Initial design unveiled for park’s family center

Mickey Shuey •

Initial designs for the nearly $20 million Broad Ripple Park family center were unveiled on Nov. 19, during a public input session for the project hosted by the Indianapolis Parks & Recreation Department.

The project — part of a $70 million master plan for the park approved last year — is expected to feature a 40,000-square-foot building in place of the existing park center. Indy Parks officials have said the current 11,000-square-foot facility is too small to meet the growing demand for space.

About 80 citizens attended the meeting and heard from project architects and parks officials about the significance of the development and some of the design choices under consideration. Attendees also had an opportunity to provide feedback either in writing or directly to designers and city representatives.

“Folks show up when it’s (about) Broad Ripple, and that’s great,” said Indy Parks Director Linda Broadfoot. “Anytime you can get a room filled with people who care enough about their parks to take the time, that’s a good thing.”

The new, two-level facility is expected to house a gymnasium, group meeting space, a children’s play area and a 15,000-square-foot health center operated by Community Health Network.

The Indianapolis-based architectural firm ArcDesign and Chicago-based Williams Architects are the leads on the project. Context Design is the landscape architect and local firm Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. is the civil engineer. Fishers-based Meyer Najem Construction is the project’s construction manager.

The family center is expected to cost about $19.65 million to construct and will be owned by BR Health Holdings LLC. The parks department and Community Health will each enter long-term leases for their respective parts of the building, although the parks department will retain ownership of the land on which the structure is built.

Broadfoot said the department expects to eventually buy the building from BR Health outright through a clause included in a contract now being negotiated between those parties and the city’s Department of Metropolitan Development.

The groups began negotiations in April after the holding company — comprised of officials from Community Health and local firm Avenue Development — won a public bidding process, beating out proposals from Browning Investments and Lauth.

Plans call for a lower level that includes the gym, play area and a divisible, multi-use room. The health center, a two- or three-lane track, administrative areas and the group meeting rooms — ranging from 300 to 1,300 square feet — will be on the upper level.

The family center is among the first parts of the master plan to be implemented, joining the recently-expanded Broad Ripple Dog Park.

According to the architectural team, the design process is about 20% complete. Construction is expected to start in the second quarter of 2020 and the project could be finished by mid-2021.

The 4.5-acre site in October received rezoning approval, marking a critical milestone for the project. A final project agreement must still be approved by the City-County Council.

But not everybody at the meeting was pleased with the family center proposal.

Some of the renderings and drawings on easels at the meeting had sticky notes on them by the gathering’s end, indicating dissatisfaction over the partnership with Community Heath.

Some area residents have objected to the use of park space for businesses and disputed the need for a new family center. That includes the Broad Ripple Park Alliance, which has repeatedly stated its opposition to the public-private partnership.

Clark Kahlo, a Meridian-Kessler resident who has been active in a variety of development-related groups, including BRPA, said he was not swayed by Tuesday’s discussion. Kahlo said he did not know how many people are supporters of BRPA’s efforts.

“No matter what they say … it’s still an enclosure of public commons,” he said. “No matter how you slice it, they’re going to have private medical offices in there and the public will not have access to that part of the park. I think that’s a terrible precedent.”

Originally published in Indianapolis Business Journal.