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Speedway's plan for roundabout hits snag over billboard

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The town of Speedway’s massive redevelopment project has hit a bump in the road over its effort to build a roundabout at a high-profile intersection near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

As part of its 16th Street reconstruction project, the town wants to build a roundabout where the street intersects with Georgetown and Crawfordsville roads near the main entrance of the track.

But a billboard near the intersection, at 16th and Main streets, has landed its owner, San Antonio-based Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., and the Speedway Redevelopment Commission in court.

The commission filed suit on Feb. 21 against the company in Marion Superior Court and is threatening eminent domain if Clear Channel doesn’t give up its lease to the billboard.

Speedway already has purchased the quarter-acre sliver on which the billboard stands from owner Carl Culmann. But the town needs to acquire Clear Channel’s “leasehold interest” in the parcel and remove the billboard to begin work on the roundabout, according to the lawsuit.

Clear Channel rejected the commission’s offer of $165,000 and hasn’t countered with an alternative, said Scott Harris, executive director of the commission.

“We followed all of the federal and state guidelines, which require that we do appraisals and tend an offer and give them 30 days to either accept it or reject it,” he said.

Brett Beshore, Clear Channel’s Indianapolis division president, declined to comment on the lawsuit. The company's corporate headquarters said via e-mail Monday morning that it would be "premature for us to comment on the lawsuit until we have the opportunity to fully review the filing."

The billboard in dispute is behind a vacant house on the parcel of property. Harris said the town plans to tear down the home to build the roundabout. Other road improvements near the intersection include new curbs, gutters and sidewalks, as well as road widenings.

The 16th Street reconstruction project is part of an overall $500 million redevelopment project town leaders hope will transform Speedway into a year-round racing-themed destination.

Speedway officials broke ground in November 2009 on the first phase, which involved $6.7 million in road improvements to Main Street, laying the foundation for redevelopment.

The ambitious project includes more than 350 acres from Main Street to Holt Road and from 16th to 10th streets, just south of IMS.

In all, 2.5 million square feet of new development could be constructed, which could return a 10-year economic impact of up to $5.2 billion and more than 2,000 jobs, Speedway officials say.

Harris of the commission said the dispute with Clear Channel shouldn’t delay the building of the roundabout because an exact timetable has not been set.

Court documents show Clear Channel signed a long-term lease with Culmann in April 2011 in which annual rent of $7,000 is set to increase in stages, ultimately rising to more than $11,200 in 2036.

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  • NotaSpeedwayfan
    First, the SRC is NOT elected. It is appointed and the whole gang in the town is related to each other or business partners.
    There's 4 billboards there (has been for eons), so the cost is likely higher to replace all 4 faces (tho they now do double/double billboards and load them up). What about the pittance they offered to the other 16th St. properties that don't want to sell (not holding out for more money, just want to be part of the new development as long time business owners)? There's another billboard on one site (with three rotating signs that switch, using only the space of one sign). That sign is the owner's retirement security as she's an older, widow in ill health.
  • Misconceptions
    Speedway is not a ghetto. Its a small town with big plans. Look at the vision and the improvements so far. Very aggressive and very good.
    Clear Channel signed a multi year lease with full knowledge that it's billboard was going to have to come down. They can't cry foul - it was public knowledge since at least 2008. There tactic seems to be to get enrichment on tax dollars. that's shameful. They should relocate and accept only enough money to cover the cost of moving.
  • LOL
    If all of this redevelopment works out like it has in Carmel, Speedway should be bankrupt in no time.
    • It's About Proving Fair Market Value
      MC, it's not about an "insult," rather it is about the fact the town only has an obligation to pay what can be proven as the fair market value of the leasehold discounted to the present value. If a billboard behind a vacant house in a worn-out area of Speedway has a present value of $1.65 million, I would be very surprised, but if Clear Channel can present sufficient evidence of its value, then it should do it.

      More likely, the company is simply trying to negotiate to get the most they can for the lease, and I do not blame them, but I also do not feel sorry for them, nor do I think they have been "insulted."

      The leased space will be taken, and it is simply an issue of a price being settled on--and I doubt it will be anywhere near $1.65 million.

    • LOL
      Wait, wait, wait.... SO the development committee didn't catch or address the fact that Carl Culmann signed a 25 year lease with Clear Channel just before he sold the property?. Sounds like Clear Channel AND Carl pulled one over on the committee hired to save Speedway.
    • the only person that's nuts
      here is the one suggesting to pay $1.65M for a loss of future income on a billboard. Take a calculator, make some profit assumption based on their projected rent expenses, and you will see that Speedway's number is much closer to the present value of this investment.

      I am tired of people complaining about the elected folks that represent the taxpayers, especially when they are totally off base.
    • Where's My Rights
      Just another example of the government trying to take what they want for their price and the hell with your rights. Northeast justice here in Indiana. Its their one bite at your rights and soon the apple is gone!!!
    • JoeP Are you Nuts
      I dont consider a roundabout redevelopment of a low income area. Unless a race is happening the area is a ghetto magnet anyways and will never change. Speedway has made sure of that by their exhorbant cost to do business.
    • future income
      As far as compensating for future loss of income...it is not like they had a lease for 40 years (got it less than a year ago) or it is large portion of their total revenue. How about building some goodwill with the community? Maybe then they get rewarded down the road. This way I hope Speedway is successful with eminent domain.
    • ?
      And how did you calculate $1.65M? CC would still make a nice profit if they accepted their offer. So far they paid roughly $7,000 in rent and whatever it cost them to put the billboard up (at least that's what I'm getting from reading this article). Obviously they are not going to continue paying rent if the billboard is taken down and lease was terminated.

      It is really interesting that someone would side so easily with a private entity concerned only with their bottom line vs. taxpayers trying to bring development to a low income area.
      • Agreed
        Speedway needs to hit reset on their calculators. Who figured the value of that lease at $165k? Maybe the same person who set the construction calendar. I love the part.... "this shouldn't delay our construction time-line, because there is none", makes sense.
      • Add a ZERO Speedway !
        165K is an insult! Add a zero and make the offer 1.65 or give Clear Channel a variance to move the board and 100k, and save 1.45M...

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