After developer drama, Indy airport still in holding pattern on 128-acre parcel

August 19, 2016

Following two major development proposals that didn’t come to fruition, the Indianapolis International Airport says it’s still working on a plan for redeveloping a 128-acre site near its former terminal building.

The high-profile parcel was part of a larger presentation about land use at Friday’s meeting of the Indianapolis Airport Authority board. An airport official told IBJ there was no definitive timetable for deciding how to proceed with development of the 128 acres.

Joe Heerens, the airport’s general counsel, called the parcel “probably our crown jewel of land” because of its size, its adjacency to I-465 and its access to both the Sam Jones Expressway and West Washington Street.

“In the coming months we will develop our plan for it—and when we do, we’ll share that with you,” Heerens told IBJ.

The airport is trying to redevelop the site as part of a larger land-use plan it’s been working on for nearly two years.

In November 2014, the airport announced plans to sell, lease or develop more than 3,200 acres that it owned but did not need for aviation purposes. The intent: to put the land back on property tax rolls and help drive economic development.

To date, nearly 90 percent of that land either has been repurposed or has deals in the works to do so.

The 128-acre parcel, which served as parking for the airport’s old terminal, is the largest remaining piece of land that the airport has yet to find a new use for, Heerens said.

This is the same piece of land on which developers proposed ambitious and high-profile plans that did not come to pass.

Earlier this year, an Indianapolis-based company called the Athletes Business Network rolled out its plans to build a $500 million global brain health center to treat injured veterans and athletes. ABN was chosen to develop the site by the Indianapolis Airport Authority board in February.

However, the board nixed the project in March following scrutiny from IBJ about the qualifications of its leaders and questions from community leaders about its viability.

Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts had proposed building a $650 million casino and retail complex on the property that would include a hotel, European-style square, conference center, offices and condominiums. The airport authority passed over that proposal in February.

After canceling the proposal from ABN in March, the board said they would start over on the process for finding the land’s best use. Airport officials are actively soliciting public opinion about what to do with the site.

During meetings held in July and August, residents supported the idea of mixed-use office and retail development, Heerens said. Participants also expressed interest in using the land to attract high-paying jobs to the community.

The airport will take these ideas into accounts as it decides what to do with the property, but it has no set timeline for this decision. Before anything can happen with the land, the Federal Aviation Administration must approve any proposed plans.



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