Remnants of the old Broad Ripple Park Family Center sat crumpled in a pile in the background as the city broke ground on a new center Wednesday, evoking a mix of excitement and concerns from neighborhood residents.
The project — estimated to cost about $19.7 million — will erect a brand-new center featuring an indoor track, children’s playground, updated fitness center, group meeting area and health clinic, which Community Health Network will operate. The city plans to open the new center by the end of 2022.
Indy Parks and Recreation‘s new family center promises to be “transformative” for the park and Broad Ripple neighborhood, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said at a news conference Wednesday. Community Health Network will operate the health clinic with a long-term lease, introducing a public health component to the park, Hogsett said.
“Our partnership with Community Health Network not only allows the city to afford such a large project, but it also brings another health option to the residents of Broad Ripple,” Hogsett said. “What brings us here today promises to be even more transformative as we break ground on the new Broad Ripple Park Family Center.”
Many neighbors look forward to the new facilities, especially the indoor track, but for some, the development causes concern.
“It’s a commercial deal where our land has been developed,” said Broad Ripple resident Bill Malcolm. “Parks are not in the business of developing anything, they’re in the business of recreation.”
Malcolm stood outside the construction area Wednesday, hoisting a sign against Indy Parks and Recreation’s partnership with Community Health Network.
Malcolm said the construction is “wasteful” and that the previous family center was “underutilized,” arguing that the neighborhood already has ample access to health clinics and fitness centers outside the park.
Linda Broadfoot, director of Indy Parks, told IndyStar the parks department isn’t privatizing the family center and intends to buy the center from developers once construction is complete.
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Broad Ripple Park identified as potential ‘signature park’
The family center construction is part of a 20-year-long effort to redevelop Broad Ripple Park. The city identified the park as having the potential to become a “signature park,” meaning the space could form a brand to define the neighborhood.
A “master plan” to renovate Broad Ripple Park was released in 2018, stemming from a comprehensive city study to improve parks across Indianapolis. The plan for Broad Ripple Park prioritizes engaging with the environment and neighboring White River, as well as connecting the park with the rest of the neighborhood.
The development’s first phase plan focuses on the portion of the park lining the river, including the family center. Later developments include playgrounds, picnic areas and athletic turf upgrades. The entire 20-year project was originally forecast to cost between $59 and $65 million.
Indy Parks and developers sought community input starting in March of 2018.
People expressed a desire for year-round programming at the new center that would be suitable for several generations, and they pushed back on initial plans to scrap the outdoor pool and move the boat access ramp north out of the neighborhood.
The boat ramp remains operational, but Indy Parks didn’t open the Broad Ripple Park pool this summer for staffing and financial concerns, the reason why many pools across the city are closed.
A new center could draw in more neighbors
Edward Russo has lived in Broad Ripple for about 10 years, and he comes to the park five days a week to walk his dog. He never used the old center, but the idea of having an indoor track is appealing to him.
“The treadmill is a bore,” said Russo, 69. “I have my gym… but that’s not the same as actually walking in the space.”
Russo said he “unreservedly” supports improvements to the park, though he had to “cringe” when the old facility and all its history was torn down.
Other neighbors in the park said they would consider giving the new center’s indoor track a try to escape the cold weather and still have a fitness option.
Ted and Becky Malone bring their three grandkids who live in Broad Ripple to the park two or three times a week.
The family center construction makes it a little harder for the family to walk into the park, but it doesn’t hinder them from spending time deeper in the park’s green space and river overlooks, they said.
“You have to have some disruptions to have progress,” Becky Malone said. “(A new family center) would be wonderful to have.”
Updates on the Broad Ripple Park project can be found at www.broadrippleparkmasterplan.com.
Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Clare Proctor at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ceproctor23.