Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Farce Extraordinaire

Its like we all went through the Looking Glass with Alice the day the City opted for the Keystone Group's proposal to build a garage on the corner of N. College Avenue and Westfield Boulevard in Broad Ripple.

I reported previously (see "Broad Ripple Parking Garage - Somebody Forgot To Which End of the Horse You Attach the Cart") about the fact that after the deal was inked down, Keystone Group, now going by 6280, LLC, for this project, filed for a number of variances.  Turns out the project as proposed and as accepted by the City, will not fit on the property without A) a variance for zero foot setback from the right of way (35 foot setback on College and 40 foot setback on Westfield required) and B) a variance to shrink the size of each parking space.  At what point does the Ballard administration admit that this project is too large for this site?

Well, as absurd as things were up to the point of filing for the variances, an alert reader gave us a heads up that things were actually even more absurd than we thought.  The folks at 6280, LLC, have also filed to extend into the City's right of way - meaning, they cannot fit in the space they actually own and must spill over and under the sidewalk.  The technical request is to 'vacate' the right of way from 17 feet up in the air to 62 feet up in the air on the three sides of the building, and to 'vacate' the right of way from 1 foot below ground to 8 feet below ground all the way around the building.

The 'ribbon of light' facade, it turns out, can't fit on the building if the entire building is actually required to fit on the lot.  Rather, the property is so inappropriate for the project, that the ribbon must be allowed to hang over the sidewalk and the alley if it is to be a part of the plan at all.  The developer says that the underground vacation is required for structural support, but that makes no sense.

How much more information does the Administration require as proof that this project is not on the right site?  The garage costs twice as much as comparable projects (even those cited by the developer in their own proposal), it is proposed for a location rejected in a 2007 study of Broad Ripple's parking needs, the building can't fit on the property without being granted a variance, and even then, the building is too small to fit 350 regulation size parking spaces in it without further variance, AND EVEN THEN the facade will not fit on the building without hanging over the sidewalk.

When does it become apparent that the project does not fit on the property?  It is all too absurd, even for government work.

I fully expect another round of variance requests should the pending matters be granted.  The 'ribbon of light' is proposed to serve as an advertising beacon.  That, of course, is not allowed by our ordinances. 

The Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled to consider the filed variance requests on December 13 and the Plat Committee of the Metropolitan Development Commission is scheduled to consider the vacation of air and subterranean rights of way on December 14.  Maybe these bodies will bring sensible resolution to this farce by denying the petitions presented to them.


Paul K. Ogden said...

I don't think the project is actually costing $15 million. There is nothing in any of the paperwork that says that. I think that figure is something thrown out by the city to pretend that Keystone is actually contributing something to the project.

CorrND said...

Granted, the financials appear untoward. There may be shading dealings going on behind the scenes and other very good reasons to oppose this garage. I'm no expert in these areas and I defer to other's analysis.

However, these variances are standard-issue.

The setback variance is a result of our outdated suburban-style zoning code. Broad Ripple Village -- and the College/Westfield/BR Ave intersection specifically -- is an urban area. You actually WANT the garage (specifically the ground floor retail uses) situated next to the sidewalk and only our suburban, setback-oriented zoning code precludes that.

If you read the staff report regarding the parking spaces, commercial zoning ordinance is for 9' spaces and MDC has historically approved variances for as little as 8.5' width. This garage is proposed to have 8.75' width spaces. Are you really going to miss 3"?

The report goes on to note that 18 spaces (9 each on the 2nd and 3rd floors) "would not provide adequate maneuvering area for a standard-sized vehicle. These parking spaces could likely accommodate a compact car and should be marked as such." 18 spaces. Out of 350. I don't think that's much of a issue.

As for the air rights vacation, it should not be unexpected that a textured/waving facade treatement would extend beyond the edge of the structure (which I said above should be expected to be built to the sidewalk). It also doesn't even begin until 17' up in the air so has no bearing on the usability of the sidewalk by people. The depth is variable, about 2-4' along Westfield and 4-6' along College. This is definitely an acceptable compromise if the alternative is a mundane flat facade or no decorative facade of any kind.