Mayor's office confirms GM stamping plant site as new location for justice center

GM stamping plant
The city has taken a major step toward building a new Justice Center that combines the jail, the courts, and court officers all in one location.

The new Marion County Consolidated Justice Center will be located on the site of the former General Motors stamping plant, just southwest of downtown.
Mayor Greg Ballard's office made the decision following after several public meetings and discussions with key stakeholders.

"It was a unanimous decision by all the key stakeholders in the group - the sheriff, the prosecutor, the courts. They all thought the GM stamping plant was the best location because it offers the best access to the public and key users of the building," mayoral spokesman Marc Lotter said.

Lotter said it was also less expensive than another proposed site on airport property. He said the facility would be built on 40 acres on the northwest side of the old plant, leaving the remaining 80 acres or so for private developer.

RACER Trust owns the property and is responsible for its redevelopment. It has been working closely with the city on best uses.

Lotter said RACER supports the city's plans and would pursue another for the remaining portion.

Earlier this year, the city selected three development teams from a list of five to submit proposals for the site, which will be privately financed, owned and leased to the city.

Those three teams are now being asked to propose a design for the facility which will include 34 criminal courts, 3,500 jail beds and facilities for the sheriff, probation office and others.

The plan is to select the design and developer by years end with construction beginning in 2015 and the facility completed in 2018.

"It's not going to look like what a traditional jail or more of a prison kind of facility would look like. It'll be very modern looking," Lotter said.

But not everyone in the nearby neighborhood is sold.

"It's just another stab in the dark to make the neighborhood go down," said resident Steve Chinn.

Chinn grew up in the area and owns several rental properties there. Even though the city says there will be plenty of land left to redevelop, Chinn isn't buying.

"A couple years ago, we thought it was going to be some high-rise condos on the river, but I don't know if that would happen with the jail being behind it," he said.

Ronald Payne has lived near the plant for 43 years. He worries about being so close to the jail.

"Where they going to go? They're going to go to the closest location they can find," he said.

But other neighbors, including Frank Clark, welcome the investment in an area that's struggled for years. He's not bothered at all by what's going in down the street.

"Personally, I don't see nothing wrong with it. They're not going to hang around here when they get released from jail, they want to go someplace else, so it'll be safer in the neighborhood," Clark said.