Judge: Case not made for airport justice center site

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The judge who has authority over Marion County court facilities is casting doubt on the city’s preferred site for a criminal justice complex at Indianapolis International Airport.

“My position is at this point I think the case has not been made that an airport site is reasonably accessible,” Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg said in an interview.

A 35-acre site along West Washington Street east of Raceway Road emerged as the preferred site among several the city evaluated in a market survey completed in November.  

Representatives of the Ballard administration have said that no site has been officially selected, and Marion Superior judges are scheduled to hear an update on the complex Thursday. The city has selected a short list of three potential developers, and officials have said a location is expected to be announced by April 1.

Rosenberg commended Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and other officials who in December announced plans to build a new complex that would incorporate the Marion County jail, Superior Court criminal division, and prosecutor, public defender, probation and other related functions. A new jail and criminal courts facility is needed, Rosenberg said. He said his sole concern is in regard to accessibility.

Last November, Rosenberg sent a letter to the city’s project coordinator thanking him and Ballard for moving ahead on a long-conceptualized facility, noting, “As a result of your hard work, I am confident that we are closer than ever.”

But the letter, dated Nov. 12, also expressed a need for greater transparency in the site-selection process and encouraged the views of judges and stakeholders be considered: “the proper role of the Judiciary and the Circuit Court in particular needs to be recognized.”

Indiana statute vests the Marion Circuit judge with authority over court location, among other things. “With reference to accessibility, that’s what we need to be right on top of,” Rosenberg said. A 2013 Indiana Supreme Court ruling on the location of Center Township Small Claims Court “makes it abundantly clear,” he said.

Rosenberg noted the opinion rejecting a trustee’s bid to relocate Center Township Small Claims Court from the City-County Building to the Carson Center on Fall Creek Parkway. The Supreme Court ruled in the judge’s favor and kept the court where it was, holding that relocating it would raise a fundamental question of access to justice, and “providing such access is a constitutionally mandated function of Indiana Courts.”

Rosenberg cited that language in the Nov. 12 letter that also put the city on notice: “Where the ‘Judicial Center’ is located is thus an issue on which the Judiciary must satisfy itself that the proposed site would promote rather than impair access to justice.”

He said an airport site would present access challenges for witnesses, poor and minority populations, as well as frequently monitored court users such as the approximately 2,500 people in community corrections. He estimated some transit users could face round-trip commutes of two hours or more if courts moved to the proposed airport site.

“The bottom line is (an airport site) is going to create some hardships,” he said. “I think we have to be more empathetic and we have to think about the people who are going to be using the facility.”


  • Judicial Center/ Concert venue
    judicial center on west end and new concert venue on east end....will bring 100's of thousands to downtown.
  • Re: Indymoon
    Indymoon, I don't think CBRE were counting on people actually reading their sham of an analysis. Its sad that none of our local media (besides the IBJ) is asking the questions necessary on such an important and impactful project.
  • Rosenberg is right
    I was shocked at the lack of detail and analysis in the market survey. http://media.ibj.com/Lawyer/websites/opinions/index.php?pdf=2014/january/Complex.pdf The survey is also inconsistent. For example, the survey says one of airport site's strength is "Accessible by interstate highway and public transit". The site is 3 miles from the interstate and, as others have noted, transit is limited except from downtown. On the other hand, the survey says a weakness of the Coke plant site is "Not very accessible by highway or public transit." That site is less than 2 miles from I-70/65 and on a current bus route. And, given the location closer to downtown, a more frequent service to/from the new downtown transit station could be added at a much cheaper cost.
  • Finally a reasonable voice
    We are spending big bucks to build a Transit Center DOWNTOWN. There are reasons Government including courts are in the center of every town - equitable access, economies of scale long-term, infrastructure present. In any big project like this (several millions of $$$), the purchase price of the property is just a drop in the bucket. Whoever set one of the criteria that the land had to be free or under government control was foolish. Plus CBRE didn't look at ANY other sites than the ones they were told about.
  • gm stamping plant
    1. is over 100 acres, only 1/3 is needed for judicial complex 2. is CENTRALLY located 3. Judicial complex can be located on westernmost portion, preserving the riverview sites for higher use and value projects 4. devote 1/3 of site to Judicial Project, 1/3 of project (river view land) to hotels, apartments, and new retail (e.g. IKEA, Target etc.) and you still have 30 acres for a soccer stadium/music venue facility. WHAT AM I MISSING?
  • GM Stamping plant?
    GM stamping plant? Really? The GM stamping plant location is a unique opportunity to build a brand new downtown neighborhood and attract young families and professionals. Downtown surely does not need this facility with all its problems. Instead it needs desirable development. In my opinion, the airport location is the perfect fit. It can easily be reached with public transportation and it would finally move some of the scary people away from downtown residents and visitors.
    • Racer's Trust
      The best site, hands down, is the former GM Stamping Plant side south of Indianapolis Zoo. The land cost may be higher than a municipally owned site but that is a rounding error when one considers the total project cost of a building constructed to federal standards. Center Township is where the facility belongs and the former GM site contains over 100 acres, is located close to downtown, can/is isolated from residential and is only site near downtown that comes close to meeting the demanding site criteria.
    • Re-develop
      Move it to East Washington, Southeastern to the Pennsey, and to State Ave. Area needs a real shot in the arm an some is already government owned.
    • Good for the Judge!
      I'm glad to hear Judge Rosenberg had the knowledge, experience and guts to speak up! It seems the administration had been secretly heading us down the 'airport' site path all along, without regard to what the rest of us thought or wanted. Ironically the 'airport' site is land 'close' to the airport, out of all our way, and more or less at the Hendricks County line, not a site to serve the citizens well. Hopefully the former Supreme Court ruling will make better site decisions on this much needed development. GM Plant site remains the best suited for such a facility.
    • @Bob
      So true, thanks for the dark humor...
    • an other location
      how about the big gravel lot to the immediate east of the City County Building? It's downtown, it's empty, it has supporting infrastructure. It's on the bus routes. It's close so that if the Prosecutor's office at the local, state or federal level ever do investigate the role of political contributions in the procurement process the perps won't have far to walk...and the TV news cameras won't have to travel far to cover the news.
    • @Indyman
      The problem with the far-westside solution is that not everyone lives downtown. Some people live on the eastside, which means they would have to take a bus from there, transfer downtown, then go out to far-westside. The appeal of a downtown location is that its in the middle of the city, making it equally accessible to everyone.
    • Hardships
      “The bottom line is (an airport site) is going to create some hardships...” Who cares about hardships for your citizens, when there is money to be made for your campaign contributors (CCA). If the location on the Hendricks County line is chosen, I would pray that the U.S. Justice Dept launches an investigation into the corruption in this city.
    • By access we are talking public transportation. How hard is it to have regularly scheduled busses that depart from Downtown and head out there? They could run every 15-30 minutes depending on need. Use of smaller busses if more frequency is needed but lower ridership is present. Other mass transit could go directly there from the north, west and south sides. It sounds like the judges, lawyers and bail bondsmen are more worried about having to move or have satellite offices and being away from their prestigious downtown locations and access to fine restaurants than about what is best for Indianapolis. Other than the GM plant is there room and room for growth for this facility? Using the GM Plant is a bad idea as this is a great location for a new downtown neighborhood with shopping and entertainment venues. The near westside neighborhoods like Haughville and the Central State area need a shot in the arm, not a prison complex.
    • @Urban Dweller
      You must be new to Indianapolis. :-)
      • UPDATE
        Logic always win.

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