Now that the criminal justice complex is off the table, what could go in the old RCA/Thomson site?

INDIANAPOLIS -- Now that the former RCA/Thomson plant on the Near Eastside will not be the home of Marion County's new criminal justice complex, what could come of the 50-acre Sherman Park site?

The possibilities are wide open, according to Near East Area Renewal Executive Director John Franklin Hay.

"There would be a wide variety of industrial & commercial uses," he said. "It is a very usable space. It's very redeemable."

Above: NEAR Executive Director John Franklin Hay in his office at the John H. Boner Community Center.

The one thing that's probably out: Ground-level residential development. For decades, the plant produced vinyl records and television sets. In the process, it generated a huge amount of pollution that lingers on the site.

"The contamination at Sherman Park is serious," Hay said. "It is manageable. It is unhealthy, right now. The levels of contamination there prevent human activity at the ground level at this point in time. It would be very difficult to clean that site up for residential housing. It is more likely that the cleanup would make possible commercial and industrial development on the site."

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When it was fully operational, the plant employed more than 8,000 people in its heyday. Hay says the neighborhood doesn't expect to see a single company take over the whole 50-acre site like RCA did.

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"We don't imagine that would ever happen again, but we do imagine that there would be viable employment, and that that employment would help serve our neighbors and neighborhood," Hay said.

But the site is one of the few open industrial spots in Indianapolis, Hay said. And it is the biggest one. That has attracted consistent interest to the site through the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce.

The next step for the site will be the development of a comprehensive plan. NEAR was awarded a $200,000 Brownfield grant from the EPA to do just that over the next two years.

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Hay says the bulk of that process will be hearing from all the stakeholders in the site.

"There have always been suggestions and ideas floating around the neighborhood," he said. "Folks would like to have a recreational center and a great park. Folks would like to see a big industrial complex developed there, or something like the Keystone Enterprise Park. There is not one developed plan. We haven't done that yet. That's what this area-wide planning grant provides for, is pulling together a wide variety of ideas, sifting through those, prioritizing those, and developing a comprehensive plan. Then we can move the property forward."

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