Speedway rounds a new lap with redevelopmentSRC Member
By Josh Duke
May 10, 2011
Drive on Main Street in Speedway now, and you might do a double take — between 10th and 16th streets, you’ll see ornate light poles, welcome banners, fancy benches and landscaping, and an 8-foot-wide bike path.
To Speedway officials, the just-finished infrastructure upgrade and impending construction of Italian racing-car chassis builder Dallara’s U.S. headquarters signal an acceleration of the neighborhood’s planned resurgence, which is pinned on a mix of retail, business and entertainment offerings.
And the Speed Zone makeover is picking up speed right on time — as the metro area gears up for this year’s 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 and the larger economy begins to recover.
The $500 million redevelopment will transform 350 acres south of the track into a racing-themed business and entertainment center. Plans include multistory retail and residential buildings along Main Street as well as commercial, office and light-industrial development throughout the area.
Expectations are bolstered by talks with three restaurants, two museum groups and motorsports companies and teams, said Scott Harris, director of the Speedway Redevelopement Commission. A three- to four-star hotel is being studied for 16th Street.
“We have something to show now, so we need to focus on how we can move forward as quickly as possible,” said Rollie Helming, head of the motorsports initiative for the Indiana Economic Development Corp., about Speedway’s plans. “I would anticipate significant development in the next two to three years.”
Major economic driver
Local and state officials expect Speedway’s makeover to have an impact beyond town borders.
Financial consultant Crowe Horwath predicts the project will create 5,200 temporary full-time jobs to construct roads and buildings and more than 2,200 permanent full-time jobs in offices and retail and manufacturing businesses by 2023.
Not only will the redevelopment attract an estimated $263 million in private investment, but it also could inject $4.6 billion into the region’s economy by 2023, Crowe Horwath estimates, through job creation, tax revenues, corporate investment and tourism spending.
“This redevelopment will bring jobs, technology and that entire (motorsports) industry back to Indianapolis where it belongs,” Helmling said. “This is a very critical tipping point for motor sports in Indiana.”
Successful motorsports makeovers have occurred in Charlotte, N.C., based around the Charlotte Motor Speedway and a nearly year-old NASCAR Hall of Fame, as well as in Wyandotte County, Kan., where developers turned 400 acres of farmland into a retail and entertainment district next to the Kansas Speedway.
“When you have such a huge anchor in your area like a motor speedway, developers are willing to invest in that area,” said Andy Papathanassiou, executive director for the North Carolina Motorsports Association. “We’ve seen it here; they’ve seen it in Kansas. The growth and sustainability of these projects work real well as long as everyone involved is on the same page.”
For Indiana, a major puzzle piece fell in place last summer when Dallara announced it would build its U.S. headquarters in Speedway to design, test and build a new IndyCar chassis in time for racing next March.
Construction will begin any day on the $6 million, 100,000-square-foot building on Main Street to house Dallara and the Indy Racing Experience.
Dallara’s facility will have a racing simulator, a place to show how an Indy car goes from concept to assembly, and tours of Dallara’s workshop to view cars being designed, built and tested.
“Indianapolis is famous all over the world for its racing tradition,” said Stefano de Ponti, chief executive for Dallara’s U.S. division. “We want to build something that replicates that Indianapolis 500 experience by focusing on technology and providing that entertainment value.”
The redevelopment’s entertainment theme also will be emphasized with a Wall of Fame planned for the east side of Main Street at 14th Street.
Expected to be in place within two years, the outdoor exhibit will be more than 300 feet long and up to 30 feet wide and pay homage to the town’s heritage with art, racing-related displays, an interactive screen and water features.
The town and Indy Racing Experience also have discussed designing three-seat replica Indy cars for tours of sights in Speedway, much like the horse-drawn carriage rides in Downtown Indianapolis.
And Harris said talks are continuing with two groups that want to add museums focused on cars and motorsports to complement the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum at the racetrack.
Town fathers always knew Speedway’s racing legacy would be integral to the redevelopment. At Thursday’s ribbon-cutting upon completion of the Main Street improvements, four local actors impersonated the initial investors in the racetrack a century ago: Arthur Newby, Frank Wheeler, Carl Fisher and James Allison.
“We want to revitalize the town by building upon its historic character and its motorsports and advanced manufacturing heritage,” Harris said.
Harris said the Dallara building, which should be finished in five or six months, should pave the way for other development. Construction on at least two new buildings a block south of the Dallara site will begin later this year, a third likely to be built in 2012. Harris said all three will have commercial or light-industrial uses.
Dallara will surround its facility with subcontractors and auto-parts makers — and hire and train locally — as it does in Italy. Ten employees will be on board by the end of the month, and the company hopes to have 80 on the payroll by the end of its first year of operation.
“We want all of our employees in our U.S. operation to be from here,” de Ponti said. “We moved here not only to build the car but to create opportunities for people here.”
More street upgrades also are planned.
A partnership involving the town, city and state will pay for an $11.5 10th Street realignment — bowing it out about a block to the north in front of Allison Transmission. Other street changes also are planned to improve traffic flow.
Back to its roots
Incorporated in 1926, Speedway was conceived by auto pioneer and IMS co-founder Fisher as an appealing complement to the track and industry.
For its first 40 years, Speedway thrived, reaching 14,523 residents in 1970. It then began a contraction as many industries folded or left, leaving empty warehouses and vacant lots. Its population is currently more than 12,600 residents.
Although the redevelopment has drawn criticism from a few business owners and residents who could lose land needed for the road relocations, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other local businesses endorse it. And if the Speedway redevelopment project achieves its goals, the Westside community’s decline will be reversed.
Doug Boles, head of public relations for IMS, said it is gratifying to see signs of the community’s resurgence.
“Main Street, 100 years ago, was the street in which James Allison founded Allison Transmission and built the cars that raced in the 500,” he said. “Getting that back with Dallara has developed an anchor that will allow this community to come full circle.”