Developer to fight city’s eminent domain plans for GM stamping plant site

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (Inside INdiana Business) — Ambrose Property Group has taken another step in its fight with the city of Indianapolis over the former General Motors stamping plant site west of the city’s downtown.

The developer has given a notice of the legal action it intends to pursue against the city for what it calls “the city’s baseless eminent domain threat and defamation.”

The back-and-forth between the two parties stems from Ambrose’s announcement in late September that it planned to sell the property, which was being redeveloped as the $1.4 billion Waterside project. At the time, the developer said the move was due to a shift it its business focus.

Shortly after the announcement, the city said it would seek to take control of the property through eminent domain. Ambrose claims the city has violated the project agreement for the Waterside development by threatening to use eminent domain. In an Oct. 16 letter to Ambrose, the city said there was no violation.

The city adds it had already committed $26 million in taxpayer funds to the project and Ambrose had told the city it would not move forward unless the city committed an additional $10 million.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Ambrose Chief Executive Officer Aasif Bade claims the city’s eminent domain threats have prevented the developer from selling the property. Additionally, Bade says the city has “defamed and disparaged Ambrose and its ability as a developer,” which has caused at least $30 million in damages, a figure he says could increase until the city “takes corrective measures.”

Donnie Morgan, corporation counsel for the city of Indianapolis, provided a response to Inside INdiana Business, saying legal counsel for Ambrose has agreed to a meeting with the city, which is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. “We believe meaningful conversations about the future of this important site will be more productive than public posturing.”

Morgan would not comment on the legal claims made by Ambrose.

You can read Bade’s full statement here:

First, I’d like to make clear that we’ve had 100+ meetings with the City.  We will meet with the City at any time to resolve their unlawful behavior.  With that said, we must protect ourselves from their threats and false defamatory statements.  So today, we gave the City official notice of the legal claims we intend to pursue against the City for the damage the City’s baseless eminent domain threat and defamation have caused unless the City fixes the continuing and significant harm that it has inflicted. 

The City entered into a binding contract whereby it agreed that it would not seek to take the property by eminent domain, and the City is required by law to uphold its promise.  By making baseless eminent domain threats, the City has slandered our title to the Waterside property and prevented any sale from occurring, resulting in Ambrose losing between $65 to $100 million – the value of the property.  The City’s only defense so far has been that it committed fraud:  that the City may take the property at its whim because the City isn’t required to keep its promises.  The City is wrong but – even if the City was right – then the City committed fraud by promising not to take the property, inducing us to invest millions in Waterside, and now going back on that promise by taking the property without our consent.  Further, to add insult to injury, City officials have defamed and disparaged Ambrose and its ability as a developer, resulting in at least $30 million in damages as of today.  These damages are continuing and could increase until the City takes corrective measures.

We remain willing to meet and work with the City, as we have done many times over the past three and a half years, but the City must immediately stop its unlawful conduct and rectify the damage its actions have caused.

You can read Morgan’s full statement here:

Since Ambrose Property Group’s initial announcement, the City has repeatedly asked to meet with company leadership to begin conversations about the future of this site. For the first time this morning, legal counsel for Ambrose agreed to a meeting that is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. We believe meaningful conversations about the future of this important site will be more productive than public posturing.

As to the merits of Ambrose’s purported claims, we do not comment on threatened or pending litigation.