City of Indianapolis closes deal to buy proposed jail, court site

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- In the early 20th century, the Citizens Energy Gas and Coke Plant on East Prospect Street represented good jobs for workers and affordable energy for the residents who built Indianapolis more than 100 years ago.

Today, the same site is being reclaimed to solve Marion County’s convoluted criminal justice system and jump-start business and housing spinoff in the nearby Twin Aire neighborhood.

“The city will purchase that land for $4.2 million,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett during an announcement Monday morning. “These 140 acres will be the future home of our community justice campus and indeed we believe it will be a catalyst for this neighborhood and for our community.”

Citizens Energy will complete remediation of the site, which was the home to gas and Coke production for nearly a century. The company will also clean the water of Pleasant Run Creek, which bisects the property by 2025.

“Like our plant did 110 years ago, we are confident the justice center campus will become a catalyst for economic growth, additional area investment and employment opportunities for people of this southeast side,” said Citizens Energy Group President & CEO Jeffrey Harrison.  “We’re pretty much done with Pleasant Run Creek. That was a primary focus of ours. We wanted to protect the integrity of the water quality of the creek so that has pretty much been completed.”

Harrison said Citizens Energy will plant 1,000 trees on the site.

Tonight, the Hogsett Administration will introduce a proposal before the City County Council to fund the $575 million campus, which will include a new jail and sheriff’s office, a courthouse, juvenile facilities and related services buildings for arrestees struggling with mental illness and substance abuse issues.

$20 million was authorized last summer for design work and the city is ready to begin accepting construction bids with site preparation to begin in 2018 and center completion in 2021.

“First of all, there’s going to be 2,500 or more people coming into this area,” said Jeff Sparks of the Sagamore Institute who has helped organize Twin Aire community groups in examining the project. “They’re gonna need restaurants, they’re gonna need dry cleaning, which we don’t have, they’re gonna need a standalone drug store, which is not in this area, so I think you’ll find the for-profit community will follow bringing in these businesses which will support the campus.”

Sparks anticipates a housing boom to accompany the construction and development.

“I think you’re gonna find because we are so close to downtown people will begin to realize, ‘I can buy a house in Twin Aire more affordably than any neighborhood so close to Indianapolis,’ and I think you will start to see these empty houses fill in and the empty lots, which there aren’t a lot of, will be filled in and some multi-family housing will be in the talks so density will start to come and with that density even more businesses will start to fill in,” he said.

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