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Zoo expansion plans

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis Zoo is growing.

The zoo announced Wednesday it has acquired 26.5 acres of land from Ambrose Property Group. The land used to be home to the old General Motors stamping plant. APG donated 10 of those acres and the zoo purchased the rest.

The expansion property was recently made available after APG announced it was offloading plans to redevelop the land into a mixed-use space.

Nearly 1.2 million people visit the Indianapolis Zoo each year, according to the zoo’s public relations director, Judy Palermo.

“It’s been an issue for us being landlocked so we’ve been looking at the land across the street and hoping we can get that for decades,” said Palermo. “This deal with Ambrose we’ve been working on for about a year, two years and we couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities.”

The acquired land will be known as the zoo’s south lot and will be used for extra parking. It will open if the existing lot is full.

Indianapolis Zoo bringing more animals, exhibits with property expansion

Visitors are currently forced to park off site in downtown and walk to the zoo. Palermo said there will be shuttles to help transport guests to and from the south lot.

“That would be fantastic,” visitor Nicki Stemley said. “Make sure there’s plenty of parking for everybody and a nice safe place to unload your kids so you’re not having to do it on the city streets.”

However, the south lot will eventually be the main lot as the Indianapolis Zoo plans to turn the existing lot into a space with more animal attractions.

“We know that through their (visitor’s) feedback they want to know more about other animals and for us to bring more here,” said Palermo.

Makenzie Derico, a young visitor at the zoo, said she’s looking forward to the changes.

“It’s so exciting! There’s probably going to be some lions, some butterflies and probably some rabbits,” Derico said.

“I already get lost so for it to be even bigger I can’t imagine,” said Bre’Aunna Pratcher, who was visiting the zoo on Wednesday. “I can’t wait to see that; bigger and more animals that’s a great thing.”

Acquiring the additional acreage is just phase one of the zoo’s future plans.

“Two, three, five, 10 years out we’ll be working on what is the next big thing to come to the zoo, what is the next story we need to tell and saving species so we’re going to roll up our sleeves, we’re going to get in there and start working out that master plan with our board and our staff,” added Palermo.

The south lot will temporarily be used for big events, including Zoo Boo, starting Oct. 17, and Christmas at the Zoo. Developments for future parking will start in early 2020.

The City of Indianapolis wants to take back the land where the former GM stamping plant sits.

City leaders sent APG a letter on Wednesday threatening eminent domain to ensure necessary redevelopment of the 100-plus acres of land.

The city’s action against Ambrose will have no impact on the zoo’s expansion plans, officials said.