Brokers fear criminal justice complex could harm downtown

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Creating a new criminal justice complex outside of downtown will mean big changes for the Mile Square, and some real estate brokers think the transition will be painful.

The southeast quadrant of downtown will lose criminal courts, two jails, prosecutors' and public defenders' offices, community corrections offices, and possibly bail bondsmen and criminal-practice lawyers’ offices. Mayor Greg Ballard’s deputies believe developers will readily fill the void, but real estate brokers for office space are worried.

Downtown constituents heard both views Thursday afternoon in a forum presented by Indianapolis Downtown Inc.

“I believe there’s going to be an infill effect between Angie’s List and downtown,” Kurt Fullbeck, Ballard's senior policy advisor for economic development, told the small gathering at The Platform office space, next door to City Market. The Angie's List corporate campus is located along East Washington Street, just east of Interstates 65 and 70.

“People want to be downtown," Fullbeck said. "It’s coming slower than the brokers would like.”

While demand for downtown apartments is strong, the office market is anemic. The vacancy rate is more than 21 percent, and 2013 was the fifth year in a row of negative absorption rates, said Jon Owens, managing director at Cassidy Turley, who sat on the panel with Fullbeck.

Owens noted that the market has added no new, leasable office space in 20 years.  

Lawyers are a big factor in the current market. Two office buildings, the Gold Building and 251 E. Ohio St., would take major hits with the exodus of the public defenders' and prosecutors' offices, Owens said.

Fullbeck pointed out that it will take three years to build out the criminal justic complex, which Ballard has recommended situating on the former General Motors stamping plant site west of the White River. That would provide time to work with the owners of the Gold Building and 251 E. Ohio St., he said.

Fullbeck said the request for proposals from developers, due out this month, will not include office space for the Marion County prosecutor and public defender. That space will be built under a separate procurement process, which he said will allow the developer to decide whether to build additional leasable space for other users, such as jail-service providers.

Office real estate brokers aren’t the only ones who are worried. City Market has become a thriving hub for food vendors, thanks largely to lunchtime foot traffic from the City-County Building and other offices that house criminal justice-related functions.

“We have experienced a certain renaissance. We want to know the recuperation plan and the back-fill plan, because it does drive a lot of the market,” said Stevie Stoesz, City Market manager.

Gus Miller of Olympia Asset Management said he wouldn't mind seeing the offices of Marion County Community Corrections, which works with people on home detention, depart downtown. But if civil courts eventually move, too, that could upset the downtown “ecosystem,” he said.

“Savory, unsavory, whatever the characters are, they’re spending money downtown,” said Rick Trimpe, vice president at CBRE, who represents the owners of the Gold Building and 251 E. Ohio St.


  • Keep Complex Downtown
    I think keeping the complex downtown is the best solution. There is so much vacant space downtown that needs to be developed. These new buildings could become architectural statements for the downtown. These structures can be a big bonus to the downtown if done successfully. The downtown can not afford to loose any jobs. There are many courts and jail buildings located in downtowns all across the country that are beautiful architectural buildings. Keeping the GM site for either a soccer stadium and/or zoo expansion is the best use for this property.
  • Rhonda, will you please refrain from trolling
    The nation's strongest and most powerful city has the healthiest downtown in the country (Midtown Manhattan). That is not a coincidence.
  • Out of touch
    Rhonda Young, you're out of touch. Portland has a weak downtown??
  • Downtown, Shmountown
    Rhonda you are so far out of touch it is hard to even answer your comments
  • Indy Lover
    Downtown vibrancy has been built on City Hall and all its related workers, ancillary "customers" and lower middle and working class Indiana folk for years. Despite recent build out Downtown is still fairly empty on the weekends. Everyone competes for the same yuppie dollar. Any crowds you see go to the same 7 or 8 bars and restaurants. Same folks in the same places. When they run out of money gonna be hell to pay. A $5 lunch is still the backbone of that area no matter how much you dress it up. This is the weekday reality of our Downtown. Take that away and no one is there.
  • Downtown, Shmountown
    Time to wake up, Indy. America's strongest cities have weak downtowns. Los Angeles, Phoenix, Austin, Houston, Portland, Denver. Our downtown is heavily subsidized. The mall is failing and can't attract retail tenants, so it is filling up with Brown Mackie and Indy Star-type tenants. The taxpayers are on the hook for the worst stadium deals in the nation. Downtown is surrounded by abandonment and you're not going to save it by building ever more government subsidized buildings where people produce nothing. Time to get out of our little Hoosier shell and see how other cities are growing. We are an epic fail and all the pretending in the world won't change that. Best for somebody with courage to change direction now, while there's still something to save here.
    • Lafayette Square
      I agree with Scott that the Lafayette Square location is the best non-downtown location. But then he went whacko talking about "light rail" to the NW side an a downtown soccer stadium. The beauty of the Lafayette Square location is easy access via vehicle. As far as the soccer stadium, it would be insane to be taxpayers on the hook for a soccer stadium that is likely to only draw a few hundred people during the summer.
    • Less security concerns?
      Nice try, Max, but security at the City-County Building will not be lessened simply by moving the criminal courts out of the building. Everyone who is not properly credentialed will continue to be required to pass through metal detectors and subject to pat downs. People involved in civil disputes, family court, arguing over their tax bills, upset at being harassed by code enforcement, etc. are just as prone to becoming a threat as people passing in and out of the criminal courts. The criminals in lock-up are routed by tunnel to the basement of the CCB from the jail and taken to criminal court within the security perimeter that civilians must pass through and have no impact on the security for public access to the building. The proponents of a privatized judicial center are not the least bit concerned about public access to city-county offices; it's another P3 scheme to line the pockets of the bond lawyers, engineers, contractors and others poised to cash in on the deal, not to mention the real estate developers who are already lined up to request the gifting of the jail property to them, along with some bonus TIF money, for private redevelopment purposes.
    • Not about the CCB
      I don't think the focus is on the City County Building, although it certainly could use some upgrades. The first goal is to move the jails out of downtown. The problem with doing that is that proximity to the criminal courts is important, so to move the jails you likely need to move the courts. By moving the criminal courts out of the CCB, it will mean less of a hassle of security in the CCB and will make public hearings and access to our executive and legislative branches easier.
    • Why Not Downtown ?
      What is wrong with just staying downtown ? I do like the GM site IF the move from downtown is necessary ! Let's face it the City County Building is more than out dated. But why move from downtown ??? There is plenty of unused space to build close enough to cause very little upsetting of the masses ! You could easily use the property South of Maryland St and North of Georgia St. East of College Ave. and West of Davidson St.! City Fathers seem to look at that area as nothing more than a blighted area so now is their chance to step up and give it a good purpose. Near downtown, close to the existing "jail II" and processing center. Close to everything "scared" to the Criminal Justice System. A great re purposing of the area ! Then we can leave that GM property to sit vacant for the next 25 years as it is really not a viable option for anything except what it is currently doing ! The dynamic thriving area around the GM property can be left to prosper on it's own.
    • No Sy(i)ntax
      Moving the proposed CJC to the GM stamping plant would eliminate any possible property tax collections from that site. The proposed area near the Airport is already within a non taxable TIF district and would open the GM site to an entity that taxes could be collected on. Additionally, moving the CJC from Downtown would allow Indianapolis to highlight its underutilized surrounding areas. Keep taxable property open to future possibilities of attaining taxable income. If the Judges and attorneys are enamored with Downtown, build highrise living quarters at the proposed downtown site and create a meaningful transportation system to get them from Downtown to the airport site. It is about time Indy step up and get a real mass transit system.
    • Ballard Buddy
      Ballard Buddy hits the nail on the head with his comments. It's all about giving business to Mayor Ballards campaign contributors.
    • Crazy Idea?
      What about using the Lafayette Square Mall site for the new complex? There's plenty of land and parking. Maybe construct a light rail system from the site to downtown for those businesses that would want to stay put in the CBD but could travel back and forth via a monorail? Don't like the GM site as I think that site would be best suited for expansion of the zoo or even a new soccer stadium. Just thinking outside of the box!
    • I find it interesting that there are those looking at short term loss and not seeing what the east side of downtown needs. Space emptied in the CCB will be filled by more office workers when the city brings them in from far flung, leased "satellite" offices. Demolishing the jail and repurposing the other "converted" jails to offices and housing will draw more development in . the jails and bail bonds locations are limiting the gentrification of that corner of downtown.
    • Terrible idea
      Just what is wrong with the City-County Building anyway? Who comes up with this stuff? I don't care about apartment buildings down there at all. I do care about the government offices such as the courts and departments that are in the City County building. This is centrally located government building and it should remain where it is. And what's wrong with the new jail that is about 3 blocks south of this location? Where is all of this money coming from??? Bad idea.
    • What about me?
      But if the complex stays where it is, how will I use political connections and tax dollars to grow my business?
    • Amen
      That's exactly what many of us have been saying all along, the complex must remain in the downtown area, no further away than the GM site at the most! It takes decades and even centuries to build an urban downtown, and to dump it for the sake of cheaper land makes no planning sense at all! Even the GM site will have a negative impact on downtown, but at least most of the private attorneys should stay put. Any further away, then the big downturn and vacancies would begin. The criminal justice complex should be a part of the dynamic architecture of the core of the city center, not a suburban 'anywhere' building. We will use the new complex for 60-100 years, so let's do it right and do it in the right location!

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