New Broad Ripple Parking Garage Stirs Controversy

Taxpayers To Invest $6 Million Without A Share In Revenues

A $15 million plan for a mixed-use parking garage in Broad Ripple raised questions among some community members who said private interests were being put before the public.

Taxpayers will be expected to foot the bill for $6.35 million of the project at the southwest corner of Broad Ripple and College avenues, but won't they share in any of the parking revenues generated from the garage, 6News' Kara Kenney reported.

Gary Welsh, an attorney and political blogger, said that taxpayers should get a cut of the million-dollar investment.

"The city's not going to get any return on that investment in terms of a share of the proceeds and has no ownership," Welsh said. "The city should have used that money to own and operate its own parking garage and return those benefits back to the public at large."

Zach Adamson, a candidate for city-county council, agreed.

"I do think if the taxpayers are footing the bill we should get at least a portion of those revenues to benefit the taxpayers," Adamson said.

6News found a 2007 study by Walker Parking Consultants that called the site "less than ideal for parking, as patrons would have to cross College Avenue to reach the main entertainment area of Broad Ripple."

The Walker study suggested a parking lot behind the Vogue nightclub and west of Carrollton as a better option.

Records show Keystone Group LLC, the developer selected to build the garage, donated at least $28,000 to Mayor Greg Ballard in 2008.

"It doesn't pass the smell test when you have someone who has given that much money to the mayor," Welsh said.

6News also learned Paul Okeson, Ballard's former chief of staff, is the vice president of business development for Keystone.

The city chose Keystone Group LLC, Walker Parking Consultants, Keystone Construction Corp., Newpoint Parking and RATIO Architects as the winning bid out of seven proposals.

Ballard was out of town on Friday, so 6News' Kara Kenney met with spokesman Marc Lotter, who said money and connections had nothing to do with the winning bid.

"Absolutely not," Lotter said. "They were evaluated by a community group. Of the seven proposals, you look at this one and it required the least amount of public dollars and did not require a tax abatement."

Lotter explained that a public-private partnership is in the best interest of taxpayers because private companies will assume the risk for the new parking garage.

"This is a project that's been talked about in Broad Ripple for more than 30 years and has not been able to get off the ground because of the financial burden," Lotter said.

Lotter also said the new parking garage will contain retail, which means it needs to be near foot traffic.

"It's my understanding the (Walker) study in 2007 was looking at a parking garage only," Lotter said.

Even though the city won't share in the revenues generated from the garage, Lotter explained the city will maintain oversight over the parking rates charged to drivers.

The $6.35 million provided by the city will come from proceeds as part of the city's privatization of parking meters by ACS Parking, which must be used to fund infrastructure projects in the downtown, Mass Avenue and Broad Ripple areas.

Adamson works downtown and said he hopes the Broad Ripple parking garage and ACS deal are not a trend.

"I hope when they do parking structures downtown, we don't find ourselves in a similar deal," Adamson said. "That's my fear: we're seeing this pattern start to evolve."

A public hearing will be held July 19 at 7 p.m. at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 East 67th Street.

Construction on the new parking garage is scheduled to begin in the fall and wrap in 2012.