Marion Superior Court judges on Monday heard an update on a proposed criminal justice complex, and one asked if “we can put to rest” speculation that the county's courts and jail would move to a site at Indianapolis International Airport.
“As far as location, no decision has been made,” David Rosenberg, director of enterprise development for the city, responded during a general term meeting of the judges at the City-County Building.
But the airport site emerged as the recommended site in a market survey of 14 potential sites conducted for the city by the real estate services firm CBRE.
“Given criteria outlined previously and the site specific pros and cons, and pursuant to a scoring matrix — it is CBRE’s recommendation that the Indianapolis International Airport be identified as the preferred site for the Criminal Justice Complex,” the survey says.
The site identified is 35 acres on the airport fringe near West Washington Street, east of Raceway Road. CBRE said the site’s strengths include current control by a municipal corporation, immediate availability and room for future expansion.
Its location far from the city center is the chief weakness listed, and the survey notes the development could require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
CBRE also evaluated these other sites as a potential location for the Criminal Justice Complex, listing pros and cons for each:
— Lafayette Square Mall north of West 38th Street on Lafayette Road
— A strip mall site south of Lafayette Square Mall at 3749 Commercial Dr.
— City-owned South Grove Golf Course at 1800 W. 18th St.
— The former Indiana Women’s Prison, now a re-entry educational facility, at East New York and Randolph streets
— The former RCA/Thomson Consumer Electronics site at 604 N. Sherman Dr.
— The Citizen’s Coke Plant at 2900 Prospect St.
— Various commercial properties at Interstate 465 and Pendleton Pike
— The former Eastgate Mall site at 401 N. Shadeland Dr.
— The former Ford Visteon plant at 6900 English Ave.
— 60 acres near the Marion County Fairgrounds at the northeast corner of Southeastern Avenue and Five Points Road
— 153 acres north of Southeastern Avenue, east of Arlington Avenue
— 43 acres near Kentucky Avenue and Camby Road
— The former General Motors metal-stamping plant, 340 S. White River Parkway W. Dr.
The CBRE study said it would provide a “backup” preferred site if the city requested. CBRE noted the survey was preliminary and no property owners had been contacted as part of its analysis.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, Marion County Sheriff John Layton and other city and county officials announced they would take proposals for a criminal justice complex in December. The initial responses to requests for qualifications from potential developers are due Feb. 11, and Rosenberg told judges the city expected “solid teams from all over the world” to reply.
But some attorneys who practice in the criminal courts aren’t sold on an airport site or any site away from downtown.
A lawyer who attended a recent presentation to the Indianapolis Bar Association said most preferred the stamping plant location as a site for a Criminal Justice Complex.
The former GM stamping plant site is the second-highest rated by CBRE.
CBRE graded each site on a scale of 1 to 10 for size, location, use, access, speed to development, limitations and impact. The site near the Marion County Fairgrounds ranked third, closely followed by the South Grove Golf Course site and the other site near the fairgrounds along Southeastern Avenue. The former Indiana Women’s Prison site rated lowest.
Marion Superior Executive Committee Chairman Judge David Certo said judges want to understand the needs of the practicing bar, but also said the IndyBar for years has been calling for development of a criminal justice complex.
“There are always trade-offs,” Certo said. “Nobody has offered White River State Park” as a potential site.
The complex is meant to consolidate Marion County Jail facilities, criminal courts, prosecutor, public defender, probation and other court-affiliate public offices that currently are spread around downtown Indianapolis into a central location.
It’s unclear how much a proposed complex could cost, but officials have said the reduction in duplication of services and the efficiencies that would be gained would allow for construction of the site without a tax increase.
The request for qualifications sets out parameters for the complex, calling for total construction of facilities covering 1.4 million square feet, or roughly the size of seven to eight typical Walmart Supercenters.
A timeline for the project calls for the City-County Council to receive a proposal from the selected developer in September with a groundbreaking early next year and an opening in late 2018.
“The process appears to be moving quickly,” Certo said.