Lawrence Township schools plan expansive busing facility on 40 acres

Keywords Real Estate

A local school district plans to spend up to $12 million to relocate its busing operations to a larger industrial site primed for additional development.

The Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township is seeking approval from the city of Indianapolis Metropolitan Development Commission to rezone the property, allowing it to build a new facility at 10410 E. 52nd St.

The district hopes to rezone about 58 acres from the D-A agricultural district to the C-S special commercial district. The measure received approval, 6-2, from the Lawrence City Council earlier this month.

Rodger Smith, director of operations for Lawrence Township schools, said the district plans to invest $10 million to $12 million on the project.

The district would own 40 acres—now under contract for $900,000, pending rezoning approval—on the site, while the other 18 acres would be retained by the property’s current owner, Billy Poindexter.

Poindexter, who has developed an industrial park on surrounding land, plans to construct at least two new buildings on the land he would retain. One building would house expanded operations for park tenant Ameribridge Inc., which produces ramps for plane passenger ingress and egress, he said. He doesn’t have specific plans for the second building, which doesn’t yet have a tenant.

Named Poindexter Industrial Park, the development was created in 1981 ad has six buildings to date.

The land occupied by Lawrence Township schools would accommodate the district’s fleet of more than 200 buses, along with a maintenance and office building that would measure roughly 35,000 square feet.

The facility would have 220 bus parking spaces with protective canopies, a visitor and staff parking lot with 88 spaces, a 231-vehicle parking lot for bus drivers, a fuel island, a six- to 10-bay maintenance facility, a training center and staff offices.

The facility would initially occupy 33 acres, giving the district room for growth, and would feature two entry and exit points. The current facility, at 5850 Thunderbird Road, was built to hold 96 buses, and only has one entrance and exit.

The most significant hurdle facing the project, Smith said, is that the rezoning request is recommended for denial by Department of Metropolitan Development staff. The proposal would “significantly deviate” from the property recommendations included in the county’s comprehensive plan, according to a staff report.

The project also has remonstrators who are concerned about the affect bus traffic will have on the area, in addition to air pollution and noise issues.

But Smith dismissed the concerns, telling IBJ the district conducted a traffic study that determined the new facility would have minimal impact on local traffic. The site is also only one mile south of the current facility—on the opposite side of Pendleton Pike—meaning it’s unlikely to create additional noise or pollution issues, he said.

If the project ultimately wins approval—a hearing was continued from Wednesday’s MDC meeting to the Jan. 15 meeting—Smith said the district would hope to have the new facility operational within 14 months.

Moving to a new facility would allow the school district to sell its existing bus facility to a new owner, although Smith said Lawrence Township hasn’t given any thought yet to how much it plans to ask for the 9.6-acre site.

He said there are multiple suitors for the land, including transportation groups and neighboring industrial businesses interested in expanding their operations.

“We have several companies that are interested in that property—both local and non-local,” Smith said. “Property like that is at a premium in Lawrence.”

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