Controversial Broad Ripple project approved


A much-debated mixed-use development proposed for Broad Ripple got the go-ahead Thursday.

A hearing examiner for the Indianapolis Department of Metropolitan Development signed off on the $27 million project after a two-and-a-half-hour hearing.

But developers have at least one more hurdle before they can break ground. Opponents say they will appeal the decision to the Metropolitan Development Commission.

At issue is a 1.9-acre site along College Avenue just north of the Central Canal; the site of a vacant Shell gas station and several apartment buildings.

Indianapolis-based Browning Investments wants to put a Whole Foods grocery store there along with a five story103-unit upscale apartment building. Plans also call for a 355-space parking garage.

Joseph Scimia, an attorney for Browning, told the hearing examiner the project would draw a new crowd and more money to Broad Ripple.

"What we believe is Broad Ripple needs energy and new investment," Scimia said, adding that the project would "springboard more development" in the larger area.

Browning has gone back to the drawing board several times to win approval from the Broad Ripple Village Association. Most recently, it reduced the height of the project and reworked the design. The president of the the BRVA spoke in favor of it Thursday as did Republican City County councilor Will Gooden, who represents the area.

Gooden said, "It will bring much-needed improvement and inject new residents to the area which ultimately supports everyone."

But opponents, many of whom wore "Keep Broad Ripple Local" T-shirts, weren't buying. The half-dozen who spoke against the project said it was too big and too out of character for the village. They said it would destroy the very things that make Broad Ripple special.

Long-time resident Laurel Gilchrist said, "Instead of visiting the heart of Broad Ripple, this monster-sized cube will give the impression that Broad Ripple is another suburban strip mall with no particular interesting character."

John Glen, who moved into the area a few years ago, said it would hurt "shopping and dining in the village and aggravate the parking and driving issues."

Others said having a "big-box chain" would have a "predatory" effect on local businesses.

While hearing examiner Rex Johnson raised several questions about the project and the points raised by the opposition, he decided in favor of Browning Investments.

Jamie Browning was pleased but cautious.

"It's a good project and we're glad other people see it that way," he said. "Hopefully we'll continue to move forward and get the same result with the MDC."

Rudy Nehlring, who owns the Good Earth natural food store and has opposed the project from the start, said he hoped to "get more people on board."

Nehrling stressed he wasn't against developing the Shell site. "In fact, we want to see it developed but we want something appropriate that fits into the village."

The appeal could be heard by the MDC as early as Sept. 4th.