New sites for deaf school, state archives building announced by governor

Willard Hall at the Indiana School for the Deaf (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday announced long-awaited site plans involving the Indiana School for the Deaf, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and a new state archives building.

The Indiana School for the Deaf, which has been located at 1200 E. 42nd St., near the Indiana State Fairgrounds, since 1911, will move to the campus for the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired on North College Avenue at East 75th Street, according to the announcement.

Meanwhile, a new 59,000-square-foot state archives building will be constructed in downtown Indianapolis, adjacent to the Senate Avenue Parking Garage on the Central Canal, the governor said. The General Assembly appropriated $35 million from the 2021 budget to build a new facility.

School relocation

After a search for potential new locations for a combined campus, a state feasibility study led to the decision to use the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired site instead of relocating both schools, the governor’s office said.

The governor’s office said the 67-acre north-side campus provides enough room for both schools to operate independently while also sharing resources.

The existing buildings on the campus will undergo renovation and new buildings will be constructed. The budget for the campus consolidation is $225 million, allocated from a $550 million capital projects fund the Indiana General Assembly created with federal pandemic dollars as part of the 2021 budget.

“The modernization of both schools are long overdue,” Holcomb said in a written statement. “This new campus will have facilities that promote safer and positive learning experiences for future ISD and ISBVI students. I couldn’t be more excited about what will become a signature, state-of-the-art campus.”

This project has been three years in the making. In 2019, the General Assembly created a task force charged with considering whether to move the schools to a shared site. After a handful of meetings, the nine-member task force decided in late 2019 that a combined campus within a 10-mile radius of Interstate 465 would allow the schools to better serve their students.

A capital-needs assessment from 2019 found both schools, which were both founded in the mid-1800s, would demand nearly $100 million in improvements over the next 20 years. And the task force determined that the size, condition and the financial investment needed to maintain both existing campuses would detract from the ability of each school to focus its resources on students and staff.

In June last year, the Legislature got the ball rolling by giving $13 million from the capital projects fund to the Indiana Department of Administration to assess what each school needs and find a potential property for a combined campus.

The Indiana School for the Deaf sprawls across 80 acres and has 21 buildings. The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which has operated at its current site since 1930, has 29 buildings.

The state-owned schools serve a total of about 500 students from preschool to high school annually, providing deaf and blind students with an education advocates say they can’t get in traditional public schools. The two schools serve even more students through outreach programs.

New archives building

The state has been searching for years for a new site for the state archives.

A critical mass of the state’s records and artifacts of interest has been located for two decades at a simple, pole-barn-style facility at 6440 E. 30th St.

The archive includes the original state constitutions, slave records, all of the state’s laws and Supreme Court decisions, as well as popular items like prison records of John Dillinger and his associates. While the  constitutions are in a vault, the rest of the building lacks proper climate control, a situation that officials have said probably has taken 100 years off the life of the documents.

Late last year, the state issued a request for proposals to build the facility at 2010 E. New York St., on the former site of the Indiana Women’s Prison in a largely residential neighborhood on the near-east-side.

On Tuesday, the governor said the state had changed its mind about the New York Street site. He said the Indiana Department of Administration will move forward with a feasibility study to determine the future of the site. The first step, he said, will be to demolish a number of buildings on the property.

The state owns the newly chosen archives site along the canal. The governor said the site will offer access for visitors, staff and other government entities while providing proper storage, maintenance and restoration capabilities for archival documents.

“These are two projects that play crucial roles in our state’s future,” Holcomb said. “The location of the archives building will bring further opportunities to showcase our state’s history and provide new partnership opportunities with the Indiana State Museum, Indiana State Library, Indiana War Memorials and other entities all in the same area.”

The state moved its archives out to the east-side warehouse in 2001 as a temporary measure to accommodate renovations to the State Library. Archivists and researchers have been advocating for years to put them in an appropriate building.

In 2015, the state said it had chosen a site on the Central Canal downtown for a $25 million archives building. The canal site, across from the Indiana History Center, had beaten out three other locations the state evaluated, including a vacated American Legion building on North Meridian Street, a strip of land on West Washington Street, and a site between the Indiana State Museum and NCAA headquarters.

But the canal site drew opposition from a citizens group that wanted the space preserved for a park.

The site on New York Street most recently housed the state Department of Correction’s Indianapolis Re-Entry Educational Facility, which closed in 2017. The site had hosted correctional facilities since 1873, just eight years after the Civil War ended.

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14 thoughts on “New sites for deaf school, state archives building announced by governor

  1. I think the location on the canal for the new state archives building is fine. One caveat, the canal level should have room for restaurants and or retail.

    1. Agreed. I am excited to see that strip of land developed and hope they engage the canal with space for dining/drinking.

    2. Agreed! The proximity to the State Museum, the Historical Society, and the State Library just makes sense. That parcel along the canal has been used for equipment storage for years and it’s unsightly. More activation and things to do along the canal is perfect!

  2. Can we put a mental health facility somewhere? We need housing for people to get them off the streets and out of our jails for quality treatment.
    Destroying our insane asylums was understandable, but not having an alternative is not acceptable.

    We can’t allow criminally insane people to mix with homeless and take over our city.

  3. Always thought the State might consider the old Indianapolis City/County Building. It is beautiful and unique in Architecture and quite ornate interiors . Thought it would coincide with Archives.

  4. Excellent decision! Glad the Governor decided to put these deserving kids needs over the developers who were foaming at the mouth for the chance to scoop up the property. Hopefully the technology and design of the facilities and exterior amenities are of the highest standards, easily updatable for future improvements, and set a new benchmark for future schools to emulate.

  5. How about Old Indianapolis City Hall for document storage? Amazing old bldg the City is doing minimum maintenance on while they figure out how to re-purpose it. Could get that for a song, rehab it and have beautiful old architecture to house + exhibit historical documents.

  6. Looking back over the past 15 years, Canal Park Advocates feels that we adduced, via our exhaustive case statement, the many good reasons for a park. We participated, exhaustingly, in the community, administrative and legislative process as needed along the way.

    On the plus side, our active efforts persuaded then-Gov. Daniels to cancel the State’sconsideration of the 2 private hotel proposals which were on the table in 2008.

    And we persuaded the powers-that-be to carefully consider the alternatives for fully 15 years— from 2007 to
    2022— as circumstances changed. During that time, the public was able to use and enjoy the open space.

    We’re disappointed that a prime location for a public gathering place on the canal across from the Indiana History Center will be built-upon and probably lost forever as open space. Yet we’re gratified that the site will be used for a needed public facility, one which protects the importance and utility of historical public records, instead of a hotel or other private commercial building. Perhaps the final design will incorporate some greenspace elements.

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