INDIANAPOLIS — It’s been more than five years since students walked through the front doors of what used to be John Marshall Middle School on Indianapolis’ far east side.

On the west side of the city, sections of a site formerly dedicated to Central State Hospital have been redeveloped. A garage complex where the Indiana Department of Transportation formerly repaired its trucks near there, however, has become an eyesore, overgrown with vegetation and a blight to the area.

Now, the Metropolitan Development Commission has voted to continue progress of bringing new life to those old underutilized sites.

The City of Indianapolis purchased the 40-acre John Marshall property from Indiana Public Schools for $725,000 and is inviting a not-for-profit, community-oriented developer to renovate the school and turn it into a neighborhood asset for local organizations and agencies.

”A real opportunity hub, a community serving hub that’s supporting entrepreneurship, supporting food distribution, supporting health initiatives,” said Metro Development Director Rusty Carr, who theorizes the entire property and its vast parking lot could also be utilized for additional purposes. ”Is that a housing development? Is that further commercial development? Is it parks and greenspace that makes sense given the size of the campus?”

IFF Indianapolis would provide training and education space along with room for business development, support services, transitional housing and neighborhood amenities for a community garden, a playground and an auditorium.

On the other side of town, not far from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Gasoline Alley, sits a street that hosts several motorsports shops. NXG Youth Motorsports President and Executive Director Rod Reid envisions a home for his program that teaches youngsters 11-16 years old automotive and life skills.

”Our focus, first of all, is to make sure they learn how to learn and start to think,” Reid said. “Critical thinking, some of those math and science skills that they can use in life, not just in school.

“Then, we’re also encouraging them to go ahead to post-secondary education. We kind of share with them the idea of tire pressure and how to calculate that and how to manage tire pressure with peer pressure. So, there’s always this balance between life skills as well as something that’s relatable to motorsports.”

Reid currently brings 250 children a year through his program but estimates that number could triple in year-round sessions at the proposed 25,000-square-foot Tibbs Avenue site.

”The automotive industry in Indianapolis is such a huge, multi-billion dollar industry, and most of our kids from black and brown communities, they don’t have the connection or exposure, so we give that to them,” Reid said. ”We’ve always thought of NXG being the bridge between the community and the Motor Speedway. So, this gets us a lot closer to fulfilling that bridge and building that bridge.

“We would like to use that as a facility for education, training and competition,” Reid added. ”We’re talking about whether it’s remote-control cars and robotics, we’ve talked about basketball and drone soccer, which is an interesting new sport, if you will. “We’re talking about engine rebuild competitions, things like that where they can actually get hands-on experience with motors and then be able to use that for competition and maybe even eventually encourage them to go into that for a career.”

Reid owns the Force Indy Racing Team and a car driven by Myles Rowe — the first Black driver to win an IndyCar-sanctioned event in 2021.

The NXG Youth Motorsports founder said he’s also proud that several of the thousands of children who have been through his program have found jobs in the motorsports industry.

More MDC approval, along with architectural and construction planning running into the 10s of millions of dollars, await before ribbons are ready to be cut and neighbors and students invited to participate in both sites