The shift in sites probably has more to do with practicalities than anything. Many members of Indianapolis' legal community reacted very negatively to a site near the airport next to the county line with Hendricks County. The prevailing view is that the site should be one that is centrally-located and easiest to access for the population being served by the criminal courts, jail and related criminal justice offices. Additionally, a recent Indiana Supreme Court case, which blocked an effort by the Center Township Trustee's Office to relocate the township's small claims court to a site away from the City-County Building and sided with the small claims court judge who opposed the move, strongly suggested a legal challenge to an airport site might prove successful. Marion Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg, who overseas Marion County's court facilities, recently stated that the case for an airport site had not been made. The Urbanophile's Aaron Renn offered this comment in reaction to today's decision naming the GM Stamping Plant site:
I applaud the mayor for picking the most logical site. The justice center needs to be centrally located in order to be easily accessible, especially by transit. Keep in mind that 10% of Marion County households don't own cars. Those family members, witnesses, and jurors should not be burdened with a potentially long trip to the far side of the county. On the Near West Side, the justice center can actually inject economic life into a neighborhood that could use it. And it would free up significant downtown real estate for taxable use. Let's hope this result stands and goes through.While the GM Stamping Plant site is much more preferable to the airport site because of its central location, the means of developing the new criminal justice system as proposed by the Ballard administration still calls for its construction, ownership, operation and maintenance to be vested solely in the hands of a private development consortium rather than being constructed as a typical public works project through the issuance of general obligation bonds. Instead, a long-term credit-tenant financing agreement similar to the City's ill-advised leasing of space at the former Eastgate Consumer Mall for the Regional Operations Center is being considered, whereby the private development entity would borrow the money to construct the facility using the city's credit rating to obtain a lower rate of financing and lock the City into a long-term lease agreement with the private developer pledging city revenues for repayment of its loan. In the long term, that approach will cost considerably more than borrowing the money directly through the issuance of general obligation bonds and owning the facility outright. As I pointed out previously, all three finalists bidding for the criminal justice center project also rely on foreign entities for their equity investment in the project.
The selection of the GM Stamping Plant site should disabuse us of the notion that the site might be used for construction of an $87 million, publicly-financed soccer stadium that private developer Ersal Ozdemir is pushing for his Indy Eleven minor league professional soccer team. Ozdemir submitted a plan for redevelopment of the GM Stamping Plant through the separate RFP process being conducted by the Ballard administration. Others have told Advance Indiana that Ozdemir would like to see a new soccer stadium built at the site of the former RCA Tennis Center adjacent to the IUPUI campus along the downtown canal that was torn down a little more than two decades after its initial construction. The legislature has decided against acting on Ozdemir's stadium financing deal at least for this year's legislative session.