Transit center proposal hits a bump in the road: Tenant claims to be happy at proposed location, landowner not yet part of talks

In late June, IndyGo announced plans to build a massive transit center on a 14-acre parcel in downtown Indianapolis where bus and future rapid transit lines would cross and people could park their cars and wait in comfort for transfers.

But the U.S. Postal Service, which leases facilities there, might not be interested in moving. And the landlord the main post office rents from said he hasn’t been contacted and is irked the city is eyeing his property.

“Frankly, I think it’s very irritating that the city is doing things and I don’t even know what they’re doing,” said Gian Süd, who runs a Mercedes dealership in Normal, Ill. Süd’s family owns the land and building through Süd Family Limited Partnership LLC.

Süd said he heard about the transit hub proposal via news reports and hasn’t heard from anyone with the city.

“I think our laws are pretty clear that the owner of the property has a right to be consulted,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the city has expressed interest in the site. In 2005, it tried to acquire the land to clear the area around the new Lucas Oil stadium for development.

Süd said he might consider a sale if the USPS is taken care of and if the price is right. The USPS’ lease runs through 2011.

“I’m not anxious to sell and turn my back on [the USPS],” he said. “I’ll work every which way to maintain this relationship.”

Justin Ohlemiller, a spokesman for Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, said the city is “talking to the appropriate parties.” When asked why the city hasn’t talked to the owner yet, Ohlemiller said it’s still early, noting that the process to build a transit hub is lengthy due to federal grant requirements.

For years, there have been rumors that the post office may move its mail-sorting operations from downtown to a site near the airport. The transit hub proposal revived them, and sources said city officials have made calls to check rent rates at locations near the airport. But the USPS might not play ball.

Al Eakle, USPS communications programs specialist for the greater Indiana District, e-mailed the following statement in response to questions from IBJ.

“We have been approached by the city, however no proposals were put forth nor offers made,” the statement reads. “We advised the city we have a multi-decade lease at a good price. The Postal Service facilities on South Street meet our needs for many years and there are no plans to relocate these facilities.”

IndyGo wants to tap into $30 million in federal grants to build the downtown transit center, and a little less than a fourth of the grant money must be designated for the project by this fall or it will be forfeited, according to IndyGo Director of Business Development Michael Terry.

IndyGo officials said the post office location is ideal for linking the bus system with other transit systems being studied. Three other sites that were studied became unavailable.

One site it reviewed will be under the Lucas Oil Stadium and the two other studied parcels are on ground directly between the stadium and proposed convention center expansion.

IndyGo wants to eventually set up two additional, smaller transit centers, and its study pinpointed the preferred locations for those as well.

For northwest downtown, IndyGo picked a triangular, half-block parcel bordered by Vermont Street, Indiana Avenue and Capitol Avenue as the best location. The state owns a large portion of that block and is soliciting interest from potential buyers.

The preferred location for an eastern site would be on Virginia Avenue between Washington and Maryland streets. Terry said the groundwork for acquiring space at those locations has not begun.

According to Süd, developers have contacted him through the years with offers to buy his 14-acre site for development.

“I always told them that I intend to maintain my relationship with the U.S. Postal Service,” he said.

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