New youth center nears groundbreaking

The new Youth and Family Services Center, which will replace Marion County’s current juvenile detention center on Keystone Avenue, will have fewer beds and will be safer for staff and the youth, with less blind spots and more natural light.

“Moving forward with a new facility will provide the youth determined in need of detention a modern, contemporary facility that encompasses much of what our current facility does not,” the Marion Superior Court said in a statement.

The new youth center will be a freestanding building located on the south end of the Community Justice Campus, according to Sarah Riordan, executive director and general counsel for The Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank. Architects and engineers at Elevatus Architecture have been working with the courts on the design of the structure.

While the Keystone facility has 144 beds, the new center will cut the number to 64 beds in eight housing units with eight individual rooms in each unit. The focus, according to the court, will be on detaining those identified by the revised detention screening assessment as being the highest-risk youth.

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Also, the new building will have two hearing rooms along with a learning center that will offer four classrooms, two library areas, and one vocational and art room. A gymnasium, an activity room and an outdoor recreation area will be included. Plus, the visitation areas will accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

The court highlighted design features such as having medical, mental health and educational programs very close to the housing units so juveniles will not have to travel far in the new center for services. Also, meals will be served in housing units to encourage a family setting that involves appropriate meal conversation and table etiquette. Additionally, the updated technology will include touch-based computers in the learning center to avoid the use of pens and pencils.

Once the construction documents are complete, the city of Indianapolis will solicit bids and award a construction contract, Riordan said. The City-County Council has already appropriated $40 million for the new youth center.

The construction is expected to take 16 to 18 months, with the groundbreaking likely in 2023. However, Riordan noted the city will have multiple construction projects ongoing within the next two years, and delays could happen if supply chains get snarled.

“We would certainly want to break ground at a point next year that would enable us to be well along in 2024,” Riordan said. “But again, it’s really, really difficult right now to manage expectations on things like that because there’s so many factors beyond our control.”•

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