Civil Discourse Now

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Farce: BRVA "open" meeting shows Big Money and Whole Foods will re-make the Village, residents be damned.

  Perhaps the most telling moment---there were a lot of moments from which to choose---at last night's "open" meeting of the Broad Ripple Village Association's Land Use Development Committee (LUD) occurred at the end of a short segment presented by Joe Scimia, a lawyer from Feagre Baker & Daniels. He announced to a standing-room-only house at the Broad Ripple United Methodist Church that part of "Envision Broad Ripple," the guiding plan for the development of Broad Ripple, was the discovery that there were no organic food stores in Broad Ripple.

   His statement was meant with loud boos and cat-calls. This reaction was understandable when one considers many of the members of the audience, supporters of long-time locally-owned Good Earth, were present because they were alarmed at the notion that "organic" giant Whole Foods had been rumored to be the primary tenant in the structure BRVA's planners want to build where now there stand what once was Joey Minton's gas station and several old apartment buildings. 

   Mr. Scimia seemed as offended that people responded rudely to all the hard work he and others on the committee have put in on this project as he was oblivious to the truth.

   Other moments were as precious:

   -An elderly woman who barely could speak asked why the planners wanted to destroy the "village" to which she and her husband moved over 50 years ago and replace it with something that made "Broad Ripple Village" little more than a logo.

   -A Latino man who, at the outset of the question-and-answer period, raised his hand and, until we left over an hour later, still had not been called upon.

   -The insistence by Elizabeth Marshall, a "Midtown Economic Council Member," that the evening's presentation would not be about the project's inclusion in the Midtown TIF---and then repeated references by members of the panel to the need for TIF funds to build the monstrosity proposed for North College.

   -The announcement that Broad Ripple needs greater "density" and at least 1,700 new residents in order to be "self-sustaining."

   -The way in which Jamie Browning, of Browning Investments, Inc., dodged a big question: Will the project go through if Whole Foods is not part of the deal? He awkwardly let Mr. Scimia grab that question and fail to answer it. At least Mr. Browning was spared the embarrassment of being forced to state an uncomfortable truth.

   -One panel member's statement that the five-story structure only would be 85 feet high in a couple of places, and then to accommodate an elevator and two stairways. Otherwise, the building only would be 70 to 75 feet high (but still five stories).

   -Mr. Scimia's advisement to those assembled that the price tag for the work has gone from $15 million to $25 million, presumably because these wise men have been delayed in their quest to place an architectural monstrosity on North College. 

   The folks on the stage want to follow "Envision Broad Ripple," a plan hatched by the private Broad Ripple Village Association, for development of Broad Ripple into more of a cluster-fuck than it already has become under Mayor Ballard's administration with that beautiful parking garage and the bicycle lanes that narrow east-west traffic on Broad Ripple Avenue so badly people take 61st, 64th, and 65th to get around the congestion.

   It is clear the panel wants Broad Ripple to be "developed"---as if this is a laudable goal in itself. However, many people there oppose development that is meant only to fatten the wallets of a few and leave those of us who live in Broad Ripple for what it always has been in a clone-version of a generic urban "mixed-use" assembly of poorly-designed buildings.

   The real bait for the project was the TIF. That was a topic Ms. Marshall had announced would not be discussed. Unfortunately for her, a couple of the other members of the panel were only too eager to talk about the importance of TIF funds to attract businesses to Broad Ripple. I had held up my hand, for about 45 minutes, to ask a question. When finally I was given the mic I pointed out TIFs were created, and now were banned by statute, in California and that they had decimated communities across the country. I thought at least someone on the panel would "tut-tut" my statement, but such did not occur. I then asked how people could vote this thing down. ANSWER: Give negative feedback on-line at the BRVA's website (brva.org). Also, attend a June 13 meeting, more details of which will be announced on this website.

   On Saturday's Show we will discuss, as our focal topic, plans for this development. Our guest panelists will include Matt Stone of Indy Student, Len Farber of Indiana Vanguard, the Latino gentleman who still had not asked his question at the meeting by the time I left, and a woman who had excoriated the Whole Foods rep who was on the panel. We shall stream "live" from Good Earth. For Mr. Scimia's information, that is a store that has been in operation in Broad Ripple for decades without government subsidy.

   And that was the final bit about which I thought as I left. The committee wants an iconic image to place on a proposed open area in front of the monstrosity they envision on North College; an image iconic of Broad Ripple Village. There are iconic images already: the fire station amongst them.    

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