Commercial Real Estate and Urban development and Development/Redevelopment and Real Estate & Retail

Developers taking serious look at former GM site

August 9, 2012

Developers are still trying to determine whether the city's vision for an urban village at the former General Motors plant near downtown Indianapolis would be profitable, said an official with the trust charged with cleaning up and marketing the site.

“I wish we were further along,” said Bruce Rasher, redevelopment manager for the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, based in Ypsilanti, Mich. “On the other hand, I’m very encouraged we’ve been able to attract the interest of capable and reputable developers.”

RACER Trust Cleanup Manager Robert Hare visited Indianapolis this week to bring local stakeholders up to date on the environmental assessment of the 101-acre property, which was the site of a metal-stamping factory until June 2011.

Mayor Greg Ballard initially hoped to attract another industrial user that might bring jobs, but this year the emphasis shifted to creating a new, mixed-use neighborhood, as an Urban Land Institute advisory panel recommended last year.

In an interview Wednesday, Rasher said at least six reputable developers, both local and national, have toured the property since 2011. Of those, two are taking a serious look at the feasibility of the Urban Land Institute’s vision. Led by former Mayor William Hudnut, the advisory panel interviewed more than 75 local people about what they wanted to see on the site.

The 82-year-old plant, at 340 S. White River Parkway,  is near Lucas Oil Stadium, Rasher noted, and it has more than a quarter mile of White River frontage.

“It’s just a matter of time before the river really becomes a significant amenity,” Rasher said.

Given those factors, the site is drawing more serious interest from developers than three-quarters of the properties under management by the RACER Trust, Rasher said. The trust was created on March 31, 2011, out of a bankruptcy court settlement with the 14 states where GM closed plants. The trust is marketing 89 properties and has sold 19.

Environmental assessments at the local site and surrounding area will be finished this year, Hare said. The trust already knows that soil contamination is limited to the west end of the site, where a former chemical distribution facility stood. "A good three-quarters of the property is available and ready for redevelopment now," he said.

It will take years to clean up the soil and groundwater in the surrounding neighborhood, Hare said. Those costs will be paid by the trust, which will continue its work long after the property is sold.

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