Team vying to redevelop GM plant site releases its plans

March 20, 2014
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One of the five teams vying to redevelop the former General Motors stamping plant site is so upset with the process that it’s released its proposal to Property Lines.
                              city rendering from bridge 225px
Thaddeus Lupton, an architect who operates Beyond Architecture, and Matt Nolley, a local developer, made up one of five groups that turned in redevelopment proposals last year in response to a request from the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, or RACER, a court-created entity that owns the GM property. 

RACER is in charge of cleaning up contamination and finding new uses for dozens of former GM properties in 14 states.

Lupton's group admittedly entered the sweepstakes to develop the 110-acre site a couple weeks after four other teams had already been selected, but he's not happy with a city push to use the site for something totally different.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard last week began lobbying to build a criminal justice complex on part of the property—a use not included in any of the five proposals solicited by RACER. Lupton believes it’s time for the public to see what he and Nolley envision for the site.

Dubbed Motor City, an obvious nod to GM and its Detroit roots, the proposal includes a mix of office and retail space, in addition to a signature hotel and convention space, linked to downtown by a pedestrian bridge over the White River.
motor city
                              overhead 225px
“The position that we’re taking now is that since the mayor has come out and presented an alternative option for the site,” Lupton said, “we kind of felt that the public deserves to see all of the options for the site.”

The offices space marked out in the second rendering for Lucas Oil Products Inc., Eli Lilly and Co. and ExactTarget Inc. is purely speculative, Lupton said.

Also competing to redevelop the property: REI Investments, Ambrose Property Group, Buckingham Cos. and Keystone Group.

REI’s plans for a concert venue on the property and Keystone’s proposal to build a stadium for owner Ersal Ozdemir’s Indy 11 soccer team so far have received much of the attention.

By releasing their plans, Lupton hopes to drum up a little support.

“We really feel like we have a viable solution that deserves a lot more public input,” he said. “It’s a lot more public-friendly scheme.”

Meanwhile, Ballard’s office plans to issue a request for proposals for the criminal-justice complex by March 27.

  • Motor City?
    Dubbing this "Motor City" is not exactly the best idea ever made. If the name is indicative of the the rest of the design, NEXT!
  • News?
    Really? How did this make the IBJ? Bring on the Criminal Justice Complex. A realistic use for a challenged site.
    • Let's See All The Plans!
      I applaud this group for providing their renderings, and I think the public should see all the plans. I'm not completely opposed to the criminal justice complex, but these developers put a lot of work into their proposals, and for the mayor to go off on his own and say he'd like to put the criminal justice complex there now after all the work and research that's been done is appalling. This is a once in a lifetime chance to develop a location close to the city, and for the mayor to believe his opinion and decision is the best one is completely arrogant, and ignorant. Decisions like his are why we're building a $6 million cricket park. Let's see all the plans, and allow for more input on what should go there, rather than the mayor run his own dictatorship and decide whatever he wants is what's best. Lawyers and judges aren't the only people who should choose where the criminal justice complex goes (if it moves). I like the looks of this plan and think we should see all the plans submitted.
      • Sunshine
        Let's see all the proposals - I am sure any one of them is superior to placing a jail and the facilities associated with that on a site with prime downtown views.
      • Plans
        I agree with Pete, all the plans should be made public. Why is everything done so secretly in back room meetings in this city? I do agree with the mayor that the GM site is the best site for the justice complex. However, the site is large enough for multiple uses.
      • Name aside
        Taking away the awful name this is a very interesting project. I would much rather see the whole site used for a project like this instead of the CJC--you have 604 N Sherman and by the way can't we find 35 city owned acres in that business park on Keystone Ave just south of 70. Let's hope that RACER makes a good decision on the project and the CJC gets built somewhere else. This is most likely a last chance in a lifetime to do something major major downtown. I hope one of the proposals ties in the zoo and White River State Park to a Newport on the Levee type project.
        • Keep this conversation going
          Clearly we need more discussion, I am not so sure I'd be infavor of a CJS..
        • Green Space
          I'm not sure why there's a need for so much green space in the design. This is an opportunity to build a high density development near downtown. There's a lot of green space in this area already due to the close proximity the White River State Park and various river walks. It would also be interesting to see what the Mayor proposes for the look/feel of a justice center on this site. There likely could be room to build elements of the justice center and a mixed use development on the site. In addition social programs could be expanded, and work with federal programs, to reduce the need for a large justice center in the first place. There are many innovative ideas out there like social impact bonds. Good case studies in the UK. This site also could provide a good gateway to downtown via a newly expanded city transit system (LRT, streetcar, bus, or other means) to the airport.
        • Wow
          This design is... hideous, maybe? Bring on the justice center! And why is this developer so upset when his project wasn't even one of the four being considered anyway? He does realize that an RFP is not a guarantee of anything, right?
        • Amateur
          I've seen better presentation graphics and designs from high school design competitions. Hopefully the 4 proposals actually being considered included professional designers on their teams.
        • LOVE IT!
          This is the kind of design that looks great. I lived in the neighborhood for 5 years and now am in Fishers. I love the waterfront restaurant and the offices. This is a real corridor to the interstate and makes the real estate around Lucas Oil increase in its value. Let's put the criminal justice center idea somewhere else in midtown. There is an elementary school right by the GM stamping plant. It's not safe for our children.
        • Joke?
          Is this design a joke? They do know this site is in an urban area, not Keystone at the Crossing???
        • Really?
          IBJ is right to bring this to attn of the professionals and public -this site is close to zoo and White River Park, Indians stadium, and should be developed into more attractions to bring everyone into Indy -the RCA plant has been vacant much longer and to me, seems more likely site for criminal justice complex -those folks on East side could use a productive improvement to that area. Bring it up for public opinion/vote, Mr Mayor!
        • No offense, but....
          ...this looks like kids in middle school designed this. I have nothing else kind to say about it. Keep trying.
        • QUESTION for Scott Olson
          I have a question for Scott from the IBJ: Why is this design and proposal even being considered?? I thought the other 4 proposals from the established firms went through a viable RFP process conducted by the RACER trust. I believe there were 10-12 initial responses to the RFP, and the other 4 proposals were selected. Can anybody throw their hat in the ring?
          • thesis project?
            Yes, this looks like a 5th year design school thesis with pie in the sky academic limits....but it's really an exposure and marketing opportunity for the designer & developer to get their name in the paper....and where is the CSX tracks?...did they disappear?
          • Answer to your question
            The RACER Trust invited about a dozen firms to respond to the RFP. That doesn't mean they all submitted a proposal. It may have been just the four. At any rate, the team that submitted its proposal late asked to be considered, and the RACER Trust agreed.
          • Great
            This is great stuff. Maybe not the best possible design yet, but much better than the criminal justice complex. But I see, some of the judges are already here to complain about it. After all, they want their fancy new office to be built in downtown even if it means a missed chance for the city as a whole.
          • Clueless
            was this created in one day while playing a game of sims? i guess they didn't notice the new greenway that was just built along the river? i think i saw this in the movie called robocop or the Wiz.
          • Is this Real Life?
            I can't believe this "rendering" (I hesitate to even call it such), is a realistic expectation of what could be built on the site. There's no sense of a vibrant or walkable community and the building shape and layout is laughable. It honestly looks like something that would be thrown together in an hour work session at a bar, on a laptop, for free (which, to be fair, might actually be what happened). Bring on the other responses to the RFP; if they're all of this suburban, auto-centric quality, then I say we all pitch in and build the jail together.
          • CJC
            Some years ago the idea was floating around City Hall to build a new Courts and Justice building on the surface lot next to the Jail across from the City/County Building. Now a Metro bus station is going there leaving the community scrambling to find a viable location for the courts. What happened?
          • Unreal
            Can't believe how many people are shilling for the jail to be located here - I am sure the residents of the neighborhood around here are just keeping their fingers crossed that they get a massive government facility for criminals instead of a high end development that will attract decent people looking to spend their time and money close to downtown. Is the IBJ checking how many of these commentators have email domain names?
            • Its good that this little design firm got its 5 minutes of fame. Now on to the more serious proposals. If they thought they would build support by having it posted here, shows they have not seen the attacks the amateur architects on here launch on every project put in the paper. Lets see, 40 acres in the northwest corner for a CJC that will be a draw for a lot of businesses and 70 acres for everything else. I think that works out well. Put high dollar apartments, condos and hotel towers along the River. Place 3-6 story mid level housing of different types in the middle and office space along the west and south. There, I did a better design than this firm did. This site has a lot of issues with rail on the northside, cutting through the property and on the westside. Last I looked the west side also backed up to a scrap yard.
            • Different Airport Site
              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.
            • CJC as an economic engine
              Let's not kid ourselves here - the CJC will not be a true economic engine. Fast food restaurants and bail bondsmen are not the kind of businesses we want to attract (I would think). So let's stop talking about that as part of the equation.
            • Brad
              I'm sorry, but to suggest that it would be easier for most people visiting a new judicial center to get to the airport site than to downtown is simply laughable. EVERY public bus in this entire city has at least one stop downtown. And Observer, I'm sure that delightful little neighborhood contributes it's fair share of visitors to our fine jail. No one has rushed to develop anything in that area in recent memory as far as I'm aware. I'd think they'd WELCOME the opportunity for a multi-million dollar development which (in addition to the visitors to a HIGHLY SECURED detention facility that everyone wants to focus on)will also bring jurors, judges, attorneys, members of the general public and related businesses eager to contribute to the immediate economy. All while serving as a connector to the downtown area AND opening up some of the most valuable land in this city to more desirable, TAXABLE uses. Iis entirely possible to accommodate but a new judicial center AND some quality mixed-use on such a large parcel of land.
            • misspelling
              REI wants to build a convert venue? Don't you mean a concert venue?
              • Plans Are Nice, But The Judges Do Choose
                Pete at the end of the day, the judges DO decide if there courts move--judges previously blocked the move of some smaller courts. And, by the way, the judges and lawyers would like to keep the courts downtown, not out by the old GM plant site. Development schemes are nice, but I am sure like just about every other project in Indianapolis, the developers will expect the taxpayers to help foot the bill for what should be private developments. Courts and jails on the other hand are government services that are properly funded by tax dollars. If Indianapolis spent more money on what it should be spending money on---criminal justice system, public schools, roads, sewers, parks, libraries, street cleaning, snow plows, etc., and less on funding private developments, the city would have a better quality of life for all its residents. I am not saying the city should never offer any tax abatements or other incentives, but when nearly every project gets one, they become meaningless and just away to siphon off public funds for private uses. If someone wants to build a new highrise tower or a residential/commercial development near Lilly, or now these proposals for the old GM site, I say fine, let them do it completely on their own dime. Also, building a nice jail/courthouse with open space as a buffer would still leave about 70% or more of the site available for both residential and commercial development and park space. So, it doesn't have to be an either or proposal. Finallly, none of these proposals will be up for a public vote. At the end of the day, the Mayor, the MDC, and the City-County Council will make the final decision as to what gets built. And, also, the RACER trust created from the GM bankruptcy that owns the site will have input as well, though its concern will be primarily getting the most money for it.
              • typo
                Cindy: Thanks for pointing that out. It's been fixed.
              • REALLY??
                Don't you think we are overbuilt already? and with the new market square building going up who is going to pay the rent for all this retail and apartments. The last thing we need are more shopping centers when we can't fill the ones we have. We are going to have a bunch of eyebrow threaders and fast food places. ICK
              • Stop Being Silly
                Observer, the Mayor initially wanted to have the new jail and courthouse out by the airport, and would have pursued those plans if the judges had not shut him down. So, if anyone were "shilling" for the Mayor they would be trying to persuade people to support the original airport site. At the end of the day, the county does need a new jail and more courtroom space that is easily accessible for everyone regardless of where they live in the county (the airport is not), and the current use of high density expensive downtown land for the courthouse and jail doesn't really make the most sense. With the old GM site, you have a huge site that could easily hold an attractive jail and courthouse and a large land buffer and still leave at least 70% of the site available for commerical and residential redevelopment. Being several acres away from a jail with trees and embankments separating you is quite different from being just across the street from it. Also, the new jail could be designed to be aesthetically pleasing.
              • 1/2 mile radius of East & Market
                The real carrot is how this will effect a 1/2 mile radius of East & Market. The west end of GM is the best spot for the new JC to be built and while I can think of many uses that would be better on the site, none of them would free up truly great land in a 1/2 mile radius of East & Market. If we get all the jail stuff out of that area and build a new 28 story tower and a transit center, then it will be the hottest residential sector around.
              • RFP process should be public.
                Few people know that the failed Broad Ripple Garage project actually had four(4) other competitors. Unfortunately the public never saw these designs (proposed for alternate sites) and the City only revealed the one we have today. This should not have happened then and it should not be happening now. Any company going to the time and expense to answer an RFP should at least be given their day in the sun.
              • RFP proposals should be public
                Few people know that there were four(4) additional designs submitted for the Broad Ripple Garage that the City chose to to withhold from the public. Instead of dialogue, we were given a failed project that doesn't solve any of the issues it was supposed to. Here we go again… The City should respect the developers that step forward with their time and effort and give their proposals a day in the sun. We all would benefit by understanding what the options are.
                • Response
                  Zoolander thank you. We responded this way because of the change to the process with the Mayor holding public hearings for the justice complex. We also had no clear response to our requests for explanation as to the process for next steps once the Trust accepted our proposal with the others as viable options for development. There were no timelines or next steps for face to face interviews for all five candidates. We knew the two schemes already public were front runners by their public exposure. With this as the context, we believed it was time to make ALL stakeholders aware of options being proposed for a site that can support a great variety of development.
                  • Perhaps Compromise Would Work Better
                    Tad, I think that is fine to get your plans out there, but I would say a couple of things: (1) A criminal justice-complex would not preclude your proposed development, or any other development on the site. Yes, there would need to be some modifications, but with proper separation, the site could "support a great variety of developments" as you note. The Mayor's proposal does not need to be an alternative proposal, but could be a complementary proposal to a larger development. No criminal justice complex will take up over 100 acres. (2) While public support is important, at the end of the day, this project will not be up for a popular vote. It will be determined by the MDC and the City-County Council. Of course, the RACER trust, too, will also have a decision about who gets to purchase the property. I just think everyone would be better served by all parties coming together and seeing if common ground can be reached rather than each side trying to grandstand and outdo the other.
                  • right on
                    Agreed. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to redevelop a significant portion of downtown and make it a desirable destination and a real city asset.
                  • Transparency Please?
                    Those of you who are saying that a Justice Center would not preclude any development on the remaining land such as condos, commercial etc., are missing the point. As an attendee at the first public hearing on the new Justice Center proposal Tuesday night, it was told point blank from the Mayor's representative that there were no bids that included residential, commercial or housing of any kind. "There just is no market for it." "Of course, he said, we would have loved to have seen this kind of proposal." Obviously, now we know, his statement was completely untrue. Here is what he told us. The Justice Center would take up about 40 acres of the 110 available and a "single venue of some kind" would share parking with the Justice Center. What does that mean? Well a $90 million soccer stadium we pay for; or an outdoor concert hall we pay for. If one of the Mayor's largest contributors gets ownership of this land and then at the opening of the next general assembly says "I really want my soccer stadium now", don't be surprised. Please, beg your representatives for transparency in this process. Make your voice heard. No city in the U.S. has over 100 acres next to a waterway ready to develop. We can revitalize this important section of downtown and make it a part of a new landscape that generations of Hoosiers will enjoy and love!
                    • Develop it all
                      A few points: everyone complains about the current jail location, I think it will do quite well on the GM site; what about all of the great land east of the river for commercial development, some great things could be done as evidenced by this project,; lastly the 'design' and 'presentation' of the proposal above is an absolute disaster.
                    • Thinking Realistic
                      These renderings just don't make any sense. What happens with the railroad tracks that are there? Do they plan on them being relocated? Also, does anybody really think that a signature hotel would work in that neighborhood? There would have to be some serious revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood to make anything work at this site. I understand the frustration from the developers, but the criminal justice system seems to make the most sense to me.
                    • Applauding the Efforts
                      I certainly applaud Matt and Tad for thinking outside of the box for the site. It's a breath of fresh air to see something that does not include another residential component on an already crowded downtown Indy (Remember Detroit in the 1970s with their residential boom followed by a tremendous crash? Get ready Indy). As a Millennial, this is the type of forward thinking I am hopeful our city officials will begin consider strongly in an on-going effort to attract young talent to our city. This plan promotes the "liveability" aspect of our city by blending community-friendly space with an expanding corporate environment (Silicon Valley-esque). I truly love the idea of including baseball and soccer/cricket/football facilities as amenities to the community. If Indy is serious about the population boom it is currently building for, these are amenities residents will expect instead of having to travel to other areas of the city to participate in these types of activity. All in all this is an effort worth applauding. The name of the proposed project was definitely a miss but this is forward thinking at its finest and should appeal to the majority of future leaders of the city. "Here's to the crazy ones..."
                    • Beyond Ridiculous
                      Beyond Architecture should change their name to Beyond Ridiculous, because that's what this rendering is.
                    • People Seem To Be Talking Over Each Other
                      Resident, I don't think anyone has posted anything saying they are against transparency in the development process. And, I agree the Ballard administration is not always the most transparent administration, but a few things to consider: (1) Where the courts are located is a decision that is made by the judges, period. Neither the Mayor, the City-County Council, nor anyone else has any authority to tell the judges where their courts will be located, period. The judges have made this very clear. They would prefer not to leave downtown, but if they are to agree to moving, they will only move to a site that suits their preferences and needs, not anyone elses. There is no room for debate on this issue since they have sole authority over the courts. (2) The proposals I have read for the criminal justice center have said it would likely take closer to 30 acres. That still leaves a little over 70% of the site to be developed in anyway. Yes, again, I support transparency, but this again, a criminal justice complex would in no way prevent the majority of the site from being developed into residential/commercial areas and park. As for the soccer stadium, I think that is a separate issue (and I see no real need for the city or state to help fund it). 3. You say you were apparently mislead about whether there is a market for residential or commercial development there, but a proposal does not a market make. Question: Has Beyond Architecture or any of the other developers submitting a proposal fessed up as to whether they plan to seek tax abatements and subsidies to finance their projects? Apparently, there was not even a market for a luxury highrise tower downtown on the old MSA site without a $23 MILLION subsidy (coming out of the taxpayers' pockets) from the city. So, does Beyond Architecture and/or the other developers plan to hit up the taxpayers to subsidize the "market" for residential and commerical development in the area?
                    • Sketchup Garbage
                      Amateur hour
                    • Correcting Adam
                      There was no 1970s residential boom and bust in Detroit. The Detroit riots occurred in 1967 and and there was no boom in people moving down there after that. Detroit's population was 1.5 million in 1970 and 1.2 in 1980. What do you have to gain by making that up?
                    • Cartoon Architecture
                      Tad is actually a relatively decent architect and knows better than this. It would not surprise me at all if this laughable abomination came out of his introductory-level design studio at Ball State, evidenced in part by the circular road dying into the low-rise component. This cartoon is truly what gives the local architectural scene a bad name.
                    • ExactTarget HQ
                      Love the reference to ExactTarget Corporate Headquarters!
                    • Desk Crits
                      Student work. Centered around a giant phallus. The IBJ should be more discerning it what it publishes.

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