INDIANAPOLIS — In the fall of 2015, when he was still the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was at the controls of heavy machinery as it was used to tear down the former clubhouse of the Outlaws Motorcycle Gang. Federal authorities had seized the property as part of a racketeering investigation which brought down the leadership of the criminal organization headquartered on East New York Street.
Soon, playground equipment went up as the former gang home base was transformed into a safe place for neighborhood children.
Residents of the Willard Park community wonder why the State of Indiana can’t do something like that with the property of the former Indiana Women’s Prison and Indiana Re-Entry Educational Center a few blocks west of the playground at the corner of New York and Randolph Streets.
“We have an eyesore in the middle of our neighborhood that belongs to the state,” said Joey Newsom, president of the Willard Park Neighborhood Association, “and we have an opportunity to change that eyesore into something that is meaningful for all of us.”
Right now the 15-acre site doesn’t mean anything to anybody, closed but nominally maintained by the Indiana Department of Administration since the summer of 2017, even though neighbors said state officials have considered moving the State Archives to the property.
“They’re looking at three locations to relocate the State Archives and this is one of those three locations,” said Will Pritchard of the IREF Site Advocacy Alliance. “The Archives is not a contributing factor to the three plans I mentioned: the Promise Zone, the governor’s plan or the Quality of Life plan on the near east side. The Archives is not a good fit from that perspective.”
Governor Eric Holcomb designated a portion of the near east side as an Indiana 21st Century Talent Region to encourage the City of Indianapolis as well as business, academic and other institutions to boost education and raise incomes and grow the local population.
“There are a thousand ideas of what should go there,” said Pritchard, “and our goal is to be just engaged in that discussion.”
Whether it’s housing, a high-tech innovation hub or a park, neighbors said state officials have ignored their calls for input into the plans.
“We have a process, we have a plan, we know how to get these things done and we know that this is a vital part of our community,” said Newsom.
State Senator Aaron Freeman recently penned a letter to IDOA seeking a seat at the table for the residents.
“There’s a lot of frustrated folks in that neighborhood,” he said. “The state has not been great about keeping it up. Mowing the grass, making sure the fences are up.
“We should listen to what the community wants. We should take that input and be listening. They have good ideas. They live there and know what this property can be.”
Freeman said the state appears to be backing off its consideration of the property as the site of the relocated archives.
State officials did not respond to a request for comment.