IPS board to debate Coke plant sale

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Proposed development at Coke plant lot.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– For 85 years, its Terra Cotta façade has anchored the northeast end of Mass Ave downtown. For decades, would-be developers have coveted the IPS-owned site with visions of what could be built there.

Tonight, the school district’s Board of Commissioners will debate the sale of the 11-acre plot border by Massachusetts and College Avenues and East 10th Street to Hendricks Commercial Properties for $12 million in anticipation of a three-phase retail/residential/office development.

Hendricks is proposing a $259 million project that will include 337 housing units, 1800 parking spaces, a dinner theater, a grocery retailer, office space and a West Elm store to the site of the current IPS transportation center.

Mayor Joe Hogsett told reporters he is not opposed to the proposal in so much that it is the only one of six offers before the district that did not request a city subsidy, though the developer is seeking $2.4 million in state aid for environmental remediation.

Inside the building tile and granite accoutrements attest to the early 20th century grandeur of the landmark.

Hendricks said its preferred bid accentuates those features which would almost certainly be the preference of historical preservationists and neighbors.

“The architecture is part of what makes the area really unique and special and I would like to see the façade really maintained and that history of what’s been here and then as the story moves forward and what’s to come,” said Elizabeth Garber, whose Best Chocolate in Town would literally sit in the shadow of the development. “I think the more people, the more development, the better. I’d love to see some family friendly things and some retail, offices, people living around here. It just really helps us just that much more.”

Next door at City Dogs Grocery, Dennis Smith says the addition of downtown apartments, condominiums and townhouses means more four-footed traffic in his store.

“More and more apartments are going up downtown and so people are buying more pets and that brings in business,” he said. “I think whatever they plan on will be an asset to the neighborhood. It’s going to bring more people downtown, it’s going to bring more business downtown, and it’s going to be a big plus for the neighborhood.”

Pending IPS Board approval, Hendricks has one year to put its plan together.

If that deadline passes, the city of Indianapolis has the option to buy the property.