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Project on hold as neighbors oppose apartment building proposal near Broad Ripple

More living space could be coming to a prime piece of land near Broad Ripple and the White River. But many neighbors don't approve of the most recent proposal.

INDIANAPOLIS — More living space could be coming to a prime piece of land near Broad Ripple and the White River. However, many neighbors don't approve of the most recent proposal.

Lindsay Scott said nature right outside her door is what drew her to Marott Island. 

"The environment is a very big concern for us," Scott said.

It's one of the reasons she does not support 225 apartments and townhomes going next door in the former location of the Willows Event Center on Westfield Boulevard. After the venue fell on tough times during the COVID-19 pandemic, its owners are repurposing the land.

Scott and Peter Lander, of the Marott Island Community Association, are among 600 people who signed a petition to put a stop to this project. 

They worry about trash flowing into the nearby pond and traffic on Westfield Boulevard.

"Anybody living on the island would tell you the same thing. When crossing this road, by foot with our dog or whatever, kids, you're taking your life into your own hands crossing it," Lander said.

The main issue, they believe, is too many people for this space. 

"This current project is at least two times larger in density than what is called for in the comprehensive plan," Scott said.

The comprehensive plan lays out the goal for land use by the city of Indianapolis. 

"Every time you kind of knock down and don't align with the plan, it sets a really bad precedent for the future," Scott said.

"We're connecting most of the boxes," said developer John Hart, of J.C. Hart Company.

Hart said because the construction is close to the Monon Trail, the plan allows for more residents than normal.

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In talking to neighbors, however, he lowered the number of stories for the complex from four to three.

He said two studies show traffic is not an issue.

However, as part of this project, $600,000 worth of construction would add sidewalks, connecting to the Monon Trail and Broad Ripple. 

"So, if not for our project, they would go on without that connectivity," Hart said.

Credit: J.C. Hart Company
A rendering of a proposed apartment complex that would be located near Broad Ripple and the White River.

Between enclosed parking, a groundskeeper, and better drainage from this property into the pond, Hart doesn't see trash being an issue.

The Metropolitan Development Commission was scheduled to vote on the proposal on June 15. However, J.C. Hart Company pulled its petition for the project, stating it plans to continue after working to "gain broader support."

The following statement from the development team was provided to 13News:

"The Willows redevelopment is a smart and well-planned residential project with the support of zoning staff that would benefit the broader community. It includes a range of housing opportunities, ecological sensitivity and connectivity to the Monon Trail for residents and neighbors. In consultation with Councilor Keith Potts, who asked us to continue our engagement with neighbors, we are withdrawing our petition today to see how we can refine the proposal to gain broader support.  This may delay our timeline, but not our intentions to bring this quality development to the community."

In a statement from the Marott Island Community Association, Marott and Lander said the group has worked for months to "offer reasonable alternatives which the petitioners rejected."

The group's full statement:

"Our grassroots coalition is made up of hundreds of residents who love our city and tried for months to offer reasonable alternatives which the petitioners rejected. We were prepared to mount a thorough presentation today focusing on the fact that the developers were demanding two to five times the density called for in the Comprehensive Plan admittedly to make a better return on investment. They also were trying to count the same lake used in a prior development for a second time to manipulate density, which is highly inappropriate. We hope the petitioners’ action is finally a long-awaited recognition by them of the important principles set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. The coalition stands ready to engage constructively on future plans that comply with the Comprehensive Plan and recognize the city’s designation of this site as environmentally sensitive."

Many neighbors told 13News they agree something should go in the space — but they can't agree on what that is.

"What we are asking for is responsible and appropriate development in a very suburban, environmentally sensitive area," Scott said.

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"We've listened. We've tried to be responsive. We've made changes, and obviously the Metropolitan Development is supportive of what we're proposing," Hart said.

Neighbors would like to instead see single-family homes or affordable housing.

Under the recent proposal, townhomes would start at $600,000. Apartments would range between $1,200 to $2,400 per month in rent. Construction would finish up in the next few years. 

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