IPS eyes Broad Ripple High School for redevelopment opportunities

Broad Ripple could be well positioned if the former high school there undergoes redevelopment, according to a new market analysis released Tuesday by Indianapolis Public Schools.

A sale and rehabilitation of Broad Ripple High School, which closed at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, could come in the form of an elaborate mixed-use development that includes housing, office space and retail space.

An IPS-commissioned study by Chicago-based SB Friedman Development Advisors found the Broad Ripple sub-market could absorb extensive development at the 16-acre site, with the group laying out the amount of development in each category that could be absorbed.

The school district presented SB Friedman’s findings to a gathering of more than 250 people at the Indianapolis Arts Center on Tuesday night, as part of an initial step toward marketing the property for sale.

The findings include a buffet of options that range from single-family housing to tens of thousands of square feet of office and retail space, though developers would likely have to pick-and-choose which parts would be best-suited to reshape the site:

—80,000 square feet of office space, with moderate potential for absorption in the market

—30,000 square feet of retail space, high potential

—450 to 750 multi-family rental units, high potential

—35 to 70 condominiums, moderate potential 

—175 to 210 town homes or single-family houses, high potential

Joe Gramelspacher, director of special projects for IPS, said alumni and members of the community have expressed interest in a continued scholastic use at the high school site, but seemed receptive to other uses for the property.

“There's a supportable market demand for, all five different classes of development that SB Friedman analyzed,” he said.

Gramelspacher said “a scholastic use could be one of many on the site,” potentially combining it with other elements to give Broad Ripple its most significant mixed-use development “in quite some time.”

He confirmed a proposal made by Indy Eleven team owner Ersal Ozdemir to buy the high school site for a mixed-use development—including a 20,000-seat soccer stadium—was not considered as part of the study, which began before the letter was sent to IPS in November.

“That letter didn’t exist when we commissioned the study,” Gramelspacher said. “They were looking specifically at those five product categories. By no means does that preclude a developer coming forward through a bid sale process and saying, ‘Hey, we want to build a soccer stadium.’

"But they did not look specifically at whether a soccer stadium is a viable economic development on the site.”

While he said district administrators hope to move quickly on issuing a request for information for the potential sale of the property to prospective developers—the first step before a school property can be sold for private redevelopment—that won’t happen until at least the April meeting of the school board.

It also comes as the district advocates for an amendment to a state law that currently requires the district to sell a property it’s not using to any interested charter school for $1. The district has long fought this law, and has been involved with shepherding bills through the state legislature in recent sessions—including the current session—that would bring some changes to those requirements.

With Broad Ripple High School in particular, IPS last year resisted urging from some state lawmakers to sell the campus to Purdue Polytechnic High School, which has since found a temporary home at a different property in the neighborhood.

Selling to charter schools can be a burden on cash-strapped districts like IPS, particularly as they looks for ways to sell off large, valuable buildings it no longer needs. IPS has sold 11 buildings for what it considered market price recent years, generating one-time revenue of more than $20 million. The projects built in place of the properties that have been sold off total more than $400 million in private investment.

Gramelspacher said if proposed legislation makes it through the statehouse and becomes law, the district hopes to move quickly on issuing an RFI for the site. But if it doesn’t—well, the district is considering its alternatives.

"There are a number of things that could happen, but speculating on those right now wouldn't be productive in any way,” he said. “We’ve contemplated them and we're working with legal counsel to understand all of the different routes and it could be taken next.”

But for now, the focus is on discussing the possible future of the Broad Ripple High School site with members of the community and developers.

“We’re encouraging people to think about what's next [for the site], and then also talking with legislators about making that happen,” Gramelspacher said.

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