City lands grant to study reuse of old automotive sites

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The city of Indianapolis plans an in-depth analysis of four former automotive manufacturing sites, some of which have already languished for years without significant redevelopment.

The work will be possible after the city landed a $157,392 grant from the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the city's Department of Metropolitan Development announced Wednesday.

The four sites are the closed General Motors stamping plant near downtown; Chrysler’s former west-side foundry, which is already demolished; a Ford/Visteon assembly plant on the east side; and Navistar’s foundry, also on the east side.

The four sites represent 389 acres of industrial land with nearly 5 million square feet of buildings and 6,051 jobs lost since 2000, city planner Dave DeMarzio said. So Indianapolis had a strong case to make for the federal grant when Mayor Greg Ballard visited with federal administrators in Chicago earlier this year.

Develop Indy, the economic development arm of the Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, will provide $100,000 in matching funds, and the city will contribute $57,392 in staff time over the next 18 months.

The analysis will look at how the sites could be positioned to fit current demand for industrial property, DeMarzio said. “Some of these sites have been looked at internally by the division of planning,” he said. “This is to bring some real estate expertise.”

The study will also include cost estimates for demolition and cleaning up environmental contamination, DeMarzio said.

GM’s former stamping plant, which closed in June 2011, has already been the subject of a visioning study led by former Mayor Bill Hudnut and the Urban Land Institute, which recommended creating an urban village on the prime real estate overlooking the White River.

As recently as August, the trust that manages GM brownfields across the country reported strong interest from developers, two of which were still trying to determine whether a mixed-use plan would be profitable.

Ford's steering assembly plant has been in wind-down mode for several years but was scheduled to finally close April 30. In the weeks before that date, local businessman Alex Carroll was talking up the idea of creating an indoor farm in the plant, but he said his plan was “very theoretical.”

Navistar International’s Pure Power Technology division occupies a small portion of the foundry on Brookville Road, but most of the large site remains vacant since production on diesel engines stopped in late 2010. 

Chrysler's old foundry was razed in 2006, but the property has lingered on the market.

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