Amphitheater, justice center eyed for old stamping plant site

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By Kendall Downing

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The wheels are turning to redevelop the old GM Stamping Plant near downtown. The property's been in the news for months as the city's choice location for a new justice center. Monday, the RACER Trust, the group in charge of selling the site, said it reached an agreement with a Carmel-based developer, with the deal closing in the middle of 2015.

REI Investments has big plans for their half of the property. They want to make it into a state-of-the-art concert venue that could seat up to 15,000. The developer said it would be an iconic facility, using some of the existing GM Stamping Plant structures in construction.

"I think it is a tremendous idea for downtown, we currently don't have any downtown venue of great size," said Mike Wells, president of Carmel-based REI.

For Wells, the shore of the White River comes with opportunity and the chance of a large amphitheater. His group, REI, has a track record of success in Indianapolis. One of their recent feats is the J.W. Marriott downtown, a crucial crux in the city's landing of the Super Bowl in 2012.

Wells said REI is doing constant surveys, but the amphitheater is the leading option for his firm's part of the 102-acre stamping plant site. REI would then lease or sell 56 acres on the west side to the city of Indianapolis for the new justice center.

With the land that remains, Wells sees potential for a 15,000-seat, $40 million facility that he estimates could bring 350,000 people downtown each year.

"We are incorporating in some of our plans some of the existing buildings that exist for the GM Stamping plant," he said, "Architecturally, we think it will be quite a stunning amphitheater overlooking the White River."

The land sits in City-County Councilor Jeff Miller's district. He said residents have repeatedly echoed their desire for more mixed-use development, like housing and retail, especially in the wake of Mayor Greg Ballard's push to locate the justice center at the site.

"You've got to look at everything as a mixed blessing, if it's not the number one thing you wanted. But if it ultimately brings redevelopment to the area, that's the most important thing, Miller said, "Residents are most excited about something that would've had a residential and mixed-use commercial element to it."

Wells told FOX59 those options are not out of the question. REI is considering mixed-use development, with room for light industrial services, office space, and light residential property. He maintains an amphitheater is choice number one, a venture he's not willing to let the sun set on.

"This is a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring an amphitheater to downtown and to take advantage of river front on the White River that doesn't come on the market everyday," he said.

A concert facility does sit right across the river, The Farm Bureau Lawn at White River State Park. There are millions in upgrades being proposed there.

"At the end of the day, I don't think we'd end up with two venues downtown. That probably is not feasible. It would be my intention to work together with White River State Park and see if we couldn't work together to find a world-class facility that we could both participate in," said Wells.

FOX59 reached out to the park on Monday; we were told it was too early in the process for them to comment.

The purchase price for the GM Stamping Plant site will remain confidential for now as part of an agreement between the RACER Trust and REI.

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