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Four local firms vying to redevelop GM stamping plant site

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Four local firms are vying to redevelop the former General Motors metal-stamping plant near downtown, sources with knowledge of the discussions said.

Ambrose Property Group, Buckingham Cos., Keystone Group and REI Investments are the four finalists, sources said.

Details of their proposals for the 102-acre property are sketchy. The developers have signed a confidentiality agreement and are prohibited from discussing their plans.

But a local office broker familiar with one of the proposals said a suburban-type office park in an urban setting is among the plans that made the cut.

“I don’t know if the whole site needs to be that, but certainly that product would be well accepted by the market, especially for large users,” said John Robinson, managing director of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle’s Indianapolis office.

Though the downtown vacancy rate for office space remains high, at about 20 percent, an office park would be attractive because its buildings could offer large floor plates and high ceilings, in addition to free parking, an amenity nearly unheard of downtown, Robinson said.

The Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, which is responsible for selling the site, wouldn't divulge information about the proposals.

“The trust will not announce the identity of the developers selected or anything about their plans until after we have selected one of the four parties to enter into detailed negotiations,” Bruce Rasher, RACER’s redevelopment manager, told IBJ.

Rasher declined to provide a timeframe for when a winner might be chosen but said the process is moving quickly.

Ypsilanti, Mich.-based RACER picked the four finalists from an original pool of 12 developers on a local, regional and national scale that it chose in August to submit bids to redevelop the property.

All four finalists vying to redevelop the site are well known within the local real estate sector.

Ambrose is partnering on several apartment projects with TWG Development LLC, including the redevelopment of the American and Consolidated buildings downtown on North Pennsylvania Street. The company also has developed industrial and retail projects.

Buckingham is developing the $155 million mixed-use CityWay project at Delaware and South streets, and has under contract a 2.4-acre parcel in downtown Zionsville for a project that could help transform the town’s Main Street.

Keystone led a $15 million parking garage and retail deal in Broad Ripple, and developed the $60 million mixed-use Sophia Square in Carmel. Its construction arm is acting as the city’s project manager on City Way.

And REI, along with Merrillville-based White Lodging, put its mark on the city by developing the J.W. Marriott hotel, which helped the city land the 2012 Super Bowl.

RACER took title to the property in March 2011, three months before the plant closed as part of GM’s bankruptcy. It marketed the property—with the building included—for more than two years but was unable to attract a suitable buyer, mostly because of the high cost of renovating the large plant.

Rasher said it became apparent that the real value of the property is in the land and not in the building, which actually was serving as an impediment to redevelopment. RACER is accepting proposals to demolish the 2.1 million-square-foot building.

RACER, meanwhile, is keeping the city informed about the process and plans to consult with leaders before making a decision on redevelopment.

“It would not make any sense for RACER to select a developer without assuring that the city is supportive of the plan,” Rasher said. “And so naturally we’re discussing with the city the various parties’ proposals."

City leaders prefer “something unique” because of the size and high-profile location of the site south of West Washington Street near the White River, said Deron Kintner, the city’s deputy mayor of economic development.

“We want something that will grow the pie for the city, so to speak,” he said.

Mayor Greg Ballard has said the site represents one of the “greatest redevelopment opportunities in the history of the city.”

The criteria RACER is considering in selecting a developer includes the price one is willing to pay for the property, how many jobs the proposal might create, and the reputation of the developer.

The plant opened in 1930 and employed more than 5,000 at its peak.

In 2011, the site was the subject of an Urban Land Institute study that recommended a mixed-use, mixed-income development that could become an extension of downtown. The report also suggested that a bridge across the White River connecting the site with downtown Indianapolis could create a landmark entry point to downtown.

As part of GM’s bankruptcy, RACER is charged with selling 200 properties in 89 locations in 14 states. It so far has completed 30 sales involving 800 acres of land, Rasher said.
 

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  • A recovery of General Motors
    A recovery of General Motors is evident, though, since revenues from GM Europe declined just 2.8% during FY13 after a reported decline of 17.75% in Fiscal Year 2012 http://bit.ly/1qwiEfg
  • re: Jones
    Jones, widgets can always be made faster and cheaper somewhere else. Certainly the overhead of a facility in the downtown of a major metropolitan area would preclude cheaper. That said, there is a demand for locally-produced things. People won't pay twice as much for a locally-produced iPod, but they will for local beers, local foods, local arts. So the answer isn't local widgets. It's local something else.
  • New / Old Direction
    If I was young and smart the last thing I would be looking forward to is spending my days in a cubicle, as part of a team, staring at a screen with the knowledge that once the current Project is operating it'll be shipped off to someone who will do my job for a dollar an hour. There's a glut of Office space and dimishing need for more. The Chinese use to take our trash, recycle it into functioning products and sell it back to us. Now they just repaint it and send it back as Shiny New Trash. If I was young and smart I'd want to produce something. Something with a certain value. Being local I could respond quicker. Being local I would want it to work and retain its value because my disatisfied customers could actually find me. How about repurposing an established manufacturing facility as a functioning manaufacturing facility. Maybe we could get our elected Officials to not be so excited about getting out the Chrome Plated Shovel to dig a new Subsidized Hole. Maybe they would begin to line their Wall of Fame with the latest Locally Produced Widget. And if I were young and not so smart it would be nice to have a job, that paid more than minimum wage producing a Widget that would be around for a while.
  • Free...
    Free office parking with an office vacancy rate downtown of 20%? Sounds like disaster! And... ditto to the other comments.
  • Bread
    Marshall- Try to read between the lines a little bit...there's no conspiracy theory - just trying to spur further thought and conversation. The *process* of how we as a City approach unprecedented development opportunities is something worth talking about. RACER emphasizes the "local community's optimal vision for redevelopment of the property." I would hope our local vision focuses on utilizing the property for something truly world-class. Wouldn't you love to see the City really stretch and do something cutting edge with this redevelopment? I would. Do you think we that expertise is present here in Indy? If so, how do you think we got to the point where the City is only considering proposals from local firms, one of which is a suburban type office park? Not very visionary. Do you think politics had anything to do with that decision making process? I do. When can we see all 12 original proposals?
  • Slow PLease
    Why pick only local ideas. Indy needs some outside HELP!!!!!!
  • Well...
    ... I may not be too high on the idea of a proposed "suburban style office park", but some of you people and your conspiracy theories make for wonderfully entertaining reading! How on Earth, for instance, does the last poster deduce that the discarded proposals were necessarily better? For Pete's sake, stop whining for the sake of whining! It detracts from your argument when you (occasionally) actually HAVE one!
    • Keepin' it
      Geez, RACER got 12 proposals from a "local, regional, and national" pool of developers and has really made the tough choices, whittling down to the four "top" proposals. - with the City's help, of course. It must be exhausting work to justify discarding 8 proposals that are probably better than a "suburban type office park." I'm sure the City had nothing to say (on the record) to the 4 local same-olds about the (almost guaranteed) availability of subsidy for their development. Of course the local developers would propose to pay more up-front when they know the City is footing the bill on the back end. Once again creative and realistic proposals from elsewhere get beat down because of good ol' boy local politics. Why choose an unknown based on merit when you can keep playing the game with your friends? And the taxpayers pay for mediocre - again. World-class my a--.
    • Casino Maybe?
      What a great location for a Casino! Im sure Donald Trump could partner up with The Hoosier Lottery and figure out a way to make something useful of that valuable space.
    • Really
      This is a brownfield redevelopment project, there's going to have to be a lot of work put into this for an suburban office park. I'm not happy with that. I'd like to see Indianapolis do something Fresh for a change, not the same old humdrum stuff.
    • The Big
      Step 1: Propose the lowest and worst use for this prime site. Step 2: Pay "industry experts" to generate a study that shows this is the only way to generate revenue and jobs for the City in "this financing environment." Step 3: Wait for the general public and their elected officials to unanimously agree that "we want something world-class." Step 4: Ask for TIF, tax abatement, CRED, job creation and training $, etc. Step 5: Pocket huge up-front developer fees because you're such a "risk taker."
    • You heard it
      It would be interesting to see what they mean by that, but it is quite worrisome. The greatest potential and asset is the river and its public open space. I sure hope they take this more seriously than a suburban type park...
    • Needs more resources?
      If this property is so valuable (which I think it is or at least will be in 3-5 years), where are the big developers with enough muscle and capital to tackle such a large investment over time?
    • Free
      Plop down some 3 story boxes, pave it, plant some trees. Plop, pave, plant. PPP = piss poor planning.
    • WTH?
      A "suburban type office park"? On a site that even the Mayor refers to as one of the “greatest redevelopment opportunities in the history of the city”? Um, that would be DEFINTE NO!

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