YIR: Indy mayor proposes new criminal justice complex

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justice-center-mainpublicapproach-1500px-15col.jpg A rendering of the criminal justice center by winning bidder WMB Heartland Justice Partners. (IL file photo)

In December 2013, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and city and court officials announced a plan to build a $500 million criminal justice complex in Marion County to house the courts, jails and other offices in one location. Currently, those entities are spread across downtown Indianapolis and the county. The announcement has caused some controversy regarding selection of its location, how it will be financed, and transparency of the details.

Most agree it would be ideal to have all of the court-related functions in one location, but few could agree where the future criminal justice complex should be located. The city originally preferred a site near the Indianapolis International Airport on the edge of the Hendricks County and Marion County line, but later decided on a location on the former GM stamping plant just west of the heart of downtown.

complex-city-county-15col.jpg The justice center would move criminal courts from the City-County Building. (IL file photo)

Creating a justice center outside of the city’s center raised concerns about accessibility by the public, the extra time to travel to court by attorneys, and the impact on businesses and real estate if the court-related functions left. At this point, civil court would remain in its current location in downtown Indianapolis, but Indianapolis Director of Enterprise Development David Rosenberg said civil courts could be relocated to the new criminal complex in the future.

The mayor selected three bidders and released the request for proposals in April. The city did not make most of the RFP public until October. The mayor’s office announced Paris-based WMB Heartland Justice Partners as the winning bidder Dec. 12, and it will pay WMB Heartland $1.6 billion over 35 years for the new justice center.

City officials have repeatedly said that taxes will not be increased to pay for the construction and that efficiencies created by consolidating criminal courts and services in one location will fund the complex.

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