Deputy Mayor Michael Huber, along with several contractors and a couple of the BRVA who worked on the deal, sat on the panel and answered questions from the audience. Multiple public record requests, including those from the Indianapolis Business Journal, have been denied. Specifically, the breakdown of how much this will cost and what it will be spent on. Huber's answer was that a lot of records are already up on the city's website, but the specifics of the parking garage are still being worked out.
My question compared the proposed $15 million garage to a recently built Ivy Tech mixed use parking garage that has more spaces and only cost $7 million. Huber said he wasn't familiar with Ivy Tech's, but his answer made it seem like Ivy Tech's was just a plain old, ugly looking parking garage, when that isn't the case. It has space on the first floor for retail and is a very nice facility.
While talking about the appearance of the garage, one of the contractors jokingly said "We don't want this to look like a Walgreens". He was referencing the widespread belief that the retail space will become a Walgreens since a CVS is just across the street from the proposed parking garage.
One of the questions commented on how badly a garage is needed and talked about having to deal with minor theft and vandalism and broken beer bottles after the Friday and Saturday night crowds leave town. This re-enforces my belief that the residents of Broad Ripple don't so much have a parking problem, but a problem with the people who park in Broad Ripple neighborhoods.
I also asked if there will be a City-County Council vote. Huber said there will be no vote.
I think this is a bit more than unilaterally deciding what street to pave. We're talking a $6.5 million dollars in public investment with no direct return on it except for a small police sub-station. While I don't have much faith in the council, at least it gives something resembling a check and balance. Council representatives should be demanding a vote on this and should be involved in the process rather than handing over their authority to the 25th floor.
I'm still not sold on the location either. During peak hours, which are basically 10pm-3am Friday and Saturday, we're talking about adding 300 cars that would previously have been spread out throughout various pay lots and the neighborhoods. This garage will be put at the southwest corner of College and Winthrop, an intersection that can easily get congested even during non-peak hours. What are the plans to deal with the additional cars?
Finally, one of the ideas kicked around at the meeting was to put bike lanes on Broad Ripple Avenue. It's a four lane road, but one lane on each side is for parking, and the remaining one lane on each road has gotten a bit tighter in some areas due to how the sidewalks were re-paved. So my question there is...where in the world is a bike lane going to go???
At best, this is a poorly negotiated deal that is dominated by what the contractor/Ballard donor wants. The city really needs to grow a backbone and realize that, without all this city work, these contractors would be stuck in the same crappy economy that the rest of us (who don't live off the public dole) live in.