REI Investments agrees to buy site of former GM stamping plant

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REI Investment Inc.’s plan to build a $40 million outdoor concert venue on a piece of the former General Motors Stamping Plant property west of downtown has cleared a major hurdle.

The group charged with selling the land announced Monday morning that it has reached an agreement with the local developer to purchase the entire 102-acre property for an undisclosed amount.

REI long has been presumed the favorite to redevelop the property, which the city also has identified to build a criminal justice center.

In July, IBJ reported that REI’s plan to build the 15,000-seat concert venue at the site had been chosen by the Michigan-based Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response, or RACER Trust.

“That’s such a choice piece of property that an outdoor venue of some type would be a good use for the community,” REI President Mike Wells told IBJ Monday morning. “If we can’t make that work, we’ll look at other alternatives that might work.”

RACER announced last summer that it would market the property for redevelopment and invited firms to submit proposals. Other local developers vying to redevelop the land were Ambrose Property Group, Buckingham Cos. and Keystone Group.

Plans from Ambrose and Buckingham primarily were mixed-use developments with office, residential and retail components, while the proposal from Keystone contained plans for a soccer stadium where the fledgling Indy Eleven soccer team could play.

“I think the fact that we were leaning toward a public use, such as an outdoor venue, probably got more favorable consideration,” Wells said. “A lot of housing is being built downtown, and in terms of office and retail, the site’s a little isolated to make that work.”

It’s unclear what the plans would mean for nearby White River State Park, whose development commission is exploring $10 million in construction improvements to the Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park, which has hosted concerts since 2004.

But Wells said he wants to work with the park once REI can discuss its actual plans for the site.

REI has a long track record of developing projects downtown. It developed the JW Marriott-anchored hotel campus on the west side of the Mile Square with Merrillville-based White Lodging, a project that helped the city land the 2012 Super Bowl.

REI’s plans to redevelop the stamping plant property still need approval from the city, said Bruce Rasher, RACER’s redevelopment manager. RACER likely won’t close on the deal with REI until the middle of next year. It can't finalize the deal until REI reaches an agreement to sell the remaining portion of the property to the city for its criminal justice center.

RACER is under a confidentiality agreement and won’t disclose terms with REI until the sale is final.

Three development teams have been asked to design plans that include 34 criminal court/hearing rooms and offices for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Probation Department.

The property, at 340 S. White River Parkway,  is near Lucas Oil Stadium, Rasher noted, and it has more than a quarter mile of White River frontage.

The 2.1-million-square-foot stamping plant, which is being demolished, opened in 1930 and employed more than 5,000 at its peak. That number was fewer than 700 when it closed two years ago.

RACER was created on March 31, 2011, out of a bankruptcy court settlement with the 14 states where GM closed plants. The trust was charged with marketing 89 properties totaling more than 7,000 acres.


  • Proximity
    I love the thought of the "music center" being on essentially the same property as the justice center. That could mean a great cost savings to the city in transportation alone ! The Marion County Sheriff's jail vans would only need to go a few yards to deposit the rowdy ie:drunk concert patrons.
  • Design
    I agree that with the river and the skyline, not to mention the fact the venue will be downtown should make the architecture a top priority. Really, it all comes down to the design of the stage, elevation, landscape, and angle of the facility. I would like to see the stage facing downtown, some sort of river walk or plaza, and a stage similar to the Hollywood Bowl with brick walls with Ivy. It could be line Wrigley, but for concerts.
  • Opportunity
    I really hope that they look to build a significant music center and not just one made of aluminum and generic architecture. This could he something that could last for generations. Go for a Hollywood Bowl type venue and not just another Deer Creek downtown.
  • land purchase
    PJ: My understanding in speaking with the RACER representative is that the city would purchase the remaining land from REI.
  • RE: Scott
    Scott, but if REI is purchasing the whole property, how/what is the deal for the criminal justice facility on that parcel? Is the city going to do a land lease agreement or will they purchase what they need back from REI? Sounds like taxpayers are likely going to be stuck with a large yearly lease or a newly created premium price for the real estate.
  • answer to your question
    Ben: REI is not developing the criminal justice center for the city. It's still set to be built, but the city has asked three development teams to design plans from which to choose.
  • Double Bailout?
    Maybe some enterprising reporter will discover if the city, or should I say taxpayers, would be responsible for very expensive environmental clean up in this deal instead of the Racer Trust which is a holding company for all the bad real estate GM dumped after getting a multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailout which included a promise they would clean up these environmental disasters.
  • Criminal Justice Center...
    Maybe I missed this in the article, but does this sale include REI (or whomever) building the proposed Criminal Justice Center/Jail too? Or the more direct question would be are they still going to build a Justice Center/Jail on this property?
  • great news
    moving this forward to a new private owner is good! REI can control it through the process without partisan bickering during an election year, at least on their portion. I'm sure clean up will occur and can only guess the word being used the last few months is amphitheater, which in the US generally means outdoors.
  • Tesla....
    Get Tesla in there! THAT would make sense.
  • Pretty Contaminated
    The site will require extensive petroleum and solvent cleanup that GM never got around to. Hope it's an open air concert venue.

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