An extensive plan to boost economic development on West Washington Street near Indianapolis International Airport was rolled out Wednesday for initial review by city development officials and the public.
Economic development agency Develop Indy, which compiled the West Washington Street Corridor Study and implementation plan with support from the city and the airport, provided the plan to the Metropolitan Development Commission prior to Wednesday’s MDC meeting.
The plan proposes numerous uses for about 885 acres on the north and south sides of Washington Street stretching from the west side of Interstate 465 to the Hendricks County line. Those uses could include residential, advanced manufacturing and retail, among others.
Develop Indy Director Aletha Dunston said her organization is in conversations with three developers for various parcels along the corridor. She declined to identify the companies or the sites that are being considered for development, citing ongoing negotiations.
The corridor plan follows years of strategizing by the economic development group, the city and the Indianapolis Airport Authority—the latter two are footing the bill—as they’ve sought to work with community leaders, the Wayne Township Metropolitan School District, businesses and residents to determine the best uses for the land.
The airport authority plays an outsized role in the area’s future development prospects, as it controls 105 parcels in the study area totaling 185 acres. The remaining land consisting of 194 acres of vacant, undeveloped land and 506 acres of developed land.
“We’ve tried to find a real balance between the fact that this is a neighborhood with many longtime residents, as well as the fact it’s so proximate to the airport and FedEx, which certainly are two of our major economic drivers for the area, as far as attracting and retaining companies and talent here in town,” Dunston said. “We’ve been evaluating every idea we’ve had through both of those perspectives to make sure we are finding that balance.”
The updated plan stems from several previous efforts to revitalize the corridor in recent years, as well as a recent $20 million commitment from the city for improvements of the roadway closer to downtown, between Holt Road and Lynhurst Drive. That project, which is set to start in 2025, will include repaving, stormwater upgrades and sidewalk improvements, and comes after a 2012 study that focused on Washington Street inside the west leg of I-465.
It also comes as businesses continue to grapple with changes to IndyGo’s planned Blue Line, which came in 2022 after the project exceeded its budget by $300 million. At that time, IndyGo redesigned the route to depart West Washington at Holt Road, opting instead for an express route via Interstate 70 from that point to the airport. The move will save the cost of building the last seven bus stations previously planned for West Washington.
The proposed development plan presented by Develop Indy and its partners consists of two distinct areas, with one stretching from near Girls School Road to I-465 and spanning about 163 acres and another 43-acre site further west, bound in part by Bridgeport Road, Danbury Drive and Washington Street.
While any projects in those areas would rely on specific development plans, the corridor strategy offers a general overview of what could work for the areas, Dunston said. No specific timeline has been finalized for implementing the plan.
The eastern area, tentatively named Ben Davis Station, would consist of more than 900,000 square feet of advanced manufacturing and light industrial space across several buildings, 380,000 square feet of commercial space, nearly 200,000 square feet of research and development, office and technology space, more than 650 residential units and a 220-room hotel. That portion would be developed across three phases, with a large focus on industrial and some residential and retail in the first phase, followed by more mixed-use concepts in the second and third phases.
The western area, which would be named Bridgeport, is expected to feature community health and recreation components (including a 115,000-square foot multi-use facility), commercial space, anywhere from 100 to 200 residential units and athletic fields.
An additional 230 acres of land is also contemplated for redevelopment, but evaluations of those areas would come later. One of those tracts is a 93.5-acre strip between West Washington Street and Perimeter Road owned by the airport authority, while the other is a 138.4-acre mix of parcels with various owners bound by West Washington Street, Morris Street and multiple residential neighborhoods.
“Washington Street serves as a backdoor into the airport, but more importantly, our involvement is driven by the fact we own some significant property along that corridor … and this is a way that we can work with the community to provide public value to the work that we do at the airport,” said Jonathan Weinzapfel, general counsel for the airport authority.
“This allows us to continue working with the city and Develop Indy to leverage the properties that the Indianapolis Airport Authority owns along this corridor for economic development and redevelopment purposes. That’s incredibly important to the airport authority.”
Implementing the plan for the area is expected to rely on numerous revenue sources, including private investment, state dollars through an application for a Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative, or READI, grant, and the allocation of tax-increment financing dollars, which would rely on incremental property taxes to contribute to various private and public projects.
The use of TIF would require an eventual reauthorization of the airport allocation area, which is set to expire in 2025, but it could also include the creation of a temporary TIF to support development in the first phase of the Ben Davis Station portion of the project. That TIF would eventually be merged into the reauthorized airport allocation area, subject to various city approval processes.
Dunston said how the city and Develop Indy ultimately approach funding for improvements to the area will ultimately come down to which projects move forward.
“Nothing’s written in stone in the plan, in the sense that even within the TIF district it all depends on which domino falls first, so we know which strategy we can move forward with,” she said.
The city declined to comment on the plan.