The city of Indianapolis told Ambrose Property Group on Wednesday that it will use eminent domain if necessary to take ownership of the GM stamping plant property Ambrose had planned to turn into a $1.4 billion, mixed-use development called Waterside “to ensure necessary redevelopment” still occurs there.
But Mayor Joe Hogsett’s administration also encouraged Ambrose to negotiate a deal with the city to avoid the legal process.
“We have set in motion the required steps under state law and will be in touch as the eminent-domain process continues,” said the letter to Ambrose CEO Aasif Bade, which was signed by Donald Morgan, the city’s corporation counsel. The letter came one day after Indianapolis Business Journal learned Ambrose had already sold a piece of the property to the Indianapolis Zoo.
Bade did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The site previously was the proposed location for a new Marion County Criminal Justice complex under the administration of former Mayor Greg Ballard. The complex is now in the development stages at the former Citizens coke plant location in the Twin Aire neighborhood southeast of downtown Indianapolis.
Ambrose announced on Friday it was dropping plans to redevelop the former GM stamping plant on the west edge of downtown into Waterside, which was to include 1,350 residential units, 620 hotel rooms, 2.75 million square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail space.
Ambrose said that it would instead sell the 103 acres it had acquired for $3 million from RACER Trust, an organization set up to handle abandoned GM properties. It has enlisted JLL to look for buyers.
But the city has had other ideas since it learned on Thursday evening that Ambrose planned to abandon the project. “We’ve been clear with them in our early conversations that the city had an interest in purchasing the property,” said Hogsett’s chief of staff, Thomas Cook.
Cook said eminent domain has been a consideration from the start, but that officials decided Wednesday morning it was time to send a letter to Ambrose to try to compel the firm to the table for negotiations.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the city had not yet received a response to the letter from Ambrose, but Cook said the city hopes to sit down with Ambrose soon to determine what “a reasonable offer for what the price would be to acquire the property.”