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City picks southeast-side Citizens plant for criminal justice center

January 30, 2017

The city has chosen the site of the former Citizens Energy coke plant on the southeast side as the location for a new criminal justice center and jail that is expected to cost as much as $600 million.

City officials are set for a 10 a.m. Tuesday announcement at the site at 2900 Prospect St., which they selected from 11 locations that had been under consideration by the Ballard administration as well.

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

The city plans to use the site for a new criminal justice campus, according to a source briefed on the plan, that will include a 2,600- to 3,000-bed jail; an assessment and intervention center focusing on mental health and substance abuse treatment needs; and acute health care and mental health units. A consolidated civil/criminal courthouse is also a possibility, although the mayor wants judges to weigh in on whether to move their courts to the new location.

The center would replace criminal justice functions now scattered throughout downtown. Last fall, the mayor’s office said it planned to have a cost estimate for the proposed new jail completed by Feb. 28 and a finance and construction plan by March 31.

The plan needs City-County Council approval.

The Coke plant had been a longtime fixture in Indianapolis before it closed in 2007, 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.”

In November, the U.S. Economic Development Administration had awarded Citizens a $375,000 grant to help it “develop a comprehensive strategy” for the future of the site. The utility plans to use the grant and a matching amount to "create a development plan for perimeter parcels near the coke plant site," it said. "The EDA funds will not be used for the justice center planning.

Other sites under consideration for the criminal justice center were:

— the site of the former RCA plant east of downtown;

— 35 acres at Indianapolis International Airport, near West Washington Street east of Raceway Road;

— Lafayette Square Mall north of West 38th Street on Lafayette Road, along with a strip mall site south of Lafayette Square Mall at 3749 Commercial Drive;

— City-owned South Grove Golf Course at 1800 W. 18th St.;

— The former Indiana Women’s Prison at East New York and Randolph streets;

— Various commercial properties at Interstate 465 and Pendleton Pike;

— The former Eastgate Mall site at 401 N. Shadeland Drive;

— 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.

The sites were first identified by Hogsett’s predecessor, Mayor Greg Ballard, who also proposed building a criminal justice center but on the former General Motors stamping-plant site south of the Indianapolis Zoo.

That plan failed to pass the Democrat-controlled City-County Council due to concerns over its cost and public-private financing model.

Hogsett removed the stamping plant site from consideration because city officials hope to attract some sort of mixed-use development to the location that will connect it and the surrounding Valley neighborhood to downtown.

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