IPS puts Mass Ave bus facility on block

July 31, 2015

Indianapolis Public Schools again is shopping its 11-acre bus-maintenance facility and operations center on Massachusetts Avenue and is expecting to receive a flurry of interest as development opportunities in the popular cultural district dwindle.

Just east of College Avenue, the property includes a former Coca-Cola bottling plant totaling 285,000 square feet and three garage buildings totaling 72,000 square feet.

IPS is seeking requests for qualifications due Aug. 27 before opening the property up for bid. The school system hopes to select a developer by the end of the year, said Abbe Hohmann, president of Site Strategies Advisory LLC, who is consulting IPS on the sale.

“Certainly by size, it’s the largest development opportunity left in the Mass Ave Cultural District,” she said. “As the anchor of the northeast end of Mass Ave, that makes it an interesting redevelopment opportunity.”

IPS has attempted to sell the property before. In 2009, a development team consisting of locally based not-for-profit Riley Area Development Corp. and California-based Panattoni Development Co. pitched a $100 million mixed-use replacement for the operations center and bus maintenance facility. In exchange for control of the land, IPS required them to build a new facility farther from downtown. The complicated deal fell through, in part due to the recession and concern about large-scale real estate projects.

This time, no requirement for another facility exists, which should help spur interest, Hohmann said.

“[IPS] tied the sale of the plant to the bidder building a new IPS bus facility,” she said. “That really was a deterrent in getting a tremendous amount of interest.”

More development has sprung up in the area as well, with additional projects in the works.

South of the IPS property, Milhaus Development LLC plans to build 42 apartment units, 8,000 square feet of retail and 57 parking spaces on what’s now a parking lot at the southeast corner of College Avenue and East St. Clair Street, where Massachusetts Avenue intersects the streets.

Also, a five-story project with about 235 apartments and 40,000 square feet of commercial space is planned for a nearby 1.45-acre site at Mass Ave and New Jersey Street, to be vacated by the fire department's headquarters and credit union.

The Coca-Cola plant opened in 1931 and was later purchased by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman, who moved bottling operations to Speedway. IPS purchased the plant in 1975.

The school district plans to consolidate downtown bus operations with facilities on the east and west sides, in addition to using contractors, Hohmann said.

Selling the Coca-Cola plant property is part of an overall IPS strategy to shed ownership of holdings beyond functional schools.


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