Moffett’s Midtown redevelopment plan moves to zoning phase

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All around Carmel, people are talking about what’s going to happen with the $100 million-plus redevelopment of Midtown.

Justin Moffett, partner in Old Town Development, said he can’t go out to eat or go grocery shopping without people asking him what his project will look like.

“I get ideas thrown at me every week,” he said.

For Moffett, it’s nothing new. He’s had his own ideas. Growing up in the area, he’s had gears turning in his head as his rides his bike along the vacant industrial space along the Monon Trail.

“And I’m always dreaming about what it could become,” he said. “I’ve probably spent the last eight years thinking about what could this become some day? About a year ago, me and my partners decided to stop dreaming and start taking action.”

Moffett wasn’t the only one dreaming. He said for years people have asked him for a custom-designed home, such as a condo or brownstone, from his Old Town Design Group close enough to walk to the Carmel City Center or the Carmel Arts & Design District.

“And frankly we’ve had nothing to offer them” he said.

Now, he does. Moffett announced on Sept. 15 that he would undertake the transformation of the area, which includes demolishing existing building, some vacant and some occupied. He’s bought all the land he needs and now, Moffett took the next step of presenting his plans to the Carmel Planning Commission. He first presented on Nov. 18 with a follow-up on Dec. 2 as a part of their subdivision committee.

Moffett is submitting his project as a planned unit development because there are so many overlapping zoning classifications in the area. In his 15-acre project, there are spots that are classified as industrial, some as commercial, some spots fall under the Monon Overlay Zone and some under the Range Line Overlay Zone. Sometimes even one building can straddle these lines, so it made sense to submit all X building as one PUD. Moffett described it as a “complicated mess.”

The building heights would be five-story, which should be close to the current height guidelines in the area.

Currently, Moffett has met with city officials on a biweekly basis to make sure his vision for the project matches up to the city’s longstanding vision for this part of town. From his talks with Carmel Mayor Jim Branaird and the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, Moffett said he wants a master plan, “that’s respectful of Carmel’s past but more importantly focused on Carmel’s future and the opportunities that exist to continue building on the success of our community that has been the transformation of our urban core into a dynamic, pedestrian-friendly environment.”

Construction could start in summer 2015, especially considering that ramped up interest has meant that Moffett said he has found plenty of interested tenants for his new space.

The first building to start, of at least eight, would be located on the northern side of the project – next to Artist Row Studios – right off the Monon Trail with a public meeting space featured.

The project would have up to 300,000 square feet with both office and light retail space. There would be 250 to 300 residential units and a nearby parking garage for 700 to 900 cars. That parking garage would likely be paid for using tax increment financing. A second garage is “eventually” part of the plans as well, Moffett said.

It all plays into Moffett’s vision for a development that positions Carmel’s urban core as a “Live, Work, Play Destination.”

“I know that’s become kind of cliché and that every developer says they have a ‘Live, Work, Play’ destination but I think this might be Carmel’s most practical application of the concept,” he said.

Members of the Carmel Plan Commission had plenty of questions and comments. Some suggestions given by commissioners include wider sidewalks, green infrastructure and using reclaimed building materials.

One commissioner, Tim Moehl, said he was concerned about the existing local businesses in the area which would be forced to relocate. He said he understands that some business owners could rent space in the new buildings, but that the rents could be double or triple their current rates.

“These really are people’s dreams,” he said. “A big development comes along and you knock these businesses out. I just want you to address that in your presentation.”

City Councilor Kevin “Woody” Rider, a member of the plan commission, said he feels for those businesses but he knows a building owner has a right to sell his property.

“You can’t legislate away the free market of a building owner to save his tenant’s business,” Rider said. “That’s something you need to be careful with.”


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