent intersection in the neighborhood.

The corner was home to two vacant buildings. The corner building was a 60’s era building that most recently housed an auto parts store. East of it was a long vacant building that formerly housed a chain pizza restaurant and, intermittently, a fireworks store. The neighborhood was desperate to rebuild this corner.

The developer proposed building two new buildings to house a bank branch and a Starbucks. The bank branch was great, but the addition of a Starbucks… that was a sign for many that Irvington had arrived. The neighborhood caffeine addicts were foaming to have a nearby fix.

But we were given a catch: we were told that Starbucks would only sign the lease if their typical design was built, surrounded with a moat of asphalt. There would be no way that Starbucks would build a more appropriate design. If the neighborhood pushed back, Starbucks would pack up their Pike Place and go somewhere else.

The Starbucks in Irvington as viewed from the intersection of East Washington Street and Audubon Road.  (image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/31/Starbucks,_Irvington,_Indiana.jpg).

The Starbucks in Irvington as viewed from the intersection of East Washington Street and Audubon Road. (image from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/31/Starbucks,_Irvington,_Indiana.jpg).

Flash forward to today. Irvington has its Starbucks, but the building isn’t surrounded by a parking lot. It is located on the corner with the long side facing Washington Street. Yes, there is plenty of parking and a drive thru, but the design and orientation fits Irvington. And it is because a group of appointed individuals said that the original proposal was not suitable for Irvington.

The IHPC is made up of mayoral and council appointees. At the time, none of the members lived in Irvington. But because the neighborhood petitioned, the City-County Council approved, and the Mayor signed a proposal to put the design and zoning considerations of Irvington under the careful watch of the Commission. They were designated to be the aesthetic conscience of the neighborhood.

So when the corner parking lot came forward and 100 residents came to the Commission meeting to support the suburban design out of fear of losing the development, the Commission did the right thing: it said no.

Many commissioners made comments regarding the proposal. The one that stands out the most to me was made by Susan Williams. It was succinct but poignant: Irvington deserves better; you (the residents) may not believe it, but you do.

With that, the developers were sent back to the drawing board. In spite of the threats made, they returned with an architect experienced with historic and urban designs. The parking lot was moved from the corner. They provided an appropriate design and IHPC approved it.

I bring this up because there is a current case before IHPC dealing with the construction of the firefighter’s credit union and an addition to the firefighter’s union hall. The construction of the credit union is part of a larger plan to redevelop the existing credit union and fire station on Massachusetts Avenue. The majority of components were approved, including a drive thru that exits onto Mass Ave. But IHPC said no to a parking lot proposed at the corner of Mass Ave, College Avenue, and St. Clair. It is a prominent intersection and there are multiple reasons to save that corner from being paved. By saying no to that component, the IHPC is saying that the neighborhood and the intersection deserve better. And it is true.

There are other options. One option would be to split the parcel in half. Parking along the western half and leave the eastern half open for future development. Another would be to rotate the addition to the hall by 45 degrees; this would allow for perpendicular or angle parking on St. Clair. Then maybe add parking along the alley between St. Clair and Arch. That saves the majority of the lot in question for future development. And there are certainly other solutions to consider.

Given some extra time, a solution will be found that will allow things to proceed. And that is what the IHPC has provided: extra time to find the right solution. That is what IHPC is charged with doing and it is what they successfully do every time they meet.

It is true; the commission members are not elected. They are appointed by those that we elect. The same is true of the directors of every department in the City and every commission member in the County. The Bond Bank, the Department of Code Enforcement, and the Department of Metropolitan Development are all guided by appointed commissioners. The Police Chief, the Fire Chief, the Director of Public Safety… all appointed. During the recent string of violent crime, nobody has criticized the Police Chief because he is appointed.

The commission is appointed by the Mayor and the Council as delegates. The responsibility for zoning and design review has been delegated by the Mayor and the Council to the Commission. And when these historic districts were locally designated, it was not because the will of an authoritarian applied it. It is because the neighborhood at that time asked to be held to a higher standard. The neighborhood created the plan that guides the Commission.

And on page 62 of the Chatham-Arch & Massachusetts Avenue Historic Area Plan, that corner lot has a specific recommendation. And that recommendation is “658 E. St. Clair Street: If this site is developed, new development should be residential and should be sensitive to the houses on St. Clair and Arch Streets.” This is a recommendation in a plan created by the neighborhood. It was not created by the IHPC; the plan was created by the neighborhood. And the plan was presented by the neighborhood to the IHPC and the MDC in 2006. The neighborhood asked to be held accountable to their plans and on September 3rd, the IHPC did exactly that. The proposal offered a parking lot and that is the opposite of what the neighborhood wanted.

The commission members said no. And I commend them for doing their job.

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32 Responses to “ “Parking lots in historic districts or Why IHPC was right to deny the firefighter’s credit union”

  1. Chris Barnett says:

    Jason, the problem with old land-use plans (and 8 years is OLD because the plan would have been developed during the “condo boom” years, pre-crash) is that the world always changes between the time the plan is approved and the present day. Generally land-use plans of this nature are ADVISORY, they are not intended to be “construction plans”. They are not intended to be frozen in amber, except apparently in historic districts.

    Ultimately, the owner of the land should have the biggest say in how his/her land is used. Not the commission. And if the owner of the land negotiates an agreement with the present-day neighborhood land-use committee (similar to what you described in Irvington, which is what the press reports indicate happened here), then the agreement really should be given the benefit of the doubt by the commission.

    And there is this: urban parking lots have proven to be a form of land-banking until a higher-value user seeks the property. Currently in Indianapolis, at the edges of downtown development, urban parking lots are not permanent, and do not prevent future redevelopment.

    Look at Axis on the NW side of downtown. Look at Trailside just up Mass Ave. And look straight at the lot diagonally across the intersection for a good example: what had been a parking lot for Mesh is becoming housing. At some point IHPC or another land-use authority had to approve the parking use there, too, and now it’s going away because the land is too valuable to sit as parking.

    I suspect someday a private developer (or the City) will make the firefighter’s union/credit union an offer they can’t refuse…someone already has done so for their current home, right?

    • Sure, it could be a land bank, or it could be a surface parking lot sitting on prime real estate for the next 50 years (see the lot next to Morton’s/IBJ in the middle of downtown, to name just one). I’d rather the Credit Union look at the more creative solutions for parking their employees that are mentioned within Jason’s article. Cutting the proposed lot in half would still give them about the same amount of parking they have currently.

    • Chris Corr says:

      SE corner of College and St Clair: parking lot since 1993
      Axis: largely cleared and majority parking lot since 1993
      NE corner of Pennsylvania and Vermont: parking lot since 1995, despite the sort of short-term approval (which the firefighters are offering) that should have forced redevelopment LONG ago

      Land banking, sure….. but we’re talking about a “deposit” that could very well sit there for DECADES.

      (Trailside was never a parking lot.)

      • Chris Barnett says:

        The former building on the Trailside site was used for indoor parking by the Center Township Trustee. It just didn’t look like a parking lot from the outside.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        I don’t see 20 years of use as a parking lot as a particularly bad thing. It’s certainly better than a decrepit, vacant, or underutilized old building that isn’t maintained or upgraded.

        Close to 90% of everyone in the Indy metro drives a car to get to work, and to most other places. We have to park cars somewhere.

        • “we have to park cars somewhere”. But not right on a prominent corner in a cultural and historic district. Again, I mention the compromise solutions that Jason put forth.

        • Joe Smoker says:

          People drive in this city because we continue to make places for people to drive on and to. Imagine if we made places for people to live, and parking was simply an aside.

          There are far more parking spaces in the general area than are ever required at once. People could park at the Murat most of the time and other surrounding lots.

          • Chris Barnett says:

            Joe, the utopian-village nature of your suggestion belies reality.

            The vast majority of people, by choice, live remote (i.e. miles) from work and commute by car because they choose to. Metropolitan Indianapolis isn’t a village, or even a collection of villages, and we aren’t going to stop building and using streets and cars.

            The nature of a “people magnet” district like Mass Ave is that more people want to spend time there than can afford to live within walking distance.

            Imagining “no cars” and “no parking” just isn’t feasible…unless you want to live on an island with hordes of tourists and as many horses as permanent residents. (Mackinac Island, Michigan has about 600 horses during tourist season, and about 500 permanent residents.)

          • Jim says:

            Here here! Indy is very far from having a parking crisis. Indy is one of the easiest downtown metros to find a parking space in. What if we started to reimagine where cars get parked and use multiple forms of transportation to get around the city? This is so much more exciting and life-breathing to a city and anyone who has been to other cities where this is true, particularly European ones, knows how true my statement is.

          • Chris Barnett says:

            Jim and Joe, the reality is that we have property rights in the US. We can’t just park anywhere there is a paved lot.

            Occasionally property owners reach mutual-benefit agreements, but generally it’s true that we have to park on the property we’re visiting, or on the street. Again…this is so fundamental to our city, state, and country’s organization that it is not really fruitful to wish for it to change.

            Note that what’s driving the Credit Union is not legally required minimum parking. Presumably they could ask for and receive a variance to reduce parking…it happens all the time. This is their proposal for what they think they need, to accommodate staff and customers. This is how they want to use their own property.

          • Joe Smoker says:

            Chris,

            I said nothing about removing cars, or driving, or roads. I said that our continual thirst to build for the car will lead to a constant struggle to provide much else.

            I know it’s hard to believe, but I say many times that I don’t see a future without the car, nor do I care to force them out of the equation. What I do see, is a city that prioritizes people. It is possible to provide creative parking solutions, but locating a minimal lot on a prime corner in the city isn’t a great start.

            People seem to readily confuse parking “needs” with parking desires. And the reality is that people have property rights, but our planning system and zoning are theoretically set up to protect the value of property. Adding a parking lot has a very real negative impact to adjacent properties.

          • Chris Barnett says:

            Joe, you can’t “prioritize people” without giving them a relatively convenient place to park their cars when living their daily lives.

            Especially if they are older and less physically mobile.

  2. Matt says:

    Thank you, Jason. Indianapolis does deserve much better.

    While I tend to agree with Chris that the owner should be able to make decisions regarding what to put on their land, whoever buys a parcel should recognize the fact that their land may be subject to some restrictions. I doubt anyone would expect to buy a lot in a Carmel subdivision and be able to build a skyscraper there. Why would an owner expect a parking lot to be appropriate in an urban historic district?

  3. Matt says:

    Erika Smith’s headline (“Appointed commission puts future of Downtown Indy at risk”) is a perfect example of this culture of fear Indy residents have regarding development and change. We constantly shortchange ourselves by taking whatever we can get, and don’t demand better solutions that will pay off down the road.

    What if the developer pulls out if we ask them to make a change? What if there aren’t 3 parking spaces for each potential patron? What if (gasp) we have to invest a little more short-term for a long-term payoff?

    As J. Irwin Miller said, “Mediocrity is expensive”.

  4. Jeffrey C says:

    Smith’s hyperbolic headline and a fair % of the article itself really did a smear job on the dedicated folks who make up IHPC. I don’t always agree with their decisions, nor would I expect to do so. But I firmly believe we have a better and more vibrant downtown because of their oversight.

    I don’t know what the solution is for the credit union corner, but as a longtime Chatham Arch resident I do know how increasingly congested St. Clair is and how important any of the Mass Ave and College intersections are now and will be in the future given all of the surrounding development. It’s important to get this right.

  5. ahow628 says:

    The IHPC is a double-edged sword. I would liken them to unions.

    On one hand, they have their time and place. I would consider this situation their time and place. Turning that lot into a parking lot is a poor use of the land and there are much better uses than a parking lot. Not only that, but when a neighborhood is in decline, IHPC can staunch the tide of bad decisions that might otherwise take place (tearing everything down, putting in cheap trendy junk).

    But they also grind things to a halt. Paint colors and type of wood used for repairs somehow require 6 weeks of deliberation to be decided? Plus, in a growing neighborhood, they suddenly have the ban hammer to deny development that could take things to the next level (several objections in Lockerbie regarding a parking garage entrance come to mind). Especially when the designs and density are good.

    And let’s not forget that quite a bit of this can also be traced back to Indy’s onerous parking minimums and lack of parking maximums. Seriously, how many parking spots could this credit union possibly need? And I’m not talking about at the peak rush hour. I’m talking on average.

    Since I have no idea, does anyone know how NIMBY or anti-NIMBY the IHPC is?

  6. Micah says:

    I have no idea either, but I would assume (from what it seems) IHPC enables NIMBYism?

  7. Larry Jones says:

    Previous comments are all pretty valid.

    Erika’s original column was not very good because it displayed her lack of perspective, knowledge and due diligence on just what the IHPC has accomplished over the last 40 (Yes, 40) years.

    The 1960’s general plan for the Lockerbie, Mass Ave, Chatham Arch Neighborhoods was for redevelopment by bulldozer with the preferred new construction to be 14 more Riley Towers.
    While the 2 Riley Towers have appeared to have stood the test of time they have actually benefitted from the IHPC as well.

    The IHPC of the 70″s, 80’s & 90’s created and served as a Base Line for the redevelopment of the housing surrounding Mass Ave.
    The standards for Paint, Materials, Construction Details were frustrating to all but over time raised the value of all properties affected.
    Cost of Construction = Value of Construction = Sales Price which eventually creates Real Estate Comparables
    And the “Real Estate Comparable” is the nectar from which all Development grows and flourishes.
    Without rising Comparables there is no Bank Lending, No In-fill Housing and no customers to support the redevelopment of Mass Ave.

    Commercial Re-Development is a little more difficult.

    Residential Property benefits to a certain extent from being an “emotional purchase” as in the purchase price of 2 similar structures can be vastly different based on the perceived value of the location, style, color, view, etc….
    Commercial tends to be a little more cut & dry.
    Commercial Property is primarily valued based on the income it produces. Income is derived from the efficiency of the business and how low the cost of operations can be held. This includes the cost of construction & development.

    In Historic Districts this puts new Commercial Development at odds with the core mission of the IHPC which is to preserve what could be considered an antiquated Development and Construction Model.

    But is it…..

    A good study for anyone interested in how Indianapolis developed are the “Sandor” Maps which were Fire Safety Maps created to list the various residential and commercial properties in the City. My guess is that they were an early form of Fire Insurance Ratings. Wasn’t any Zoning so your next door neighbor could be a Smelting Company and you couldn’t complain but the Insurance Company could raise your rates.

    The maps also show the diversity of businesses and their locations thru-out the City. The Lockerbie Glove Factory was a factory that made gloves which now sits in the middle of some very high priced residential real estate.

    And a study of any of the remaining buildings begins to convey the value of having an actual architectural design theme and the purposeful construction of same.

    Collectively these architectural & construction details begin to form a place that people want to visit, reside and preserve.

    Which is why Susan Williams can make the statement “This area deserves better”.

    Because what is in demand today are the standards that were in existence a 100 years ago. Susan’s comments should not be considered elitist but more to the point that we should be attempting to create spaces today that will still be valued a 100 years from today.

    Couple of other points (since I’ve rambled on too much already)

    1. The IHPC is a 40 year entity. It’s a known factor when you acquire property in the districts and should be respected for the same.

    2. Neighborhood Associations often don’t reflect the actual voice of the full neighborhood but only the opinions of those chose to participate in the listed association.

    3. My opinion of the current batch of Above Ground Single Level Parking Structures with Housing above is that they are not creating the Real Estate Comparables required for constructing higher rise / higher density buildings. The allowance of same by the IHPC has been a mistake.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      I think we mostly agree. But you don’t really address the modern need for auto parking in active historic districts. 100 years ago the ratio of cars to people wasn’t anything close to 1:1. But today it is. As you point out, commercial real estate works by numbers and parking spaces are part of the equation.

      Even Indiana Landmarks built themselves a parking lot in an historic district. It is, IMO, one of the best in town and a high-end standard/example for others. But it’s still an obvious parking lot in a mostly residential area.

      • ahow628 says:

        Here’s the thing Chris. What are the prime times for parking on Mass Ave? My observation has been evenings and weekends. When are parking rates at the meters in effect? During the days. Are there times when demand is extra high or extra low? Sure, but the rates are completely disconnected from those peaks and valleys.

        And this is where the problem lies. The actual cost of parking on Mass Ave (and, in my opinion, the Virginia Ave/FS corridor) is too low/unconnected to demand. As a Fletcher Place resident, parking is a continual concern even though I’ve never heard of someone having to park more than 3-4 blocks from an event or business in Fletcher Place – that includes Italian Fest, which is nuts.

        Most of these complaints from residents in the neighborhood also come from people who have garages but like to park out front by the curb. They see free parking as a right. They would be seeing red if they had to pay for a guaranteed residential spot in front of their house.

        And regarding your contention that cars to residents is 1:1, I would say that is true for the upper middle and maybe middle class, but it is certainly not true for the poor who are left out when prime spots like this are turned into parking lots.

        I agree with Joe that priorities need to change: pedestrians first, bikes second, transit third, and cars fourth. I would never even think about advocating that cars be excluded, but I would hope that cheaper, more efficient, safer forms would be considered first.

        • Chris Barnett says:

          We’re back to the American property rights regime: we require visitors to park on streets, in public lots, or in private lots on the site of the use…or the car can be towed. Regardless of demand peaks, we still have this basic structure of where you can and can’t park.

          Young and middle-aged healthy cyclists and pedestrians don’t really see the need to accommodate those who can drive motor vehicles safely but who have personal mobility challenges. Imagine what would happen to you with an ankle cast or boot for 12 weeks. No more biking, and very limited walking. Been there, done that.

          I see that one day I may be unable to successfully walk around the block to my destination from a remote parking location, and I will be grateful for those spaces near the door of my destination. Perhaps it would be well for younger folks to look at their parents and grandparents and think about their mobility or lack of it, and how you would like your relatives to be accommodated by parking.

          In this specific case, the firefighters credit union know their members and their needs, and are planning to accommodate them…as well as their neighbors wishes. I think IHPC should get out of their way…and point you to Michael J’s comment below.

          • Chris, while I normally agree with you for the balance you add to the dialogue through your devil’s advocacy, it seems a bit cynical to pull the “age card” here. Having driven recently on I-376 west of Pittsburgh, where a 90-year-old man was going well below 40 mph during free-flow traffic in that already very elderly city, the experience was terrifying enough that it reminded me–yet again–how much we are going to have to deal with mobility of seniors in the next 20 years, when before long they will begin to comprise a third of our population. This condition, in turn, means we will have no choice but to consider other options besides cars, because it very frequently will simply be unsafe for these contributing members of society to drive. Realistically, 90-year-olds should be under the same level of scrutiny as 16-year-olds for their driving aptitude. Lest I come across as ageist or condescending, it’s hard not to recall what is taking place in Germany or throughout Europe, a continent much more geriatric than our own, but it doesn’t remotely perceive the expansion of off-street parking as a solution. Plenty of older people in Germany walk everywhere, take reduced-fare bus passes, or even use paratransit.

            But since anywhere in Europe is a poor comparison to Indianapolis because of its legacy of mass transit and dense urban settlements (as you would no doubt argue as well), perhaps we should apply something a bit more comparable: Columbus, OH. Indy’s Chatham Arch/Lockerbie/St. Joseph neighborhoods in aggregate have much the same aspirations as German Village or Short North in the Ohio capital. Yet German Village in particular has calibrated itself to contain virtually no off-street parking lots bigger than those that would hold eight cars. The bus system in Columbus is only a few notches better than in Indy–most people still drive. Yet somehow, in spite of it all, German Village is still sufficiently low-density that, in my experience and that of friends who live there, it’s hard to imagine taking more than four minutes to find a parking space on the street…which is two minutes more than I have ever had to spend in finding a space around Mass Ave.

            I’m grateful that, for the most part, IHPC has incrementally pushed the city’s residents toward a greater sensitivity of what survives of Indy’s traditional urban environment. While you may be right that the Baby Boomers might still prefer the convenience of cheap abundant parking over transit or walkability when they’re nonagenarians, it’s hard to say what the subsequent generations will prefer. After all, the post-Boomers are the ones rebelling against suburban living, even up to the child-rearing years, and for some Gen Xers, now their kids are starting to reach adulthood. If we keep chipping away at the old neighborhoods to cater to one generation, how easy will it be to restore this if another generation comes with a different host of preferences for housing density? The mobility needs of seniors are definitely a problem to address; is tearing down historic structures to build mini-parking lots in high-density, pre-automobile neighborhoods really the only solution?

          • Chris Barnett says:

            Eric, leading edge Boomers are not quite 70 yet, and the youngest have just turned 50. Old enough to need hip and knee replacement from years of running, and still young enough to drive safely…or even still like bats out of he|| on the highway (possibly because they are not trying to text and drive like their kids).

            Our kids aren’t taking our car keys away yet…we’re just now taking them away from our WW2 and Korea era parents.

            Mobility for seniors is and will continue to be a huge issue. And even if super-seniors use ride sharing or paratransit, we still have the “last 100 feet” issue.

    • ahow628 says:

      Great post. Thanks Larry.

  8. Michael J. says:

    I don’t like parking lots in historic districts any more than anyone else does, no matter how good the design. But, shouldn’t we keep in mind what is on the lot now? It’s empty. Does the neighborhood deserve better than a parking lot? Absolutely! Does the neighborhood deserve better than an empty lot? Absolutely!

    But, the only thing being proposed right now is a parking lot (with a sunset clause), that’s tied to a long string of other (very good) developments occurring in several locations. The IHPC can deny the parking lot (which is fine by me, in and of itself). But, it’s not as if such a denial will result in anything other than an ugly, empty lot for the foreseeable future. It’s not as if though the owner of the lot is going to say: “Oh, I can’t build a parking lot? I guess I’ll build a $100M mixed use retail and residential, historically pleasing, high-end building instead!”

    Which is why the comparison to the Irvington Starbucks is so inapplicable (as it was “merely” an argument over getting a better design).

    Look – I love the work the IHPC has done and continues to do. Hurrah to them! But, maybe, just maybe, they’re being a bit obtuse on this one.

  9. I write to thank Larry Jones for his comments. You are on point.

    All who are interested in the historic built legacy of Indianapolis, or other urban areas for that matter, should certainly review Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. A federal grant funded project I created and implemented while Brownfield Boy at the City of Indy made use of this gold mine of an historic resource. It may have been the first of its sort. I reached out to universities around the state, and educational partners, as well as IMAGIS our GIS consortium to help [thank you Jim Stout and Kevin Kastner]. They did! IMAGIS kicked in some of their down time to help join thousands of digitally scanned maps so that we could overlay them on our current 2010 street centerlines. You may check out this project (the brownfield inventory tool ISIT here: http://maps.indy.gov/MapIndy/index.html?theme=Brownfields

    You can zoom in to an area of concern and shade in / out the Sanborn maps over current aerial footprints etc. It is fun! Please bear with the load time as ISA doesn’t have the sever power to make this thing clip along, but it more or less works as intended with a tad of patience.

    Larry – again, your comments were right on point, and thank you for sharing. We who care about our future built environment and legacy should dig deeper. We need to probe how we can affect the commercial development formula pressures that drive what the developers can get bought by the lenders. Well considered design guidelines that are not tossed aside by variance are one mechanism to screen projects – if applied consistently.

    Lastly, think about the finance climate of 1905 Indianapolis, Cincy, Cleveland, Chicago, Louisville, etc. I’ve always wondered how all the brilliant buildings from that era were financed. I have never seen a study of how the building industry funded such amazing growth – would be a great research project.

    Best,

    Chris Harrell

  10. Some final thoughts: The parking lot is not huge, but I think it’s larger than it needs to be. As I said recently, this plot of land is too important for the future of Mass Ave to be filled in with a parking lot.

    This argument sheds light on what I see as a major issue for our city. According to some, we can’t have more quality urban development, because we don’t have great transportation options. We can’t have great transportation options, because our development pattern prefers the car. Sooner or later, we will have to break that self-defeating cycle if we want to build a place worth investing in for future generations.

    Finally, Eric’s point about German Village in Columbus was particularly crucial. It’s a solid neighborhood with little surface parking. Why can’t Mass Ave be similar?

    • Chris Barnett says:

      German Village is more like our Old Northside or Herron Morton. It’s across the interstate from downtown, and its (original) built form was mostly freestanding single or double. It was an immigrant family neighborhood a century ago, when my grandmother grew up there, with some shops and churches and schools.

      German Village has been densified, but it is not a downtown commercial corridor. Mass Ave has been a downtown commercial corridor for a long, long time.

      • Paul Lambie says:

        Chris,

        I can’t help but extrapolate from your previous comments that you would be in favor of every commercial building along Mass Ave having its own surface parking lot adjacent to it, in order to accommodate whatever customers might not be able to walk or roll a couple hundred feet. Couldn’t the same intent be accomplished through the use of more short-term parking meters in front of businesses and service providers without the devastating effect of providing surface lots everywhere?

      • Chris, I see what you’re saying about Mass Ave being a commercial corridor in a way that German Village, in its entirety lacks. That’s true. But, from the size of the lots to the age of the building stock, Chatham/Lockerbie/St. Joseph are much more in keeping with German Village than Herron-Morton or Old Northside are. In that regard, the interstate separation is an idiosyncratic distinction between the two cities. Clearly the interstate had nothing to do with how those neighborhoods developed, which in both Columbus and Indy took place 80 or more years before I-70 was built.

        German Village is lightly sprinkled with retail, most of it very high-end and no doubt commanding steep rents, despite the fact that it never really falls into a corridor the way Short North does. Virtually none of German Village’s storefronts have more than a few spaces of off-street parking (many have none), yet they remain lucrative. Meanwhile, your “last 100 feet” rule sounds, as Kevin noted, extremely self-defeating. As Paul notes, should we build off-street every 100 feet for the disabled? Should all those off-street spaces be reserved for handicapped? And if they routinely fill up as our population ages, must we build more?

        Even now, Mass Ave’s most oblique angles are almost all devoted to off-street parking…and the vast majority of it is private and off-limits. The Marrott Building, which I blogged about here, is about as ill-used as that corridor can get: an ocean of parking that is off limits even at night, and not a single “permeable” retail use on the first floor. The Marrott Building is dead on the weekends, and its curtains are drawn. It is entirely within the right of the owners/managers of the Marrott Building to do as they see fit, but only in a place with a very, very low standard for what passes for good urbanism would the Marrott’s current condition pass as “highest and best use”. Chatham Arch deserves better than that, and so does Indy…and, despite its occasional questionable judgments, the IHPC ensures us that 1% of Indianapolis’ land area gets subject to those higher standards.

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