Blue Indy construction has business owners charged up over parking

Blue Indy construction is taking up parking spots for Cafe Patachou in Meridian-Kessler.
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It's yet to get rolling and the city's new electric car sharing program has a few business owners charged up, including one of the city's best-known restaurateurs.

It can be tough to find a parking spot in the small commercial district at 49th and Penn in Meridian-Kessler. Lisa Sweeney was thrilled Tuesday afternoon when she pulled up and found a spot close to Cafe Patachou.

"I was super-excited when I saw this spot. There was nothing available," she said.

Especially now with the barrels and fencing up outside Patachou and Napolese, Martha Hoover's two flagship restaurants.

"They're taking up very valuable spaces in an area where parking is at a premium and is a commodity," Hoover said.

Her location is one of 190 across the county getting charging stations for Blue Indy. That's the city's new electric car-sharing program, which is similar to the Pacers Bike Share Program. People who buy a membership can use the cars for short trips across town, one-way, round trip or with multiple stops. The demo cars have been parked downtown along Washington Street for more than a year, waiting for the program to get up and running.

Blue Indy's Bob said they need 25 charging stations in place before they can begin phase one of the program, which ultimately calls for a 500-car fleet.

But at 49th and Penn, where five charging stations are going in, Josie Arnold, a regular at Patachou said, "I just figured they were putting in meters and everything, because it's so busy here, they might as well be making money on the parking here."

Customers weren't the only ones in the dark. Hoover said she knew nothing about the charging stations until construction crews showed up two weeks ago.

"There's something remarkably inhospitable about not bringing people into the process," she said.

Broad Ripple, where Hoover owns two other restaurants, is also getting charging stations. One is replacing several metered spots along Westfield next to 317 Burger.

Jessie Beasley, a manager there, said they, too, were caught off guard.

"They didn't notify anyone. They didn't tell us the (parking) would be blocked off," he said. "We've always had a parking issue here especially since they put the new meters in. It's really limiting business here putting so many ones in different parts of Broad Ripple."

Like Hoover, he questioned why the charging stations couldn't be put in the new and often under-used parking garage at Broad Ripple Avenue and College.

Scott Prince with Blue Indy said they need electric and telephone access and also "high visibility" so people know where to pick up and drop off the cars.

Hoover said it's not Blue Indy she opposes, but why put charging stations in a residential area like Meridian-Kessler? And why no heads up from the city or Blue Indy?

Prince said 49th and Penn was chosen as a site because Hoover's restaurants are a popular destination. But he also admitted they should have done a better job of not only informing business owners, but seeking their input and suggestions on where to put the charging stations.

He said in response to the concerns, they met with businesses near 65th and Cornell (where another station is planned) Monday night and have a follow-up meeting Thursday. One suggestion was putting some of the stations in private lots, something Prince said they're looking into.

He said Blue Indy believes the cars will actually increase business near the charging stations because of "the quick turnover in parking." People use them for short trips.

Broad Ripple Village Association President Elizabeth Marshall said she sees the benefit of the program and thinks it could ultimately drive business, but also said it's important "thoughtful consideration" be given to where the charging stations go. Right now, there are four locations planned in Broad Ripple, each with five parking spaces.