INDIANAPOLIS — For decades, General Motors utilized its property on Oliver Avenue on Indy’s west side to turn sheet metal into big American-made cars and trucks.

Three years from now, animal health science leader Elanco will headquarter its worldwide mission to prevent disease in farm livestock and house pets from that vast slab of land overlooking the west bank of the White River.

“This eyesore is being converted to an engine of ideas, research and development,” said Governor Eric Holcomb.

“The near west side of downtown Indianapolis has been waiting 11 years for this day,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett, “and in truth, our whole city has been waiting and its finally happened, from 100 acres of cracked pavement to more than $100 million global headquarters and much more is on the way.”

Ground was broken this morning on the long-abandoned site of the former GM Stamping Plant as Elanco Animal Health promises to build a campus that will attract researchers and business from around the globe. The group has also said the headquarters will eventually employ more than 2,000 people.

“You don’t find many 50-acre pieces of property in downtown cities in the United States,” Elanco President and CEO Jeff Simmons said in a ceremony streamed internationally to Elanco plants, offices and associates. “This is about a movement, a positive movement for the city, for the west side, for Elanco and for what we’re going to build in the bigger space for animals.”

“We are going to reach the world’s animals from here,” said Simmons, reflecting on the important role pets played in maintaining the emotional balance of owners during two years of COVID-19 shutdowns. “People realized for companionship, pets matter.”

Governor Holcomb predicted that not only would the Elanco headquarters draw animal health research and production talent to central Indiana and create spin off businesses, but that the White River State Park would develop south of Washington Street and draw in the Valley neighborhood.

“To think about a river runs through it, the capitol city, the skyline, the workplace right here, the water sports potentially, the potential soccer, football, baseball, the museum, the arts, all within a stone’s throw of here, we’ve got it all right here.”

To land the Elanco HQ, the City financed $135 million in bonds, nearly half of it provided to Elanco, and the remainder to be spent on infrastructure improvements to the site and the surrounding neighborhood. The State has provided more than $86 million in tax credits, grants and incentives.

Jay Napolean of the Valley Neighborhood Association has lived in the west side community for 25 years.

“This really is creating a place for connecting the Valley neighborhood and this place to downtown, with connectivity for walking, biking, interaction with the White River,” he said, reflecting on the new pedestrian and vehicle bridges that will connect the two sides of the river. “This is something we’ve always wanted, connectivity to downtown because this area is so close to downtown, the bridges across the White River will open up a whole new world of possibilities.”

Napolean said he also expects Elanco to draw more development to the area which is bordered by I-70, railroad tracks, the Indianapolis Zoo and the river.

“Anyone who does neighborhood development knows if you get one big development, it begets more good development, and we expect this to spread not just here but further west and towards downtown.”

During bankruptcy proceedings more than a decade ago, General Motors turned the property over to the federal government. Later, the City came into possession of the site.

One previous mayor envisioned a new county jail and concert venue site for the location. An attempt to develop the area into a mixed-use community failed and resulted in lawsuits pitting the City versus the developer.

Demolition of acres of pavement on the site will begin this week, with occupancy anticipated in three years as Elanco will eventually vacate its current headquarters in Greenfield.