Ex-concrete plant to be razed for Greenwood nature area

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A former concrete plant in Greenwood faces the wrecking ball to make room for a wider road.

The city plans to raze the former Prairie Materials concrete plant so it can turn Worthsville Road into a major boulevard that can handle traffic from a planned Interstate 65 exit. The city plans to replace the plant with a wetlands area and a trail, Mayor Mark Myers said.

Illinois-based Prairie Materials shut down the plant a few years ago, and it's been vacant since then.

Myers said it has become an eyesore. The city hopes that removing it and replacing it with a more scenic nature area that's designed to absorb rainwater will encourage more development along Worthsville Road and improve the appearance of what will become a major entryway into Greenwood. The city already has purchased two properties along Worthsville Road through eminent domain and torn a house down as part of the widening project.

Motorists on U.S. 31 can see the concrete plant at 602 E. Worthsville Road, across from the wooded corporate campus of measurement device manufacturing company Endress+Hauser.

Prairie Materials did not return messages.

Greenwood plans to partner with the Indiana National Guard to demolish the plant this fall, so that utilities can be relocated in time for the Worthsville Road widening in two years. The National Guard wants to salvage what materials it can from the plant and use them to help create realistic training environments at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Jennings County, Camp Atterbury spokeswoman Capt. Jessica Halladay told the Daily Journal.

For example, rubble and concrete highway barriers could be used to simulate the site of a disaster, Halladay said.

Johnson County Development Corp. president and CEO Cheryl Morphew told Camp Atterbury officials about the upcoming demolition, and military officials were interested in using what they could salvage for training.

Greenwood Redevelopment Commission attorney Stephen Watson said the military involvement is expected to save the city money on the project since it won't have pay to remove large slabs of concrete and other materials, but it's not known exactly how much would be saved as this point. Greenwood expects to have to spend between $250,000 and $1.25 million to buy and tear down the former concrete plant.

Greenwood is having the 10-acre property appraised and is just starting to talk to the owners, Watson said.

Buying and tearing down the concrete plant is part of the $20 million overall project to widen Worthsville Road to four lanes with a median.

The project will be paid for with tax dollars from a tax-increment financing district on the east side. The district channels property tax dollars from new development in a particular area to road and other infrastructure projects aimed at luring more businesses.

That money doesn't go to schools, libraries or other local governments for 25 to 30 years, when the districts are dissolved.

Greenwood has planned to use some of that money to widen Worthsville Road for a new interstate interchange since the district was formed in the 1990s, Watson said.

The redevelopment commission, which oversees that money and the project, had discussed for a few years whether to buy and tear down the plant or reroute the road around it. The concern had been over the cost of buying and tearing down the plant, which was expected to be far greater than buying other properties along Worthsville Road.

But consultants determined that it likely would cost just as much to buy more land on the other side of Worthsville Road and reroute the road to curve around the plant, so it wouldn't have to be razed, Watson said.

The redevelopment commission preferred to tear it down because the street will become one of the main ways people will enter Greenwood and the city wants a nice front door, Watson said. New businesses also would be less likely to invest in new buildings next to a concrete plant that some consider blighted, he said.

"It ultimately promotes the redevelopment commission's longstanding goal of making high-quality statements with its projects," Watson said. "Removing an abandoned property and remediating it will relieve the negative impact on that area. It fosters and is in line with the idea of creating an area where economic development will take place."

Another consideration was that Greenwood needed to build a rainwater-collection pond somewhere along Worthsville Road near U.S. 31, since the road widening will mean more runoff that won't be soaked up in the soil and will have to go somewhere, Watson said.

Greenwood had been looking at an undeveloped site east of the Louisville and Indiana Railroad tracks, but that would have been a waste of land that's ripe for new development, Watson said.

The Prairie Materials concrete plant is partly in a flood plain and not ideal for redevelopment, Watson said. A developer would have to pay too much to elevate any new buildings, so it's better to preserve the land east of the railroad tracks for development and use the concrete site for drainage, he said.

Demolition is expected to begin this fall, but there's no timeline yet, community development services director Mark Richards said. The city first needs to buy the property.

The concrete plant is only the latest demolition that's planned in the city this year. Greenwood Village Tower is supposed to come down, and Greenwood has torn out its 55-year-old pool. The city also plans to tear down the Valle Vista water tower to make it easier for pilots to land at the airport.

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