Commercial Real Estate and Development/Redevelopment and Government & Economic Development and Government and Economic Development and Manufacturing & Technology and Real Estate & Retail

First step: Tear stamping plant down

August 27, 2011

Discussions surrounding the GM Stamping Plant too often focus on the building and not the site. The west Indianapolis neighborhood is home of the stamping plant. It is also proud to be home of some of Indianapolis’ biggest and best employers—Eli Lilly, National Starch, Rolls-Royce and Indianapolis Power & Light Co.

jeff gearheart Gearheart

Unfortunately, the educational attainment levels of our residents frequently don’t qualify them for these employers. Nor does our neighborhood have the housing desired by employees of these companies.

The ULI vision is consistent with community discussions held over three years ago. The site’s easy access to recreation, entertainment and employment make it potentially a great example for smart growth.

Clearly, with IBJ featuring another developer each week undergoing reorganization, this is a difficult time to evaluate the feasibility of the ULI vision for the GM site. The success of CityWay and the 16th Street projects will be vital to any future residential development and its timing.

“Tear it down and clean it up” was the message delivered by a former redevelopment director from South Bend as she spoke to representatives from cities who were about to lose their GM plants. None of the well-capitalized companies mentioned above would make a location decision based on the existence of a large single-purpose building that was designed and redesigned over the last several decades.

The question before us is one of land use, not building use. Market forces will ultimately determine whether the GM site remains a viable industrial site or becomes a unique example of smart growth. The city must move forward to demolish the stamping plant and clean up the environmental issues while federal funding is still available. Then the true visioning can begin.•

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Gearhart is executive director of West Indianapolis Development Corp.

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