Ambrose is scrapping $1.4B Waterside plan at former GM stamping plant

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gm stamping ambrose rendering 1
Ambrose planned office, retail and residential development at the former GM stamping plant site. (Rendering by Ratio, courtesy of Ambrose)

Ambrose Property Group told IBJ on Friday that it is backing out of its plans to redevelop the 103-acre former GM stamping plant site and will seek to sell the property located on the western edge of downtown Indianapolis.

Ambrose had announced plans last year for a $1.4 billion, mixed-use development called Waterside on the site—and said construction was to start this year. The project was to include 1,350 residential units, 620 hotel rooms, 2.75 million square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail space.

But on Friday, Ambrose told IBJ in a statement that it plans to reposition its business to focus on e-commerce and industrial development and away from mixed-use and office projects, including Waterside.

The company has chosen real estate firm JLL to begin the process to sell the Waterside site.

Ambrose told Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration about its decision on Thursday night.

The mayor’s chief of staff, Thomas Cook, called the decision “disappointing.” But he said the move “does not dampen our optimism and commitment to this site and the surrounding neighborhoods. We intend to use all available tools to ensure that the future of this parcel will live up to the years of planning that has occurred and the ongoing White River Vision Plan.”

Ambrose sent an email Friday morning with the subject line “A letter to the Indianapolis community.” In it, Ambrose CEO Aasif Bade said, “The opportunities for this site are so much bigger than Ambrose.”

Ambrose agreed to purchase the GM stamping plant property from the RACER Trust in May 2017, after the city and RACER—which is charged with finding new uses for former GM properties—chose it from among four bidders for the property.

The Ambrose deal—in which it paid $3 million for five parcels—closed in April 2018.

Bruce Rasher, Michigan-based RACER’s development manager, said at the time the group picked Ambrose that, “What Ambrose proposed to RACER came the closest and, in fact, would achieve the city’s vision, so they were a clear choice for RACER.”

On Friday, RACER issued a statement saying it was disappointed but it was ready to help the city of Indianapolis find a new owner.

Ambrose initially planned to spend $550 million on its development but expanded its plans substantially last year. It did so after discussions with a number of neighborhood organizations, the city and interested not-for-profits.

“We’ve operated with the mindset that the potential of the site is much greater when we surround ourselves with the best people and organizations—like The Valley neighborhood, Central Indiana Community Foundation and so many others,” Bade wrote Friday in his note to the community. “Together with these groups, we’ve advanced important conversations about placemaking, designing for equity and inclusion, and developing with the community rather than to the community.”

Bade said Ambrose is “proud of the work we’ve done together” but said it would not continue to be part of the development’s future.

“The site, located within an Opportunity Zone, is now poised for success and we expect significant interest from developers locally and nationally,” Bade said. “Once a new owner is identified, we hope they will be warmly welcomed by the community and be afforded consideration for necessary incentives from the city and state—as we have—that align with a project of this size and scope.”

Lisa Laflin, executive director of the West Indianapolis Development Corp., called the Waterside news disappointing but said it’s too early to be pessimistic about the site’s future. “The sky’s not falling yet, and we’re hopeful that the sky won’t be falling.”

Laflin said Ambrose called her early Friday, shortly before it made its public announcement, to share the news.

Laflin said she’s optimistic that someone else will move forward with a plan similar to Waterside, though she wonders if a new developer will be as easy to work with as Ambrose has been.

“Ambrose, we thought, really did a good job in engaging the neighborhood,” Laflin said. “There’s concern as to whether or not a new owner is going to be as community-conscious.”

Isaac Bamgbose, who just a few months ago was tabbed to lead the Waterside development after being hired from Hendricks Commercial’s Bottleworks District project, said he left Ambrose at the beginning of September.

“I think visions didn’t align—as it related to where we were going—so we just kind of came to an understanding about that and left it on amicable terms,” Bamgbose said.

He said he wasn’t aware of Ambrose’s plans to abandon the project altogether when he departed the company.

Bamgbose said he couldn’t yet comment on his own plans moving forward.

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26 thoughts on “Ambrose is scrapping $1.4B Waterside plan at former GM stamping plant

  1. Lol. I just listened to the IBJ podcast about this yesterday and wondered “how is that project going?”. Didn’t think it sounded like there was much of a concrete plan in place for this and it was a bit ambitious. So I’m not at all surprised.

  2. I would like to see if Ambrose didn’t just lock the property up to try and flip it for a profit. IBJ, are you able to verify it’s purchase price in 2018 and what it is planning to list the property for now? Is the RACER trust now cut out of any decision making? Shouldn’t it have to revert to one of the 3 other bidders?

    1. The Indy property card shows 3 million as the sale price of both GM stamping plant parcels in ’18. Not sure if there were other costs/transactions beyond the land parcel.

    2. Obviously thats what they’re doing or they would have just sold it to the city and doubled their money.

    1. That is probably the best location anyone could ask for. Plenty of room, proximity to existing sports stadiums, and still has plenty of room for multi-use housing/office/retail. I would have loved to see Indy11 in Broad Ripple, but I know it would never make it through all the controversy/NIMBY drama.

    2. I’m just concerned that it would come with a giant parking lot, like Lucas Oil, and nothing would catalyze around it.

    3. AT – Eleven Park would include market rate apartments.

      The lack of development around Lucas Oil is due, in large measure, to there not being market rate housing in the area.
      Because of this, the area has troubling supporting non event driven businesses.

  3. Never did have much faith in this sham company. Why did they stop the boasting at 1.5 billion? Why didn’t they just say 3 billion in investment?! Bunch of scammers with no prior history of development anywhere near this scope. Bunch of scammers. Hope city didn’t give them any $$$.

    1. that’s a ridiculous comment. the site is extremely complicated and I am sure they have worked very hard on it…and if Amazon would have even brought 5,000 jobs (vs 50,000) like they did in Nashville this site would have been kicked off perfectly.

    2. Michael G.– it’s clear you have no knowledge of Ambrose or the complexity of this project. Sad, trolling commentary with no basis in fact.

  4. Going to take someone with deep pockets and a plethora of partners to pull off that site. Indy 11 would be a decent fit, not sure the development around a stadium is substantial enough to support the cities vision for the site.

  5. How is it Nashville Tenn gets projects like this done on a consistent basis? What are they doing that Indy isn’t or can’t? There’s around 30 cranes up in downtown Nashville. Nashville Yard is similar to the waterside project and they pulled it off. You Indy use to be the 12th largest city but now it’s 16th. I’m sure Nashville will surpass Indy soon and then you’ll see Indy probably drop to 20th. Indy needs bold investors. Where’s all the local billionaires with deep pockets? Places like Houston,LA and Miami all have people that’s from there come back and invest into their hometowns. Would love to see Indy go more vertical. Next we’re going to hear the Hilton scrap it’s pan am plaza project. Come on Indy we got to do better.

    1. Great question. I’ve wondered the same. How is Nashville hitting economic
      development home run projects out of the park and Indy is floundering.
      I remember when Nashville was never a serious contender for economic development.

      I think the big turn around came with the performing arts ( country music ).
      When country music became very popular nationally, Nashville started taking off.

      Which brings me to my next point. Indy needs to invest heavily in the arts – in functional, decorative, architectural, and performing.

      We also need hunters to bring economic development & jobs to Indy.
      Supposedly we have a business environment that is the envy. If that’s true, why don’t
      we have major job commitments coming downtown. The aw shucks humble Hoosier
      attitude is not working. We to have a plan and be aggressive in marketing our city
      and stop waiting for potential developers to come to us first. We need to treat job
      creation as a blood sport, winning is everything. No participation trophies.

      Bottom line the Ambrose project was way to overly ambitious. For a project of that
      magnitude to succeed, you have to have a lot of major job commitments to downtown,
      which we are lacking and do not have.

  6. Charlie P – so, how would you like a huge stadium, with its noise and hundreds of cars, plopped down in YOUR backyard? This is far different than when the NIMBY’s tried to stop construction of a modest, 4-floor apartment building behind a few Meridian-Kessler homes. (Oh gee, our back yards will be in the shadow for a few hours in the morning.) But a stadium in an area of narrow, already crowded streets – parents pushing kids in their strollers? Come on!

  7. Big IF, Glenn H. Do you work for or are otherwise linked to Ambrose? Seem a little overly-sensitive. In every tv interview i saw with Ambrose, they always struck me as not very professional and pretty minor-league.

    1. Know OF them yes but more importantly just a 30 year developer who appreciates how hard it is to pull something like this off. Needs a lot of perseverance, hard work and luck! Otherwise let someone else try a while!

  8. Great points on Nashville. Have wondered the same thing. Indy seems to have lost its edge to N’ville. I don’t get it. N’ville is okay. It’s a bit over-rated IMO.

  9. The city seems to continue to get real estate companies to come in and talk a good game to secure these assets at a lowball price then these great improvements become a pipe dream waisting precious time for the city and communities. Contingencies and escrow must be established from here on out!!! The old bait and switch now they want 250% of their investment. Another case of an Over promise and under deliver…