Monday, December 23, 2013

Think Kit Dec. 23rd - The Depressing Broad Ripple Whole Foods Fiasco

Yes, this is underutilized
Posting this entry a day late as I was being a good little elf till late yesterday evening.  We're prompted to re-examine a familiar spot in our lives - in our home, neighborhood, etc.  As I was picking up some carry-out from Indy's best mexican restaurant, La Piedad, I drove past the proposed site of the new Whole Foods grocery store.  I've been a resident of the greater Broad Ripple area for over ten years, so I've come to really know this neighborhood.  While I spend a lot of time and money on Mass Ave. and Fountain Square, I spend more in Broad Ripple (and it's southern College corridor that I refuse to call SoBro).  While these other two districts provide more appealing shops, restaurants, and social scenes, Broad Ripple provides a more complete package.  What I'll refer to as the "Greater Broad Ripple Area" has appealing housing options (i.e. it's safe, charming, and relatively affordable) and well rounded commercial development (i.e. grocery stores, banks, restaurants, and I suppose that sprawl over there on Keystone).  Couple this with the confluence of the Monon trail, the canal tow path, and the surrounding parks and you've probably got the best Indianapolis has to offer. That being said, the core of the neighborhood, Broad Ripple avenue, leaves a little to be desired.

So as a 10+ year resident with an affinity for the area, I can say this WholeFoods grocery store debate is painful to watch.  For the record, I'm in favor of further development but am puzzled as to why and how another grocery store is a good fit for the "village".
It looks pretty, but it doesn't have to be a
Whole Foods?

Preserve Broad Ripple.  Really?For those of you not connected to Broad Ripple, you sometimes here this rallying cry from residents. Some feel that we're losing the small, quirky village feel that's apparently been a defining trait. I hate to break it to you folks, but you lost that character when you let all of those meat head bars infiltrate Broad Ripple avenue.  When we moved to the area a decade ago, I thought the trifecta of Rock Lobster, the MineShaft, and Land Sharks was a wasteland of boring, run of the mill bars that over saturated a strip that already boasted the Vogue, Broad Ripple Tavern, Union Jacks, a BW3s, and some random nightclub that Jermaine O'Neal used to own.  I was genuinely surprised to see Brothers show up and honestly said to myself, "really?  Another frat bar?"  And then you let in Kilroy's.  Kilroy's the frattiest bar of frat bars from Bloomington, now in the heart of Broad Ripple?  My friends I don't know what local character you think you're trying to preserve in this neighborhood, but you lost that battle years ago.  Now, when someone wants to develop a relatively under utilized stretch of road on College, you want to break out the campaign to preserve the neighborhood? Isn't it too late for that rallying cry?  As a relative outsider who really loves this area, am I the only one to see this? Am I really allowed to ask this many questions in a single paragraph?

Now don't get me wrong, there are still a number of local shops I frequent in Broad Ripple proper.  I've found a consistently excellent barber at Bogie's, we give our money to the Monon Coffee Company and BRICS, and we do a respectable amount of our grocery shopping at Good Earth. We frequent both Indian restaurants and appreciate being able buy a good IPA growler on Sunday at 3 Wisemen.  There is local charm in these shops, but they've been pushed to the back streets in lieu of a Starbucks, a Subway, a couple banks, and all those bars I mentioned above.

Progress for the sake of progress?Don't get me wrong.  I'm pro development when it's smart.  The bike lanes?  A good idea.  The parking garage?  An even better idea.  That high end housing by the Monon trail where the liquor store used to stand?  Sure.  However, I can't see how a WholeFoods can be justified.  Within a mile or so, you can find Good Earth, a SafeWay, a Kroger, a Fresh Market, Locally Grown Gardens, an excellent seasonal farmers' market, a marsh, and a Target.  Hell, there's even another Whole Foods, not more than twenty blocks north of this proposed site.  Is this really the best use of space?  Yes, the design of the related residential housing and it's integration into the tow path look really nice.  But let's find something else to compliment this area.

To make matters even more unfortunate is that the most profitable grocery store in the country is leveraging a public financing program to save money.  That seems inappropriate.  So, that's what I saw when I traveled through my neighborhood, trying to take a fresh perspective. I see a public debate with two sides that I can't seem to identify with arguing over a neighborhood I call home.

1 comment:

  1. It's been such a mess.

    My argument has always been: why is the option either a) do nothing or b) spend *tax dollars to subsidize this particular project?

    *Technically, the model is tax-increment financing, so it's really borrowing against future revenues with a bunch of caveats. But it's not all private money.