May 23, 2024

City offers to buy Eleven Park site citing concerns about historical cemetery

Last year Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett joined other city leaders to break ground on Eleven Park. That development is now in question, as the city pursues a potential Major League Soccer team. - Sydney Dauphinais / WFYI

Last year Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett joined other city leaders to break ground on Eleven Park. That development is now in question, as the city pursues a potential Major League Soccer team.

Sydney Dauphinais / WFYI

The City of Indianapolis has offered to purchase the riverfront site where the future stadium for United Soccer League team Indy Eleven was planned.

The site where Indy Eleven and Keystone Group owner Ersal Ozdemir planned to build Eleven Park, a mixed use development site with a new stadium as its anchor, is also where Indianapolis’s first public cemetery was established in the early 1800s.

In an offer letter to Ozdemir, Chief Deputy Mayor Dan Parker said research over the past year has brought to light how many bodies may still be on the site where Greenlawn Cemetery was. He said up to 650 may still be interned in one acre alone.

“Any future development plans entertained by the City on this site should follow these community conversations, a call we are hearing from community groups and councilors alike,” the May 22 letter read. “The City well recognizes your investment on this important and historic site and proposes an additional way forward – an offer that we hope can fairly compensate Keystone for its efforts.”

The exact site of a segregated section of Greenlawn Cemetery that was the resting place for some of Indianapolis’s first Black residents is also unknown.

The letter adds that with this new knowledge any future development should include a “painstaking and inclusive community conversation”. 

Every time development has occurred near or on the site, remains have been found. Keystone Group has also found remains. In a press release it says it has completed phase one of construction and found 87 burial sites across six acres of the site. Keystone adds it has followed its plan to excavate, document and then reinter any found remains.

A spokesperson said in a statement that the group intends to correct the record on the work being done at the site that “for over a century has been disregarded and disrespected”.

Eleven Park broke ground last year and was supposed to include a 20 thousand seat stadium surrounded by mixed use development.  Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was in attendance for the groundbreaking.

A recent announcement that Indianapolis would seek a Major League Soccer team, leaves the future of Indy Eleven uncertain. The city is now considering a different site for a potential MLS soccer stadium through a proposal to create a new sports development area that would help fund the development.

The city already paid Keystone Group $2 million for an acre on the site where it has plans to build a new bridge across the White River.

The city said it plans to offer Ozdemir market value for the Eleven Park property.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org.

 

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