Development proceeding 

Mann Properties files zoning application

With all signs pointing toward a downturn in the real estate market, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Mann Properties offered to purchase 70 acres of undeveloped land from Crown Hill Cemetery for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the property’s original list price.

Earlier this year, Crown Hill agreed to sell the land to Brenwick Development, but the deal fell apart after wetlands were discovered on the site. The presence of wetlands failed to deter Mann. The developer moved in quickly, offering to purchase the property, originally listed at $4.7 million, for $5.2 million if the land is zoned for residential use only, $5.65 million if its zoned for both residential and commercial development. If Mann fails to obtain zoning approval, this deal, like the first one, will fall apart.

Tim Stevens, Mann’s director of development, told NUVO that his firm filed its zoning application last week. “We want the project to run its course through the development plan review process and get all our feedback from public agencies and interested parties that will arise from the [development plan] meetings,” Stevens said. “We believe there may be significant changes that result from the review process, which we think will last three months. Before we actually have our public hearing at the Metropolitan Development Commission, we will be incorporating those changes.”

Though many of the development’s details remain unclear, Mann has stated it will include a seven-acre cluster of retail stores across the street from the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), at the intersection of Michigan Road and 42nd Street. Stevens said that a variety of businesses would be prohibited from the site, including bars, pharmacies, fast food restaurants, gas stations and liquor stores. The commercial area will be limited to 45,000 square feet.

The residential part of the plan calls for the construction of as many as 50 single-family homes, 100 “alley-load” homes and 171 townhomes. Estimated home prices have not yet been disclosed.

Mann has proposed that the community be named “Tarkington,” an homage to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Indianapolis native, Booth Tarkington.

To secure commercial zoning approval, Mann first needs to earn the endorsement of nearby institutions such as the IMA and the Butler-Tarkington Neighborhood Association (BTNA).

The IMA declined to discuss the project with NUVO, explaining that its new director, Maxwell Anderson, “has not yet been brought up to speed on the development.”

As for BTNA, Stevens said that Mann plans to meet with the organization soon. “We will focus on the concerns of BTNA members at their meetings, and we will hold meetings with other stakeholders to provide different forums for their concerns. The concerns of all interested parties will be quite divergent, and it will be our goal to address them as concisely and directly as we can. We envision having to meet with a variety of groups separately to achieve this goal.”

Mann has promised to preserve 20 acres of woodlands on the site, mainly in areas where wetlands are present. According to Stevens, the developer has hired Williams Creek Consulting to delineate the wetland boundaries and design an overall stormwater management plan according to Low Impact Design principles. “We haven’t fully designed the site or completed our stormwater management plan, but it is our belief that most of the wetlands can be completely avoided and left in their natural states. We intend to maintain the wetland area’s ability to receive natural storm runoff, and that will likely require some filtering techniques in some areas to maintain the quality of water coming to the wetlands.”

Environmentalists, such as Clarke Kahlo of the Hoosier Environmental Council and the preservation group Crown Hill Advocates, will be keeping a close eye on the project.

“We believe that the community will have shamefully failed to protect an important woodland and wetland resource if the Crown Hill property is developed,” Kahlo said. “When we can review the proposed site plan and the related studies, we’ll be able to evaluate its impact on the natural attributes of the land. Of course, generally we’d advocate for only absolutely minimal impacts if indeed the site must be developed. We’d want to see maximum tree and wetlands preservation, and a community and energy friendly design.”

Another concern is whether, given the slumping real estate market, a demand exists for new homes. According to the Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis, the number of permits for new homes declined 18% through the first seven months of this year.

Joe Everhart, a Realtor who has listed numerous homes in Butler-Tarkington, believes that the development’s location will enable it to thrive in spite of the deteriorating market.

 “Although things have slowed slightly, you cannot argue about the great location of this project,” Everhart said. “I am not sure what price point that they are thinking of. If they are competitive at all, they should have success.”

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