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Ambitious Proposal for Kessler and College

The southern portion of the AT&T buildings on College Avenue in Meridian Kessler has been for sale for a few months, and has already attracted a proposal. Meridian Kessler Neighborhood Association has posted the elevations and land use plans to their website, and I thought I’d post them here as well. Notice that the site plan includes the potential Red Line from IndyGo:

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It looks to be an ambitious proposal that is sure to attract attention and feedback from the neighborhood. There’s a local meeting to discuss this development next Tuesday, September 1st at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. Meeting time is set for 6 pm.

68 Responses to “ “Ambitious Proposal for Kessler and College”

  1. Jim says:

    I’m all for this. This is great to see in Indy, an intensity of land use away from downtown along a new transit line. It’s transit oriented development in the most classic sense.

  2. Chris Barnett says:

    As someone who lived less than 1000 feet from this site for 20 years, I’d generally favor it.

    I think some attention will need to be given to the privacy of the single-family homes across the alley; perhaps the developer would pay for optional screening plantings on their properties.

    Given who the developer is, I think neighbors will want to know if it’s to be market rate, mixed income, or all affordable development. A mixed income development would provide some opportunity for area service workers to live near work and minimize driving.

  3. Jeff says:

    I’ve lived on Broadway behind the former ATT site for almost 25 years. Although I applaud the development of the site, six stories in this particular site context is entirely too tall and will dwarf the one and two story surrounding structures. The design shows no creativity and is pedestrian at best not to mention the cheap materials.

    • Carol says:

      It’s totally out of MKNA character.

      • Paul says:

        I would disagree. It might be out of character if you tried to place it at 43rd & Washington or somewhere deep in the neighborhood but this is a major corridor and major near a heavily used intersection. MK is a large area and it is OK that different types of buildings get built in different places. When you say it is out of character for MK, most people would probably agree and relate it to a 1930’s tudor or some other well kept historic home that mentioning MK brings to mind. The issue is though that this intersection is not the same as those areas. There is a large windowless brick AT&T building next to an old service station, not exactly character worth keeping. I would also bet that no one is building a $$$$ single family home there. So what should go there? the property is for sale……

        • Katherine says:

          In fact, a pricey new home was just in the past two years directly across from this site. Also, a house in is the process of being completely renovated just two lots of this. I live DIRECTLY across the street from this proposed monstrosity and have no interest in seeing it go forward. High-density, renter-occupied housing is NOT what this neighborhood needs. Many people on the 5800 block of College Avenue has invested tens of thousands of dollars in their homes and DO NOT support development at all.

          • Jim says:

            So who will fix the crumbling infrastructure in Broad Ripple and MK? Do you believe that your property taxes are enough to cover the maintenance of all of this infrastructure such as the roads, drainage, water pipes, sewers, public safety, sidewalks, etc? This area is in decline specifically because it’s being held back from an evolutionary step into higher intensity land use. Please read the following article before you truly decide that you would block such a development [1]. How about instead of being 100% against it, you work with the developer and the city to try and improve on the design. If the property taxes of single family homes were enough to cover the costs of the infrastructure in that area you might have a point. But there’s very few areas in Marion county that are wealthier and yet the public infrastructure looks like that of a very poor town. How many roads must cave in or water mains must burst before you realize that the intensification of land use in this area must happen to increase how much revenue is available for even the most basic maintenance of the area’s infrastructure?

            [1] http://www.strongtowns.org/the-growth-ponzi-scheme/

  4. Natacha says:

    This modern multi-story building does not fit in with the neighborhood, either aesthetically or height-wise. Neither does the “red line”. It appears to me that College Avenue will either need to be widened, taking out all those trees Lilly planted a couple of years ago, or parking will need to be banned, all for the convenience of people who don’t live in this neighborhood. Move the Red Line over to Keystone Avenue.

    • That’s actually not true about the Red Line.

      First of all, it’s a reasonable appropriation of the old Streetcar, and Meridian-Kessler is an old Streetcar suburb.

      Second, they’re not banning parking for the Red Line, except at the stations.

      Keystone is a wide suburban-styled road that would need much more investment to be a useful transit corridor.

      And finally, plenty of people who live in the neighborhood will use the Red Line. I’m one of them.

      • Katherine says:

        As someone who lives at a would-be station, not only will I lose all my on-street parking, but I will not be able to turn left either out nor into my driveway. If there is a wreck at Kessler and College that causes closure, I and my neighbors will be trapped at our houses.

    • Paul says:

      It is really amazing that you think that a transit line running down College Ave doesn’t fit with the neighborhood. The one that was most influential in shaping this entire corridor was……… a transit line that ran down it until around 1950. I do agree that the trees should stay.

      Moving the Red Line to Keystone is a horrible idea. Transit should connect productive places. There is no better place to start in Indy than downtown to Broad Ripple. The idea of a transit line should not be the same as car commuter thru ways.

  5. Natacha says:

    Kevin: I’ve lived on College Avenue since 1979. I’d like to see steps taken to lessen the traffic on this street, not increase it. When I moved here, College Avenue was fairly quiet except during morning and evening rush hours. Now, it’s practically a highway. Speeding is ridiculous, and so are the number accidents.

    Whether or not the old interurban line ran there 80 years ago is irrelevant. Look at the map–they need 4 lanes. They’ll have to ban parking for this 4-lane scheme to work.

    You didn’t comment on the height or aesthetic aspects of the apartment building. One other thing I’d like to know–who’ll make the profits off this deal–foreign investors, Hamilton County investors–who? I know I’m not going to get anything good out of the deal.

    • Actually, I attended the Red Line meeting on Wednesday. Most of the Red Line on College Avenue is planning on having one lane for buses instead of the 2 that are in the rendering. It’s possible that this part has changed or will end up looking different than the rendering.

      As far as traffic goes, I agree that it needs to go slower. Not sure if there’s any way to actually reduce the number of vehicles aside from promoting the use of public transit. Making transit more useful will give people options that they’ve never had before, and help curb the need for parking spaces.

      I didn’t comment on the height or aesthetic aspects as I generally believe they’re overblown. Look what is there now….blocky buildings without windows and a big parking lot. Not exactly keeping character of the neighborhood.

      I do hope they can keep the trees, though.

      • Micah says:

        This would be a great development for College Avenue & SOBRO. This corridor needs to become more ‘livable’ and walkable with higher density, mixed use buildings like this shows. Let’s use development like this to slow traffic down naturally: thoughts?

    • Chris Corr says:

      Following on Kevin’s comment — even in the 2 lane transitway configuration shown in the siteplans above, there’s a row of parking spaces in front of this development. If they reduce the transitway to one lane on College (I was told the same thing at the IUPUI Red Line meeting yesterday), that should preserve parking on both sides of the street.

    • Carol says:

      Adding the enormous red line buses to the mess that is already the intersection of College, Westfield and Broad Ripple sounds like an invitation to more accidents there.

      • Paul says:

        There might be some fender benders there but I think that this could help a little bit by creating a little chaos and slowing cars down. The biggest problem with that intersection is people that are able to blow through it at 40-50 mph. That is wayyyy too fast for any pedestrian heavy area. All this action will make people naturally slow down instead of barreling through. A city intersection will naturally move a lot of vehicles & people through it, it becomes dangerous when it allows those vehicles to reach unsafe speeds due to poor road design.

      • mik says:

        All you NIMBY’s need to move to Franklin Township. There’s plenty of open land out there. Stop fighting progress. We need the tax base.

        • Jim says:

          Paul: you’re right on. When lanes are narrowed and natural visual barriers are added to the sides of streets, traffic speed is proven to slow. This is a common design in most European cities and is only now starting to become more mainstream in cities like Indy.

  6. Ryan W. says:

    Maybe they’ll have more information about parking at the meeting. I worry about the curb cut on College and I hope that they would just put the parking access in the alley.

    I agree that the building is pedestrian but it is the type of development you want near a transit stop. Any ideas why the garage won’t sell on the corner?

  7. Jim Garrettson says:

    The “height” is pulled back towards College from the houses across the alley, and the plans as described include a floor of parking underground with another at ground level, so it really shouldn’t be much more of an impact than what’s already there. It’s my understanding that the service station, and the small house immediately to the west, are under a separate deal with another developer, but no plans have been disclosed. It’s assumed that part will be some sort of retail, since this project doesn’t have any (but does include 3000 sq. ft. of office space. If there’s a difficulty for the surrounding neighborhood, it’s probably that, with the prohibition against left turns except at signal lights along the Red Line, the northbound access to the development is going to come at the 57th St. light, then north on Broadway Terrace, and back east along 58th to the alley. I’d think the alley is going to have to be paved.

    • Chris Barnett says:

      As opposed to “I just don’t like it and don’t want apartments nearby”, this is an actual logistical problem of some substance that will need to be addressed.

      Despite its location on a transitway, many residents will own and drive cars and they will need good access.

    • Chris Corr says:

      Per information available at the recent Red Line meetings, any location with a raised median that prevents left turns will also have U-turn indications at intersections in the vicinity. The expectation is that people will pass their destination on the left, then pull a U-turn at the next intersection to come back.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        Right. Ever driven through College and Kessler at rush hour?

        This issue is not minor.

        Waiting northbound for a U, or for a left at Kessler and again for a left into the alley will drive people to find alternates, probably turning left at 57th and using Broadway Terrace (a one-block quiet street). Or it will put more cars on NB Central and then on 58th.

        • Tyson Domer says:

          …which is why I asked Red Line planners to consider traffic implications on streets adjacent to College which will likely see more traffic. Unfortunately, that’s not part of their scope of work at this time.

          • I did mention at the Red Line meeting last week that I hope at least the adjacent alleys along College will get repaved along with the Red Line. They said that this issue has been been mentioned before and are happy to hear it again.

            I agree the Red Line will impact side streets as well. Stuff is going to change, there is no doubt about it in my mind. But we can either be proactive and build the route as planned (with necessary tweaks), or bog it down with ever more studies that will never leave the shelf. I choose the former.

          • Tyson Domer says:

            Yeah, they should build it *now.* Not proposing to get into a study/wait loop. But Red Line planners and proponents need to also be simultaneously identifying and securing funding *now* in order to be able implement the inevitable fixes that will be required.

            Remember 38th Street? Nice improvements generally; no fund to maintain them. Need to be realistic on future funding requirements.

          • Jim says:

            @Tyson: totally agree and that’s something Indy is not very good at in general. We have a build something new and shiny, watch it collapse in 5 years, let it sit in disrepair for 20, rinse and repeat.

  8. Anna says:

    I live on Broadway right behind that proposed monster apartment complex. Seems like Broad Ripple already has a glut of new apartments, and this is far too big and tall a project for the site. My home will lose all privacy and much of the daylight in our yard. This is not an appropriate place to put so big a building. Shorter businesses to cater to the Redline station, and some park-like features to make it a pleasant commuting hub, would enhance the neighborhood and make good sense. Tall buildings and high concentrations of apartments really detract from the surrounding community.

    • ahow628 says:

      “Shorter businesses to cater to the Redline station, and some park-like features to make it a pleasant commuting hub”

      So a commuter hub with no commuters?

    • Micah says:

      Anna, taller apartment buildings = more people = a more vibrant community.
      Do you really expect the development along College Ave remain stagnant?!?
      Area is too prime for underutilized, wasted green space, lol!

    • Jim says:

      You have it exactly backwards and that of a suburb mentality. You can’t have transit and other vibrant things of a city without more people living in tighter areas. It just does not work logistically nor does it work financially. Single family homes do not and never will be intense enough to provide enough tax revenue to cover even the most basic infrastructure maintenance costs.

  9. Nate says:

    I live a few blocks from this intersection. For the most part, I’m all for both the proposed apartments and red line BRT. The increased density along with improved transit will benefit the majority of the neighborhood. The scale and design are debatable. What I’m worried about is, what happens if the project gets green lighted and the red line gets voted down? Are there any stipulations tying the two together?

    • Jim Garrettson says:

      They’re trying to get the Red Line going from grant funds – whether it gets expanded will be related to the tax vote

  10. Anna says:

    An shorter office complex that goes quiet at night, a small parking garage to serve the redline, 2 story owner occupied condos, or other similar quiet and orderly uses of the space would likely have much neighborhood support. Most of us are very much pro-development of that site if it is done in a way that benefits the community.

    • Paul says:

      A parking garage that serves the red line……. really? That would be better than apartments? This kind of thinking will drive an area into the ground.

    • Randall says:

      Please don’t act like you’re speaking for all of the residents in the area. Thank you.

    • Katherine says:

      Anna, I live directly across the street from this site on College. I agree: too tall, too many people, not owner-occupied. I find it interesting that most of the support for the current proposal comes from people who are not directly affected by it or the Red Line.

    • Micah says:

      You mentioned QUIET multiple times: you may not be pro development as much as you think

    • Jim says:

      @Anna: Why would people drive to use the bus!? That’s suburb thinking. You live in a city. If you want a quiet dead place with no vibrancy, there are many fields surrounding Indy. Why on earth would anyone want to design like this for the car only? Have you ever visited a European city? Higher intensity of land use and charm can and do go hand-in-hand.

  11. JP Roman-Lagunas says:

    I’ve heard the complex is proposing 400 parking spots for 200 units. There is simply NO WAY that alley is capable of sustaining traffic of that sort – even after any proposed “improvements.” Cars will undoubtedly use the alley as a street rather than that its original designated use.

    I own a home on 58th St. and go on nightly walks with my wife and 2-year-old son, we chat with neighbors and enjoy the tranquilities of Meridian-Kessler. 58th St. and Broadway Terrance are residential streets replete with runners, walkers, bikers, families, and most importantly CHILDREN. A rent-only complex, minutes from Broad Ripple nightlife, Sobro bars and restaurants, and Butler’s Campus is going to attract – for lack of a better example – 21 year-old me and my motley crew of college hooligans. This is the last thing the neighborhood needs, trust me. I find the entire premise of expanding the use of the alley deplorable ridiculous, and irresponsible.

    • Katherine says:

      JP, I totally agree!

    • Jim says:

      You could say that about almost any improvement. How about instead of being against this completely you help make it better by suggesting improvements to the design. This will help make the area much more vibrant and help the area gain a much stronger tax base. Families do not have a monopoly on the MK area and a bit of diversity never hurt anything. This will allow many new people a chance to call BR and MK home that aren’t interested (nor should they have to be) in taking care of a yard and taking on a risky mortgage post housing bubble.

      • Chris Barnett says:

        Further…apartment dwellers in Meridian Kessler are likely to be home buyers in Meridian Kessler in the future. Consider it a way of increasing demand and supporting prices for MK housing.

      • Stephen O'Neil says:

        Where do you live, Jim?
        Beware the enthusiasm of non-combatants.

  12. Tyson Domer says:

    The proposed rezoning request indicates that the developer is considering a drive-through type development, likely on parcel “C” (see the documents on the MKNA website) and is asking for relief from required setbacks adjacent to protected districts. The developer is also asking for a maximum of 8 “stacked” cars (i.e. cars waiting in line at a drive-through) — I don’t know if this is less than the current zoning requirement or not. I’m not sure that a drive-through at the corner of Kessler and the alley west of College is a good idea, especially given the Red Line traffic implications. Drive-throughs, in general, are not really conducive to creating walkable environments.

    Also, the proposal shows that the ground level parking will be ‘open air’ underneath the building — to me this is reminiscent of the development on the NW corner of 34th & Meridian, which is not particularly “urban” in my opinion. I assume the unprotected first floor parking is a cost-saving measure, but it may be a vehicle access issue. “Open parking” is probably closer to achieving CPTED principles…

    Finally, vinyl windows and cement board (with minimal brick veneer and wood accents) doesn’t necessarily read as “high quality development”, though this is the norm for first-pass design proposals.

    • Randall says:

      Thanks for pointing out the drive-thru. A drive-thru in this location is absolutely unacceptable.

      • Agreed. This is a relevant critique.

        • Tyson Domer says:

          As Kevin noted, the design of the development will likely change.

          However, the DP zoning (Planned Unit Development) requested by TWG will definitely impact the ultimate design of the project. The time to weigh in on these broad issues related to site design (including drive-through provisions), setbacks, traffic, stormwater management, density, massing, etc. (the items that are included in the “Final Proposed Preliminary Plan”, which becomes a City ordinance…) is this evening:

          Land Use Case Reviews
          Tuesday, September 1 at 6:00pm
          Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 526 East 52nd Street

          The Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association Land Use committee will meet to review requests for variance of development standards. The MKNA Land Use Committee will consider these cases and make recommendations to the full MKNA Board. All interested neighbors are encouraged to attend.

  13. Tyson Domer says:

    Sorry, not on MKNA’s website — see here http://tinyurl.com/ox6k9wm for the text of the rezoning request.

  14. Ted McClure says:

    I do not think this is not an appropriate use for this site. The scope of the project is to large and to tall for this site. I side with neighbors who live close to this site and want to preserve the integrity and characteristics of this Old Meridian Kessler neighborhood. I will stand with those who oppose this project.

    I am not opposed to new development in the right place, but this is not right for this site.

    • Jim says:

      This size of development and single family homes mix well all over downtown Indy and in many other cities around the world. I understand your initial hesitations but instead of blocking it why not help with constructive feedback instead of irrational fear? You cannot deny that Indy needs a stronger tax base and single family homes will not cut it.

  15. Let’s take a step back from the argument for a minute. This is a preliminary design, and I feel like the proposal will be downscaled a bit before it is pushed forward, if it even happens at all. I’d also like to push for a better quality of design and materials.

    But, about the Red Line: I’m all for that. Planners are going to make it useful and frequent, which is way better than making a slightly smaller (but still large) investment for shared lanes and the continued status quo. It may disrupt some traffic and some patterns, especially during construction, but the end result will help the city overall.

    • Tyson Domer says:

      Addressing the TIF neutralization problem created by the state DLGF policy interpretation is important. The proposed “fix” is to remove the residential parcels from the TIF, a process that involves MDC and CCC approval. Removing the residential effectively prevents AV “losses” attributed to the residential parcels (due to appeals, mortgage and other exemptions, failure to appreciate at the projected rate, etc.) from impacting the property tax increment that is generated. According to DLGF policy, TIFs need to make up every annual decrease from residential AV “losses”, but have no capacity to reap any benefit from residential AV increases. Thus, the fix essentially addresses the new DLGF policy interpretation, which is aimed at limiting the state’s loss of property tax revenue from municipalities that TIF “everything” in order to generate greater local revenue.

      However, the TWG project will likely go ahead with developer-backed bonds (there is not enough accumulated increment in the TIF to support a new bond issuance) whether or not this particular “TIF fix” is implemented right away. The other option to fix the TIF is to lobby DLGF to revise their policy implementation…which is mentioned by Councilor Barth in the IBJ article.

      As Kevin noted, the design of the development will likely change. However, the DP zoning (Planned Unit Development) requested by TWG will impact the ultimate design of the project. The time to weigh in on these broad issues related to site design, setbacks, traffic, stormwater management, density, massing, etc. (the items that are included in the “Final Proposed Preliminary Plan”, which becomes a City ordinance…) is this evening:

      Land Use Case Reviews
      Tuesday, September 1 at 6:00pm
      Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 526 East 52nd Street

      The Meridian-Kessler Neighborhood Association Land Use committee will meet to review requests for variance of development standards. The MKNA Land Use Committee will consider these cases and make recommendations to the full MKNA Board. All interested neighbors are encouraged to attend.

  16. mike says:

    I think you are all crazy……………turn the site into a strip joint!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. JoeP says:

    I live near 62nd and Park nearby two large recent developments (parking garage & new apartments/grocery being built now). Such developments are not only beneficial to the value of my home (and financially beneficial to the city), but it really improves the quality of living. It makes the neighborhood more walkable. I will walk to the new grocery store. I will walk to the new restaurants. We eat out at least four times a week, and we will drive to downtown or Fountain Square or Carmel at least once or twice a week. If we have more options we will spend more money locally (and drive less). I don’t see a lot of negatives.

    • Jim Hodapp says:

      Thanks for your very sensible reply! That is exactly right and the main reason why mixed-use development works and has worked for thousands of years. It’s amazing that many of us in the modern US don’t understand this. But I think this is slowly but surely changing in the general population.

  18. Stephen O'Neil says:

    The proposed apartment complex at College and Kessler will create a tremendous traffic problem in an area that is already gridlock much of the day. Cars will divert themselves down residential streets and cause danger to the many children who walk to schools in the neighborhood.
    The development proposed does not “fit” at all into the neighborhood. The only people in favor of it are the developers, the investors and city planners who do not have the best interests of the neighborhood at heart.
    Rather than putting a gargantuan project on such a space, there should be a more reasonably sized development such as two story townhomes with far fewer residents. That would fit better in the neighborhood while at the same time supporting growth.

  19. Natacha says:

    The value of Meridian-Kessler lies in owner-occupied homes I say put 2 to 3 new homes at Kessler and College, like the one across the street from the proposed monstrosity that are designed to fit in with the existing styles of the homes in the area. Investors can look somewhere else to make their money.

    All those arguments by Midtown Indy — that the area is blighted, that dense housing, a rapid transit bus that is inconvenient to use and investors taking TIF money are good simply don’t hold up. That monstrosity apartment building and the Red Line that are proposed will destroy home values and the quality of life in Meridian Kessler.

    Tell me: who wants to live on or near a street with 240+ buses whizzing by every single day, a wall down the middle of the street, no left turns allowed and a monstrosity 205-unit apartment building that towers over existing homes? No one! They’re trying to sell this idea based on how allegedly blighted Meridian Kessler is. Therefore, according to them, we need investors, using free government money instead of their own, to rescue us.

    This entire scheme is based on claims that simply do not hold up and is geared to make money for people who don’t live in Meridian-Kessler. The value of Meridian-Kessler lies in owner-occupied homes. No other use fits in or would benefit this already vibrant area.

  20. Rachel says:

    Wow – have people seen the new design? It looks like they’ve tried to take into account arguments to make it “fit in” better with the surrounding neighborhood, and it’s turned into something god-awful ugly!
    http://www.collegeavenueindy.org/
    I live a block from the site and I welcome more diverse housing (some attractive apartments, which are all too lacking) that would bring some life back to the neighborhood. I hate to see Broad Ripple keep shooting itself in the foot by opposing any innovative development. Just take a look at Fountain Square, the Near Northside, etc etc.

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