Mayor Hogsett considering 12 sites for new court complex, jail

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Ex-Mayor Greg Ballard’s plan to build a new criminal justice complex on the site of the former GM Stamping Plant failed in 2015 when there wasn’t the political or financial support to green light the eventual $1.8 billion project.

Ballard’s proposal died but his list of potential sites for the jail and courts campus lives with the task force of his successor who is also trying to find a place to locate Marion County judges, inmates, prosecutors, sheriffs deputies and the support staff it takes to deliver justice in Indianapolis.

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force is utilizing a 2013 market survey done for the Ballard administration that identified a dozen more complex sites stretching from the county’s west to east sides.

“We propose by January 31 we come back and identify to you a location,” Corporation Counsel Andy Mallon told members of the Criminal Justice Planning Council during a briefing on the Hogsett reform plans. “Much of the work that goes from this time on is dependent on where we’re going to put it.”

The previous study by CBRE, Inc., called for a site of at least 35 acres with access to streets and public transportation while bringing economic growth to its area and minimizing the impact to neighbors.

The list includes a site on the northwest corner of Indianapolis International Airport property, Lafayette Square locations straddling West 38th Street, South Grove Golf Course, the former Indiana Women’s Prison on North Randolph Street, the abandoned RCA, Citizen’s Coke and Ford Visteon properties on the east side, plots of land at Pendleton Pike and I-465 and I-74 and I-465 on the southeast side, the previous Eastgate Consumer Mall on Shadeland Avenue where the recently constructed Regional Operations Center is located, Hunter Pointe on Southeastern Avenue and property on the Ameriplex site on Kentucky Avenue.

The Stamping Plant is off the table as its owner, RACER Trust, is looking for a private developer for the land near the White River. The Ballard-commissioned report weighs the pros and cons of each site.

The Airport property would be remote and spacious but easy to acquire. The three former factories have varying accessibility issues and possible environmental cleanup issues.

While the Lafayette Square locations are underutilized retail centers with premium street and highway access, their strengths would also make them attractive for other private developers.

The city owns the golf course but neighbors might object. The former women’s prison is already purposed for criminal justice but sits on just 16 acres. Other large plots have tangled ownership or may be more valuable remaining on the county’s tax rolls.

The task force has identified $35 million in annual savings that would be dedicated toward the new campus by reducing costs, concluding lease agreements and consolidating offices and services.

“I couldn’t recommend more vigorously the conservative nature of the estimates,” said Hogsett who has promised to construct the new complex without a property tax increase. “I think we need to be extraordinarily conservative in terms of affordability analysis.”

The Task Force conducted dozens of public meetings throughout Marion County in 2016 as it developed the reform plan which also calls for changes in arrests, incarceration, bond and probation for offenders along with off-ramping arrestees with mental illness, substance abuse or homeless issues.

The council also heard an update from the staff of Sheriff John Layton that indicated the Marion County Jail, which has at times been beyond inmate capacity in recent months, had 30 empty beds as of Monday morning and reduced the number of offenders housed in Elkhart County to 72.

Once the Task Force recommends a location, work will begin on arranging financing, developing a construction schedule, requesting bids and picking a builder within one year.

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