Plan for Whitestown junkyard site redevelopment causes concern for residents, councilors

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Whitestown is planning a major redevelopment project at the former Wrecks Inc. junkyard site near Interstate 65. (Photo provided by town of Whitestown)

An Indianapolis-based developer has submitted plans for a $64 million first phase of a project in Whitestown to transform a former longtime junkyard into a mixed-use development. However, some residents and town council members are expressing concerns about the details of the proposed redevelopment project.

Indianapolis-based Milhaus plans to build a 125-room hotel, a 228-unit apartment development and 75-for-rent townhouses in the initial phase of the redevelopment of the former 135-acre Wrecks Inc. auto-salvage yard into a district called Maurer Commons along Indianapolis Road, west of Interstate 65 and south of Exit 130.

A project map shows a sports facility, community space, retail and office space that would be built in future phases.

According to a project schedule, construction on the apartments would begin in March 2025 and end in March 2027. Construction on the townhouses would take place between March 2025 and Sept. 2026. And the hotel would be built between June 2025 and Dec. 2026.

The Whitestown Town Council on Wednesday night introduced a resolution for an economic development agreement between the town and Milhaus. Further discussion on the economic development agreement was tabled to the council’s next meeting on Dec. 13.

The Whitestown Redevelopment Commission would sell the Phase 1 property, about 23 acres, to Milhaus for $1, according to the proposed economic development agreement. Milhaus is asking for about $9.6 million in funds from bonds to develop the first phase of the Maurer Commons project.

Some Whitestown Town Council members and residents argued any decisions about the Maurer Commons project should be delayed until the newly elected town council takes office in January. Two of the five councilors, Eric Nichols and Tanya Sumner, will remain on the council next year.

Indianapolis-based Milhaus plans to build a 125-room hotel, a 228-unit apartment development and 75-for-rent townhouses in the initial phase of the redevelopment of the Maurer Commons project. (Image courtesy town of Whitestown)

Outgoing council member Jeffrey Wishek proposed tabling discussion on Maurer Commons until next year, but his motion failed, with Sumner joining Wishek in support of holding off on discussing the project until the new council is in place.

In 2021, Indianapolis-based Milhaus and Kansas City, Missouri-based Homefield partnered to redevelop roughly 100 acres of the former Wrecks Inc. junkyard.

Conceptual designs at the time showed Milhaus and Homefield planned to build an approximately 200,000-square-foot fieldhouse with an outdoor sports area, about 250 market rate apartments, a nationally branded hotel with at least 105 rooms, an outdoor water sports and entertainment venue, at least 50,000 square feet of medical office space, another 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and 75 for-sale residential units.

Kevin Russell, a Whitestown resident, told the council Wednesday he does not think the apartments and for-rent townhouses, as proposed in Milhaus’ new Phase 1 plan, should be built.

“The land that they want to put the apartments on, the original plan … had that as recreational,” Russell said. “Now, yes, it’s difficult to do, but we shouldn’t be in a rush to do this and in doing that, go ahead and kill what the original thought was. That is, that most of that facility would be somehow connected with recreation. Only the front was supposed to have residential, right along Indianapolis Road.”

Wishek said details of what Milhaus is proposing for the first phase are not what residents expected. He argued the plan “is an option now, but it doesn’t mean we have to take it.”

“The community sentiment is this isn’t what the community wants,” Wishek said. “I feel like this is a developer-first development, and I feel like it should be a resident- and community-first development. And I don’t think it’s what we promised or agreed to back when we purchased the land.”

Sumner added that she has also heard from residents who are disappointed with the plan presented by Milhaus for the first phase.

“The residents have one expectation, and this is not what they were expecting,” she said. “They were expecting a lot more, mostly the recreation facility and greenspace, and not so much housing.”

Nichols, who serves as the Whitestown Town Council’s president, said he is not sure how he feels about the project.

“I’m sort of in support, but I want to talk to more people,” he said.

In April, Whitestown officials announced plans for a $20 million aquatic facility on the former Wrecks Inc. property that would be adjacent to the Maurer Commons project. The aquatic facility is expected to open in 2025.

Wrecks Inc. was founded in 1949 by brothers Michael B. “Mickey” Maurer and Julius Maurer and moved from Indianapolis to Whitestown in the early 1950s.

Julius was the father of Michael S. Maurer, also known as Mickey, who is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns Indianapolis Business Journal.

The business was well-known for its three-line neon sign along I-65 that says, “Wrecks Inc. We meet by accident. Drive carefully.”

The land has been vacant since the early 2000s and required environmental remediation to put it in developable condition.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management issued a certificate of completion for the site in late 2022.

The area of Whitestown near the former Wrecks Inc. site has experienced redevelopment in recent years. Little League International opened its central region headquarters in June 2021, while residents began moving into the 240-unit Nese Apartments in August.

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