From last week’s Indy Star:
GM plant sale could open door for new amphitheater
Carmel developer REI Investments has agreed to buy the 102-acre former General Motors Stamping Plant site and is moving forward with efforts to develop a large outdoor amphitheater on the eastern half of the property.
As part of the deal, the city is exploring plans to build a justice center on the western half of the property that includes a new jail.
REI gained control of the property through a purchase agreement reached with the RACER Trust, the Michigan-based entity that has controlled the site since GM vacated it in 2011.
REI president Mike Wells said his company is exploring financing options — including forming partnerships — to build the 15,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. If REI can’t find financing, he said, building apartments, restaurants and retail on the site remains a back-up plan.
“We’re going to have to come up with a decision in the fall as to what direction we will go,” he said. “And then I think we would start construction probably in the second quarter (of 2015.)
Wells said the opportunity to acquire the property was too good to pass up, though, he said, REI’s involvement was somewhat accidental.
About a year ago, he said, he attended a public meeting the RACER Trust held to discuss potential uses for the former stamping plant site. Wells said he didn’t have strong interest in the property at that time, but spoke up after several comments were made about reusing the stamping plant.
Reusing the plant, Wells recalls saying at the meeting, isn’t a viable option. He told the RACER Trust it should be torn down and the site should be redeveloped, perhaps as an amphitheater.
“This building is an eyesore and is not going to be reused in its current form,” Wells said.
He remained in contact with RACER and ultimately decided to place a bid for the property.
“The opportunity to acquire and redevelop an iconic property like the Indianapolis Stamping Plant doesn’t come along very often, and we’re thrilled that RACER selected our firm to write the next chapter in its history,” Well said.
The plant site is in a prominent location along the west bank of White River just south of Washington Street. GM closed the plant and transferred ownership to the Michigan-based trust as part of the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy. The trust was created in bankruptcy court to clean up and sell for redevelopment about 89 former GM sites.
The amphitheater would compete with other local venues.
The plant is across the river from White River State Park, which since 2004 has hosted its own concerts at The Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn, with a capacity of 7,400 spectators.
The area’s premier outdoor venue, Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, seats 24,000.
Mayor Greg Ballard, who proposed the consolidated justice center at the site, still has to persuade the City-County Council to go along with the plan.
RACER said it won’t sell the site to REI if it isn’t able to negotiate a development agreement with the city.
REI was one of 10 companies invited to bid on the site. Four submitted proposals.
REI is a longtime commercial developer whose projects include the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown.
Call Star reporter Jeff Swiatek at (317)444-6483. Follow him on Twitter: @JeffSwiatek.
What do you think…can Indianapolis support another concert venue?