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Plan for downtown concert venue on old GM plant site called off

June 21, 2016

Redevelopment of the former General Motors stamping plant site in downtown Indianapolis is getting a reset.

REI Investments, the Carmel-based developer who had been under contract to redevelop about half of the site into a concert venue, has mutually agreed with owner RACER Trust to "terminate" its contract—opening up a chance for new proposals on the entire, 102-acre property.

Detroit-based RACER, or Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response, was the entity set up to handle the redevelopment of old General Motors Corp. properties following its bankruptcy proceedings. It took title to the Indianapolis plant in 2011.

RACER spokesman Bill Callen told IBJ on Tuesday "the lack of funding was determinative” in the decision to end the contract.

RACER Trust’s redevelopment manager, Bruce Rasher, released a statement saying he was disappointed that the group was unable to “consummate this sale” to REI Investments.

REI did not immediately respond to IBJ’s request for comment.

“However, Indianapolis is a thriving city with amenities that are second to none, and the size, location and access to our property make it uniquely positioned to attract the type of transformative development that can benefit the community and state for generations to come,” Rasher said in the statement.

RACER last week put pressure on REI to finish securing financing for the planned $30 million, 10,000-seat concert amphitheater concert venue project, which was first announced about two years ago. Rasher said at a City-County Council meeting that REI’s opportunity was “rapidly coming to an end."

The concert proposal also included additional parking for the Indianapolis Zoo.

Mayor Joe Hogsett said in the same press release that the property “presents an almost unlimited range of possibilities” and that he wanted to engage the community to rethink the site.

“It is rare that a city gets the opportunity to re-imagine and participate in the transformation of such a large property so close to its downtown core and central business district,” Hogsett said in the statement.

Republican City Councilman Jeff Miller, who, along with near-West side neighborhood advocates, was against REI’s concert proposal, said Tuesday morning that he was “so, so happy” about the termination of the contract. He thanked Hogsett for his input.

“I’m ecstatic,” Miller said. “We need to do what’s healthy for the neighborhood. They want something that is mixed use, with some retail to draw folks in, amenities, and housing, something nice looking off the river. Turn that into a beautiful area. This could not have happened without the mayor."

Miller said the site has never been fully imagined by the community. Former Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, wanted to use half of the property to build a $500 million criminal justice center, but the plan was shot down by the Democratic-controlled council during the last year of his administration.

“It’s never been about what people would like to see there,” Miller said. "That will be monumental even on its own.”

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