Feds pitch in to help Citizens with plan to redevelop coke plant

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The federal government will help Citizens Energy Group come up with a plan to redevelop a long-vacant coke manufacturing plant on Indianapolis’ southeast side.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded Citizens a $375,000 grant to help it “develop a comprehensive strategy” for the future of the site. The utility will match the funds for the year-long study.

The plant, which produced coke, a solid carbon material that used to be used as fuel, closed in 2007. Citizens is in the final stages of demolishing it, and is working on an environmental remediation strategy.

Jeffrey Harrison, president and CEO of Citizens, said the company was looking forward to working collaboratively with the city and community groups to “craft a sound redevelopment strategy for the site.”

The grant “is an important step toward developing our strategy to bring together community partners to redevelop the coke plant site for uses that produce good-paying jobs and improved quality of life on the southeast side,” Harrison said.

On the project, Citizens is working with the Local Initiatives Support Corp., the Indiana Public Policy Institute, Central Indiana Community Foundation, Reconnecting to our Waterways, the John Boner Center, Southeast Neighborhood Development, Southeast Community Services and the Twin Aire Coalition.

Mayor Joe Hogsett called the grant announcement “a victory for Indianapolis neighborhoods.”

“Indianapolis will have the chance to develop a transformational vision for the southeast side of the city,” Hogsett said in a written statement. “This sort of collaborative approach ensures true community involvement and, ultimately, better economic and redevelopment opportunities for these residents.”

The plant had been a longtime fixture in Indianapolis before it closed, eliminating 300 jobs. It opened in 1909 and “once produced all of the gas used for heating and other purposes in Marion County,” according to Citizens.

But IBJ reported in 2007 that the plant had been “hammered by foreign competition, declines in heavy industry and rising environmental costs.”

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