New jail site selection deadline draws near

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INDIANAPOLIS– Mayor Joe Hogsett’s task force on criminal justice reform faces a January 31st deadline to announce its choice for location of a new jail and sheriff’s office which may ultimately house a courthouse, attorneys’ offices, probation and community corrections and a medical services center.

Monday morning Hogsett will announce demolition plans to make one of the leading sites ripe for development.

At 11 a.m. the mayor will be joined by IMPD Chief Bryan Roach, near eastside community leaders and District 12 Councilman Blake Johnson to unveil plans to tear down some of the buildings at the abandoned former RCA plant at 3324 East Michigan Street and spend $200,000 in an EPA grant to decide what should be done with property.

“I think there’s opportunity for urban industrial. I think there’s opportunity for some mixed use, other commercial opportunities out here,” said Johnson, a freshman eastside councilman. “A lot of the conversation out here has been around the criminal justice center.”

Working from a list of 12 properties prepared for the previous administration of Mayor Greg Ballard, Hogsett’s team has been trying to find a piece of land of approximately 35 acres, on convenient bus lines with easy access to downtown, close to where crime and criminals and their families reside that the city can afford and the neighbors want.

Two near eastside sites meet those criteria and they’re both in Johnson’s district, the old RCA factory and the former Citizens Gas Plant on East Prospect Street south of Twin Aire in the Norwood neighborhood.

“What’s the neighborhood buy in,” asked Johnson, echoing the concerns raised by city planners,  “where folks are saying, ‘We are willing to work with the city to have a conversation about how this works for us and what the economic impact will be, what the long term impact is surrounding it?’

“There’s all kind of opportunity for economic growth in the surrounding area. There’s also opportunities for turnover within the site for neighbors to get involved in jobs here.”

The prospect of jobs is a draw for some residents who reject the “Not-In-My-Neighborhood” sentiment.

“That sounds great to me because there are more positions open for people to have employment,” said Kevin Waire. “I don’t see how a jail is going to be something that is not going to help the neighborhood.”

“The way they explained it to us, it would be four stories high and its gonna be somewhat like a tech campus and they’re gonna be contained, they won’t be free to just roam around,” said Vanessa Edwards who has met with the task force. “We’re hoping that we get more housing because there is a lot of property that needs to be renovated and we have a bunch of empty lots here.”

“What will that do to home ownership?” asked Warren Robertson. “How is that going to affect their property values, how is that going to affect their resale values, how is that going to affect the potential developments? Are these businesses still going to be built when there’s a jail down the street? Are people going to want to buy new condos and apartments within two miles of here when there’s a new jail here?”

Flinora Fraizer has lived in the Norwood community here entire life and doesn’t want to see a jail located on the former gas company property.

“Its contaminated,” she accurately observed even though Citizens Energy is committed to cleaning up the property. “I’m not too fond of it because it brings in all kinds of different personalities and this is more residential area with light businesses.”

Other potential sites on the list include land at the Indianapolis International Airport and at Ameriplex on State Road 37 in Decatur Township, a northwest side golf course, the former Women’s Prison on East New York Street, the shuttered Visteon Plant on English Avenue and locations near the Marion County Fairgrounds, Shadeland Avenue and Pendleton Pike and Lafayette Square Mall, among others.

Task force members estimate total cost of the complex, should the courts relocate to the campus, could near $600 million.

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