City pitches case for jail on former GM plant site

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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s office is pitching a proposed criminal-justice complex as an economic boon to near-west-side neighborhoods.

“This is a $500 million facility, plus $100 million economic impact,” Director of Enterprise Development David Rosenberg told a small audience Tuesday evening at the Mary Rigg Center on Morris Street.

About 35 residents gathered to hear the city’s case for building the new facilities on the former General Motors stamping plant property. The city would use 40 acres in the northwest corner of the 110-acre site, leaving the land that overlooks the White River open to another developer.

The criminal justice center would include a 3,500-bed jail, criminal and traffic courts, community corrections and probation operations, and sheriff, prosecutor and public defender offices. Rosenberg said it would generate 3,600 visitors a day, leading to other retail and office developments in the surrounding neighborhood.

But a few members of the audience fixated on the jail and what its presence would mean for the neighborhood.

“All in all, these inmates are being directly released into our neighborhood, where my children play. We’re [going to get] inmates in our backyard,” said Brittany Laux, who lives on Arbor Avenue near the former GM plant.

Another nearby resident, Rahnae Napoleon, said she thinks the jail will also attract businesses some consider unsavory, such as bail bondsmen.

Napolean and her husband, Jay, said they had high hopes for redevelopment of the GM site. “Where’s the vision?” Napoleon asked.

The GM property is owned by a court-created entity, the RACER Trust, which is responsible for cleaning up contamination and finding new uses. RACER officials say they’ve received five development proposals but won’t disclose details.

Rosenberg, who said he has communicated with RACER officials about the proposals, believes the criminal-justice center will enhance development on the rest of the property. “The developers we’ve spoken to are more than eager to have this,” he said Tuesday evening.

Ballard is recommending the GM site over airport property near the county line because it will reduce project costs by 10 percent to 15 percent, Rosenberg said. The GM site is advantageous in terms of road access, available utilities, wastewater management and parking, according to the city’s analysis. It’s closer to population centers and would have less impact on IndyGo’s budget.

The city will hold a public meeting focused on the airport property Wednesday evening, and on March 24 the justice center will be discussed at a meeting convened by theCity-County Council.

Ballard’s office plans to issue a request for proposals, which will name the preferred location, by March 27.

City-County Councilor Jeff Miller, whose district includes the GM property, said Tuesday evening that the mayor’s office might need to put off issuing the RFP.

“I think we need more time to gel on the feedback,” he said.

During the meeting, Rosenberg debated with a few audience members who shouted their questions and comments. He said he’s willing to meet with west-side residents again, but he said that after the meeting, a “majority” of the audience members told him they would welcome the justice center because of the money invested, police presence and economic spin-off.


  • Reality
    PPC Finally a reasonable person that has a good perspective on this situation. You are making outstanding points I hope someone is listening to you.
  • Reality
    Anyone who claims that government spending millions on a criminal justice center will result in an ecomomic boon should have their head examined. It is an expense, pure and simple. This is the same soft-headed Keynsian economic principals that brought us the stimulus package of crony giveaways, a huge increase in the national debt, and a cratering economy. That being said, as a community, I do think that we do need to pay for and build a new "justice" center of some kind. They really are running out of court room space. The prosecutors and public defenders have been moved out of the old city county building in office space rented at taxpayer expense, and the security issues with moving inmates to the court house for hearings does cost money. It should not be extravagant, and should be readily accessible by all. It seems that there are plenty of run-down and abandoned properties in the immediate vicinity around the downtown area that would make a good choice, and allow us to tear down some blighted properties at the same time.
    • @Alex
      I guess after long and arduous though the airport site is the most compelling as it is the most centrally located for all. The City should never undertake a more logical use for this property like something creating tax revenue like an air line hub for someone that needs a central US location that already exists. Oops ! wait a minute if the Judicial complex is there maybe the US Marshals can land their planes in front of the complex.
    • @Joe
      You can repeat it as often as you want but it will not make it more true. The old airport location is actually a prime example for accessibility: 2 Interstates with even an own ramp. An existing parking structure. Already existing bus routes which can be expanded. How more accessible can a location actually be?
    • site
      I don't care where this is located, all I know that it MUST be located in Center Township. There is Indiana legal precedent that demands that much.
    • Downtown will not work
      One of the original reasons for moving the criminal justice complex was the idea to get some of the crooks out of downtown and make downtown even more attractive. So if you can't accomplish that, just don't move it at all. But I guess the judges want a fancy new building and still walk to their lunch places.
    • Alternative
      Ok ... the airport is deemed not accessible enough ! East Gate is too far out ! the old GM stamping plant is going to stifle growth of the fast growing neighborhood ! Maybe the City should take a look at an area close to Downtown with decent access and sitting empty ready to go ...... The area bounded by College Ave and Davidson, Georgia and Maryland streets .... now let's hear all the reasons that will not work !!
    • Trolling?
      Just to make it clear: I don't care if there will be a soccer stadium - I am not even a big soccer fan. I just know that a jail at the GM stamping plant will prevent the city from having a great development there at one point in time. In fact I don't even propose to move the jail to the airport. Move it to the east gate mall, the old RCA plant or wherever you want - just not too close to downtown.
    • Soccer and credibility
      Jeff you are so on target I certainly hope there are enough people out there to see this as clearly as you. GM is the best and someone did mention East Gate and except for the distance I like that also.
    • Soccer and credibility
      Alex I hope that no one here is against the Indy 11 and a Stadium, however that is a very bad location for the stadium (in 4 or 5 years when needed) I kinda remember going to Pacer games before they had Market Square Arena, Indy 11 can pay their dues and have their stadium in due time. The "dream" the soccer people are selling is this multiple use facility that will have great seating for soccer and concerts a real multi use facility like the former Tennis Center that was demolished no long ago for lack of use and aging as no one would continue the updates necessary. As I said earlier just wait until Jimmy and the Coral Reefer band or Oz fest bring 18,000 fans into this "quaint little developing" neighborhood. Let the private sector invest in something that can not support itself let the City give them tax breaks he have a music center at White River Park that is already struggling to make ends meet let's help them first.
    • cornfield
      cornfield what is real economic growth ? Isn't that taking a large piece of property that is doing nothing and going nowhere and doing something with it ? If the city does not use the former GM property who will ? The City is making a real proposal the couple other so called developers are putting forth dreams that have not and are not likely to fly. Then you have the downtown property to use for "possible" housing growth, which I am not sure will fly either. Is is possible to move all city Judicial services to one place ? Processing Center, Clerk of Courts, Courts, Prosecutor, Public Defender, Jail and yes even Probation and Community Corrections, the efficiency of all agencies in on concentrated area to work together with out being scattered could be amazing. That is assuming they would work together.
    • GM is best solution
      Most of the comments on here are suggesting the GM location is bad because it would be moving to a residential neighborhood. However, the GM property has many light to medium industries currently on the western edge, a trucking company, a warehouse and a pallet recycler to name a few. A jail would fit in much better than its current location, which is diagonal from Conseco and directly across from its parking garage (yes, I now Bankers Life). How many tourists walk by the jail everyday and people think moving it next to industrial buildings is worse?! Just look on Google maps. A new jail is needed to create efficiency, the old one is outdated and they are running out of room. They are leaving open a lot of land for development, including a block diagonal from Conseco when they move the jail. The airport is a bad location because it is not central. Moving the city employees and the ancillary industries (attorneys, bail bonds, etc) would be a great loss to downtown. The courts support more business and employees than most people think. I think most of us on here agree we need a vibrant downtown, so let’s move the jail first and maybe eventually we can figure out how to get rid of the steam plant. And Alex, stop trolling with your pet soccer project no one wants to help you pay for. If you want to pay for it yourself, I think most of us would welcome it.
    • Soccer and credibility
      While I have apparently no credibility left, I still want to remind about the fact that Indy Eleven has not played a single game but has already sold 6000 season tickets. I am not suggesting to build a soccer stadium right away but wait to see how demand actually will be. Maybe the most popular sport in the world will get a good following in Indy. As mentioned before, a stadium should be designed to accommodate large outdoor concerts and other uses. Having such an asset in walking distance to the immediate downtown core would be a major income generator. But even if there is no market for this (actual market studies suggest otherwise), even a modern urban neighborhood would be more beneficial. For all the complainers from before: have you actually looked at downtown Indy recently? A 96% apartment occupancy rate, hardly any houses on the market and a doubling downtown resident population actually supports the fact there is a momentum. A criminal-justice complex (with all of its problems) does not help the ongoing revitalization of bordering neighborhoods.
    • Old RCA Plant
      What about the old RCA plant at Sherman and Michigan. It is certainly well served by IndyGo, is not that far from downtown and there are plenty of store fronts along 10th street that could host lawyers/bail bondsmen. Would be a nice infill project for the city.
    • Soccer?
      Alex lost all credibility when he complained about the justice center taking up prime property at the stamping plant, then suggested we taxpayers build a soccer stadium on there instead. Thousands will go to the Justice Center every day. A few hundred will go watch a soccer game during the team's limited schedule.
    • Joe
      Funny, I just finished 2 straight days of Jury Duty. lol I would have no problem doing that if it meant real economic growth. A jail is not going to do that. Oh yea, my dads been a probation officer for 25 years and he would be against this. Nobody wants a jail in their backyard. See..this is why the government should stay out of the free market. If the mayor thinks this jail will be an economic boom and is not open to other more creative ideas then he personifies what is wrong with government today. I mean seriously, you can't think of a better place to put this? Not 1? Just 1?
    • wrong direction
      Alex how long have you resided in this "quaint little neighborhood" such a paradise that I bet all the builders left this years home show chomping at the bit to get to this area. I can see it now .... let get a Pete Dye golf course there first to build around that will be your center piece.
    • cornfield
      cornfield..... I am looking forward to the day you get called as a prospective juror, or need to transact any type of County business since you think out in a cornfield is so much better suited for county employees to conduct the business of serving and protecting you !
      • and why again
        Mr A you are really on top of this thing, "where is the vision" is a great question and that is exactly why the property is available because NO ONE can see any viable use for it or it would have been done ! Glad to know that NO tax dollars are going to the jail since as YOU point out it is going to be a private jail.
      • question
        yes Greg we could build a nice helicopter landing pad and do prisoner transport from the "airport" to the new landing pad downtown ! Oops wait a minute we already have a helicopter landing pad downtown. How nice.
      • Airport Location
        Perspective ...... you make a good point but the last I knew prospective Jurors mostly drive and must pay for their own parking, what a joke that is ... give up your time and in some cases the pay from your job to do a public service and PAY to park in downtown Indy.
      • new location
        IGT now that is a very good idea !!
      • "Great Site"
        There are so many foolish comments here it would take a book to point them all out ! Such a desirable neighborhood that people are just flocking there to build new homes and renovate those that are there ?? Another Klipsch ? perfect solution, except that the Current Klipsch is losing money and has tried to find a buyer without any luck, not to mention all the noise and traffic into this perfect little neighborhood that is so thriving with new homes and new rebuilt homes, does anyone remember the craziness around the building of Klipsch ? if they were worried about the noise keeping Cows from giving milk can you imagine your cozy little bedroom community with a music center there and Jimmy and the Coral Reefers on a Thursday night ? Oops did I mention "reefers" in this quaint little community that we need to save ?? Did some one mention that this is going to be a private jail ? You should only hope it is as they provide much lower cost of operation and better security than any government facility. Oh yes Alex wants a soccer stadium ! I love that idea more tax dollars well spent before the new Indy 11 even has 1000 people for a game. With all the complains about Bankers Life and Lucas 2 stadiums that provide thousands of jobs I can hardly wait until everyone gets the tax bill for a soccer stadium with 3 to 4 thousand fans and furnishing 500 or so jobs. Then we have Rahnae who does not want the "unsavory" bond agents, sounds like she is well versed in dealing with bond agents, she must be speaking from her own experiences. Sorry that you had a bad experience with a bond agent. I know several great ladies and gentlemen that are Bond Agents. People should get a grip on reality pay attention to the proposal look around and have some realization of what they are talking about. This location is so prime that developers have been killing each other since the day GM closed the doors spending literally millions on site development plans and buying up all the valuable property around the area for businesses to support their multi million dollar projects. If it is SO great why is it available ??? Now let get to the much bigger problem ! I have much concern for the property that will become vacant in downtown Indianapolis as the jail and the courts (and God forbid the bond agents) leave their current spaces.What happens to the struggling merchants in the City Market space ? We have been waiting for something like 10 to 12 years for the Market Square arena property to show us something but dreams and now we are going to open up 2 or 3 or 4 times as much space. Wake up people Indianapolis can now boast that it has 2 !! yes 2 of the top 25 crime neighborhoods in the United states ! and you are worried about the use of a vacant piece of property on the edge of downtown Indianapolis !!! Like I said I could go on and on and on but if I need to explain this then no one can !!
      • A new location
        Why not look at the huge empty lot that used to be the Eastgate Shopping Center next to the curretly disputed Public Safety command Center. But buy instead of the lease property. It's right on the bus line on all three sides of the property.
        • Again
          @Perspective: As I said before it would be interesting to see what percent of the people actually use public transportation to get to the criminal courts. I would assume less than 5%. For those 5% there would be be a bus going to the airport location - they can actually utilize the fancy new transportation hub. And for the other 95% a freshly renovated I-465 could be used along with great parking possibilities.
        • Airport Location Won't Do
          Many people in Marion County are dependent on mass transit. The courts need to be located in a central location so jury pools are able to reach the site by bus. The airport location or some cornfield just won't do. The city and county intend to pay for this project through cost-savings attributed to combining the jail and courts under one roof. Moving the jail out-of-site while keeping the courts downtown would end up costing taxpayers more money.
          • Think a little bit in the future
            @thundermutt: This is not about the current situation of the GM stamping plant neighborhood but it is about the future of this neighborhood. The location of the GM stamping plant is PRIME. It is in walking distance to downtown, close the White River state park, has incredible downtown view and has so much potential. So why move the criminal justice system just a few blocks and doom another downtown area? Because some employees have to commute an additional 15 minutes? The airport site is not in Jasper very accessible. Actually most citizens have to go the airport more often than to the criminal justice system - and yet they also manage to get there.
          • Think a little harder
            1. The 40 acre parcel is at the NW corner of the GM site, well off the River, near all manner of other ugly industrial uses on South Harding St., including the IndyGo garage. 2. This is a Justice Center, a facility that combines the jail and all of the criminal justice functions in a single location, minimizing travel and inefficiencies for staff and eliminating risky prisoner transfers. 3. It would open up PRIME downtown real estate in the downtown core, where people actually WANT to live, as opposed to the heavy industrial district at the proposed location. 4. The criminal justice system involves more than just criminals. A location near the center of downtown is much more fair for citizens from all over the county who serve on juries. People from all walks of life serve on juries, and some of them rely on mass transit; almost every bus line goes downtown. Even the well off live far away: why make people commute 35-50 minutes from Lawrence to the opposite corner of the county (Raceway & Washington)?
          • Mass transit?
            I don't see why the lack of mass transit would be a reason against the airport site. First of all I tend to believe that most people go to the criminal-justice complex with their own car. And for this majority an easy parking possibility is probably more important than public transportation. If somebody really uses the bus to go this facility, we will soon have a fancy transport hub which will make switching buses to the airport a breeze. Wouldn't that even help IndyGo? Additionally I don't think that the criminal-justice complex has to offer great "customer service".
          • Question
            @Marshall, how do you think those developers are going to be when they are in the vicinity of a jail. All this would end up doing is making the property less desirable for commercial and residential development. They same reason it is being moved in the first place from its current location. If the options are the GM Plant or keep it put, I choose the current location. I liked one person's suggestion of moving the jails to the airport site and keeping the rest of the judicial related centers in their current spot or moving them to the GM plant as a compromise.
            • Best Location
              I guess on these boards I am in the minority, but I happen to think that the GM site IS the best choice. This project is slated for only a portion of the entire site, leaving many acres open to additional "riverfront" development and opening up much more expensive and desirable land in the heart of downtown for better (and TAXABLE) uses. Without an effective mass transit solution in place, the airport location is not at all feasible.
            • Better Site Available
              The old airport terminal site (not the NW corner of the airport property) is the best location. Taking 465 to this location is easy, going downtown is difficult. Also, there are no suitors for this site. The GM site has at least 5 great opportunities that would be thrown out if the jail is there.
            • And Why again?
              Couldn't agree more with the "Where's the vision comments". Instead of a vibrant community or corporate campus lets spend $400m on a jail?!?! And one of the biggest things to me is that no one has really explained WHY this whole thing is needed? So local politicians can stroke their own ego's? So we can jail more people in an era where marijuana is being decriminalized? So for-profit prison operators can charge the state more inmate bed-nights that the city will then tax? This whole thing is ugly to me. The facilities in place seem to serve their purpose. Lets put that space and taxpayer money to productive uses.
              • Corn field
                There are plenty of cornfields outside of Indy to put this jail. Make the inmates suffer there. USE this location for something better. This is an absolute joke if this happens. What the hell is the mayor thinking? Did he get this idea from Rob Ford?
                • Wrong direction
                  There is this great site on the White River which would make a great new downtown neighborhood. And then Indy wants to put a jail there? So suddenly this complex is an economic boon while the jails and the bail bond businesses in the immediate downtown area are seen as a hindrance for further development? Like one of the residents put it: Where is the vision? The arguments against the airport are 10% - 15% higher costs at the airport location and a higher IndyGo budget? Really? Because of such weak reasons Indy wants to waste a prime spot for such a complex? I am sure, the main reasons is the opposition from judges and other city workers who would don't want to give up the amenities offered in downtown - like good lunch choices. But the right thing to do here is to use this spot for something desirable; e.g. for a neighborhood including the proposed soccer stadium which could be built to also accommodate large outdoor concerts (like the Klipsch center in Noblesville).

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