The Indianapolis Star this morning explains the benefits that the advocates of the plan believe will bring to the westside town:
The development will involve taking several homes and businesses through eminent domain and closing of several roads. This includes the closing of Georgetown Road between 25th Street and 16th Street to create a linear park to a serve as a buffer to the track.
Thursday's ceremony, attended by nearly 100 people, was the kickoff for the town's $500 million revitalization effort.
Planners envision a vibrant Main Street with sidewalk cafes, high-end restaurants, race-related experiences and improved shopping options in renovated building fronts.
The plan also calls for new office buildings, a multistory parking garage and new lighting, landscaping and pedestrian-friendly pathways.
Civic leaders believe their public investment will help trigger $263 million in private funds throughout the 400-acre redevelopment site directly south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road.
An estimated 2.5 million square feet of new, mixed-use space will be available in the redeveloped area.
Financial consultant Crowe Horwath estimates the project will create more than 2,000 jobs and a 10-year economic boost of $5.2 billion.
Local leaders expect the redevelopment to complement the racetrack, making the area a destination for visitors and a source of pride for residents and business owners.
"The future of Indianapolis is taking our strengths and building around them," David Wu, policy director for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, said during Thursday's groundbreaking. "So what would make more sense than to build up the areas around where the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing' is held?"
Much of the redevelopment hopes revolve around the construction of a Speedzone racing theme park. The idea is that, with the racing park, Speedway will attract tourists 12 months out of the year. Daytona's racing park is cited as an example of where it has worked successfully.
First of all, last time I checked the city of Daytona was on the Atlantic Ocean in Florida, which state has warmer weather all year around and is already a tourist destination. Second, there is actually some dispute whether the Daytona racing park has worked. Nonetheless, that has not prevented supporters from plowing forward with the Speedzone portion of the project.
Color me as a skeptic. I don't buy for one second that a racing theme park is going to bring tourists to Speedway for 12 months of the year. People are not going to hop on a plane during the middle of winter to fly to Indianapolis just for the purpose of participating in the racing-themed activities provided at the Speedzone.
As is the tradition in Indianapolis, massive public spending is being used to try to leverage the private sector to open its wallet. That is a mighty dangerous road to go down. While there is merit to government spending to improve infrastructure, a definite need in Speedway, when government seeks to directly aid and direct private development, the effort usually fails. Subsidizing private development skews the course of normal economic development. If businesses are not willing to risk their money on a project, that is because they don't see the project as being profitable.
While I wish the residents of Speedway the best, I am doubtful that this project will succeed.