HAUS is working on G BLOC MIXED USE, a new development in Broad Ripple North Village that includes a mix of commercial office, urban lofts, and covered parking and located on a small city block at 841 E 64th Street. We have enjoyed the public process that began in early 2016 and have been working toward a solution that most effectively meets the multifaceted urban design goals of this awesome location. It has been an engaging and stimulating dialogue with the neighborhood and the City in an effort to balance the desire for pedestrian engagement and more mixed-use density fitting Broad Ripple’s Envision Plan while also managing flood-plain requirements. The location (formerly 6367 and 6371 Guilford) is just a few feet from the Monon Trail and borders Guilford, 64th, Cornell, and Main.
G BLOC MIXED USE – Design Process
2015 – We most recently became interested in the Broad Ripple North Village area while working with one of our clients to design and build a new brownstone-inspired home on Ferguson Street. This particular client had been living in an exclusive gated community in Carmel for many years, and about to become empty-nesters; they were motivated to live an a vibrant, walkable community with lots of amenities and restaurants, and had acquired property to make that happen. Some immediate plans changed for that project and it went on-hold, but it’s still out there and we are looking forward to a re-engagement.
2016 – We gained control of the properties at 6367 and 6371 Guilford, and began conceptualizing development options. Our first BRVA meeting was in March 2016 to introduce initial ideas to the BRVA Zoning and Land-Use Committee to begin a constructive dialogue and gather information. This scheme included 30 loft apartments on levels 3 and 4, office space on level 2, and primarily parking on level 1. BRVA was good about communicating their concerns (parking should be out of sight but enough provided possibly to exceed the zoning requirement, pedestrian engagement is very important, please include a retail component, we don’t really want to knock-down the historic homes on the site, how tall is it, and we’re not sure we like your design quite yet). This was a good introduction to community stakeholders, and we went to work from there to respond to the mostly constructive feedback that we received.
Our next round of development focused on concealing the base-level parking and integrating a ground-level retail component per BRVA request. We also had time to develop the architectural concepts a bit more. We could see that parking may be the biggest challenge in enabling enough density for project feasibility. This next concept incorated a mix of two-story townhomes (possibly live-work), a reduced number of loft apartments, office, small retail or cafe, and parking. BRVA stongly suggested that there still was not enough pedestrian engagement (storefront), it looks too massive/we don’t want to demolish the existing structures, and significant concerns with parking (we would have needed to seek a parking variance). We felt like the BRVA was not taking into consideration the significant challenge that the flood-fringe factor will play in the development of this property. If we were to agree with their requests and add a large amount of storefront, then we would have to add an equal amount of flood barrier, which we feared may be cost-prohibitive.
Architecturally, we begain to get a feel for what the building wanted to be (in our eyes). BRVA did not agree (“it’s too boxy” “too modern”, “too tall”, “not enough pedestrian engagement”, live-work will never work”). The sites were zoned C-4, which allowed up to 65-foot height, but we were proposing to rezone to the new MU-2 Category per Indy ReZone which was adopted around this same time in early 2016.
We ended-up taking a break in summer 2016, and then came back to BRVA in November. We had refined the concepts some, but no major differences from the prior meeting (still 4-story building with similar layout and program). Some on the BRVA were hoping for more significant design concept revisions. This was our 4th trip to see the land-use committee. From here, we engaged with zoning consultants and officially submitted our rezoning and variance applications with the City of Indianapolis Planning Department in late 2016-early 2017.
2017 – Planning staff was also opposed to the development proposal (“too intense for its location”, “parking concerns”). After several meetings with the City Planner, it didn’t look as if we would be able to get staff support for a project close to what we were proposing. At this point, our only chance was to do what was necessary to achieve BRVA support and test our luck with the hearing officer (who rarely contradicts planning staff), then Board of Zoning Appeals (who sometimes goes against staff).
So, we went “back to the drawing board” again to see how we could create a more “village-friendly” architecture. We deleted the proposed 4th floor and redesigned the exterior for a more “village-friendly” character and scale that included gabled roofs. With these changes, BRVA voted to support the project (needed height and clear-sight triangle variances, but not parking variance – included a long-list of BRVA stipulations), but we were not able to achieve City Planning Department staff or hearing officer support as of 08.10.17. On Sept 6th, 2017, the Board of Zoning Appeals Commission voted to support the rezone from C-4 to MU-2 (5-3 vote), but voted against the variances (building height + clear sight triangle) (3-5 vote). On the bright-side, none of the BRVA stipulations were adopted since we didn’t get the variance approvals (it was a long list).
The gable-roof rendering below is what we presented to City.
Since our rezone, we have developed yet another design concept fitting within the requirements, including the clear-site triangle, parking, transparency, and height. We were intrigued to delve into the excpetions for building height (skylights can extend 25′ higher than roof level, as can elevator and stair towers, parapets can extend 4′ higher than roof level). Working within our City-granted approvals, we are forced to lose some pedestrian-engagement amenities in favor of others, as height limitations are competing against flood-plain requirements. Despite the numerous challenges, we are excited about the refined direction as our new design solution is a true contextual response polished by numerous forces (physical, cultural, political). As of 12.31.17, we have the newest and final design concepts just about completed.
2018 – During the CD stage, we have been able to make further refinements to the design that we will share later, so stay-tuned!
G BLOC MIXED USE – Construction Process
Permitting – It was a long, drawn-out permit review process, but finally achieved permits in late summer 2018. We’ll share some of the learning from the permit process another time.
Site demolition of existing site features and structures was completed along with mass excavation in early October 2018.
We are just beginning site mobilization for footings layout and excavation, so please check back for updates once things get rolling, as we’ll finally be pouring footers by late November.
Please check back for updates, as we’ll be keeping this post up-to-date!