Elanco’s plan to build a $100 million global headquarters on part of the former GM stamping plant site west of downtown brings with it a promise from city and state officials for additional development on the remainder of the site, potentially including residential, retail and office projects.
The publicly traded animal health company announced Friday it plans to occupy about 45 acres of the 91-acre site, with the option to assume an additional 20 acres from the state for future expansion.
Elanco plans to occupy the central portion of the stamping plant property (see photo at right), with the additional acreage for expansion located west of the campus.
The firm is getting the land for free as part of a massive incentives deal with the Indiana Economic Development Corp., which paid former owner Ambrose Property Group about $25.5 million for the 91-acre property.
The remaining 26 acres of the site likely will be reserved for two purposes. About 16 acres on the southern portion of the site will be earmarked for new development and “neighborhood connectivity”; and 10 acres along the eastern portion of the site that fronts the White River will be used for an expansion of White River State Park.
The improvements in the park land along the riverfront will include the retention of at least part of the historic crane bay that has been on the property for decades, an IEDC spokesperson confirmed. The bay was expected to be a centerpiece of Ambrose’s project, as well, with a design competition held throughout 2019 to showcase best potential uses for that part of the stamping plant property.
Details on how exactly the other 16 acres would be redeveloped have not yet been determined and are likely to take years to finalize. It could include residential, retail, office and/or industrial projects.
“It’ll be a partnership with the city and state with input from Elanco on what exactly the future [neighborhood] development will look like,” said Luke Bosso, chief of staff for the IEDC.
The future apportionment of the site isn’t set in stone. A spokeswoman from the IEDC told IBJ on Friday that the group still needed to finalize the specific acreage for future Elanco expansion, but that “we would anticipate that the restricted 20-acre option would be to the west of Elanco’s current 45-acre site.”
The stamping plant closed in 2011, and the site has remained undeveloped since then. Several attempts to redevelop the site fell through.
“We’re looking for big wins every day and it doesn’t get much bigger than a big publicly traded company” like Elanco taking the property, said Bosso. “There have been grand ideas for the GM stamping plant, but as we all know, they have not happened.”
Ambrose had promised a massive $1.4 billion development known as Waterside that would have included multi-family housing, retail space, office space and other components. Before that, REI Investments was considering a new amphitheater for part of the property, and the city of Indianapolis considered it for the criminal justice campus that eventually went to the Twin Aire neighborhood on the near-east side.
Industry insiders say the Elanco deal provides an opportunity for the neighborhood to land high-quality retail tenants, other office users and new multi-family and single-family housing development.
Bill Ehret, an office broker with the Indianapolis office of real estate brokerage Avison Young, said he expects there will be a demand for workforce housing, as well as some basic retail and office uses, to accompany the new headquarters.
“I think it makes sense that this becomes a campus setting,” he said, adding it’s likely new components would be blended with the Elanco headquarters through landscaping features and design elements.
Ehret said there will likely be a demand for “flex product” including potential blends of office and light warehousing that could be utilized by Elanco’s vendors and suppliers.
Ehret and other experts said it’s likely the neighborhood will take several years to take shape, but some elements could start coming online with the completion of Elanco’s spaces in two to three years’ time. But they added it’s hard to pinpoint what kind of investment could be made.
Jay Napoleon, president of The Valley Neighborhood Association, said the group is “cautiously optimistic” about the proposed Elanco headquarters, but added there have so far been limited conversations about what could go on the unused land.
The Valley’s boundaries include the stamping plant site.
“The location and the geography of this property demands robust and farsighted development,” Napoleon said. “We look at this as a bet on the future of downtown Indianapolis.”
He said there are hopes the project retains some of the mixed-use components that had been promised by Ambrose’s Waterside project, including extensive redevelopment along Oliver Avenue, the property’s southern border. A preliminary site plan does reserve the areas bordering that roadway for “future development & neighborhood connectivity.”
“The key for us is for our neighborhood to be part of the development, and all of Oliver Avenue needs to be a gateway,” Napoleon said.
The development of new infrastructure and enhancements to the river are also likely to go a long way in rejuvenating the neighborhood, said Gary Hobbs, owner of Black & White Investments, an Indianapolis-based development firm.
The preliminary site plan includes a new pedestrian bridge and new vehicle bridge over the White River, further connecting the site with downtown’s core.
“I think to have a corporate campus here, to have the type of connectivity we’re talking about with new road bridges and pedestrian bridges the State Park extension, is a critical part of, frankly, breaking down that geographic and psychological wall that’s disconnected the west side from downtown,” said Deputy Mayor Thomas Cook. “That’s only going to [work] to everybody’s benefit for not just this project but for future development opportunities and community development opportunities as well.”
Napoleon said the neighborhood is pleased redevelopment of the riverfront is among the components on the table.
Added Hobbs: “I think it could work out extremely well, but certainly there has to be some really good, coordinated planning around the public infrastructure—particularly with the right river there. They can use that whole White River waterfront as a really, really good attraction and amenity for the folks who live there, as well as the folks will be working at Elanco.”