INDIANAPOLIS — For years near eastside residents have complained no one from the state of Indiana would listen to them or explain what was going on with the property of the former Indiana Women’s Prison at East New York and Randolph Streets.
Now someone has come forward…and admitted the state has no idea what its going to do, even as demolition continues at the site.
“We’re gonna continue to have conversations with the neighborhood and other vested parties to kind of figure out what’s going to happen to this facility or to this campus I guess once we’re done,” said Department of Administration CFO Matt Kent, “figuring out what we’re gonna do with the historic buildings.”
There’s plenty of history on the grounds of the nation’s first women’s prison constructed in 1873 with buildings that date back to the site’s origins.
Kent said state officials are trying to determine which buildings are worth saving and renovating, though neighbors worry the wrecking ball will swing before the decision is made.
“Sort of like…ready…shoot…aim,” said Patrick Dooley, a 35-year resident of neighboring Woodruff Place. “The state doesn’t have a plan. If they have a plan, they haven’t shared it with anyone. They just went in and started to tear down buildings with no engagement with the community around it.”
After reporting to the Indiana Historic Preservation Review Board meeting at the Fort Ben Inn, Kent met neighbors in a side conference room to show them a diagram they couldn’t keep or shoot photos of indicating which buildings the state would save and which it would tear down at the former prison site.
“We want to say, ‘Put the demolition on hold because there’s some opportunities to have some conversations of more possibilities of what we can do together here’,” said Joey Newsome, Willard Place Neighborhood Association President.
As residents complained about a lack of transparency and cooperation from state officials, Kent admitted his agency could have done a better job in listening to their concerns.
One woman told Kent that the former dormitories, slated for demolition, could be saved to house recently released offenders returning to their community.
A consultant hired by the state will meet with neighbors August 2.