Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana
Fort Benjamin Harrison, now known simply as “The Fort,” is a vibrant residential, retail, and business community that is widely recognized as a model for reuse and redevelopment of a military installation.
Fort Benjamin Harrison Today
Located in Lawrence, Indiana, twelve miles from downtown Indianapolis, the former Fort Benjamin Harrison has been developed into a successful, mixed-use community with more than 187 businesses employing 7,000 people on site. The Lawrence Government Center is the cornerstone of the new town center and includes several City of Lawrence offices including the Mayor’s Office, the Police Department, and the City Council auditorium. In addition, 27 technology firms are located within a half-mile radius of the former base.
Ivy Tech Community College, specializing in nursing, physical therapy, and the culinary arts, currently enrolls 7,000 students. Residential uses include apartments, condominiums, single family homes, a 45-unit senior citizen apartment complex, a 250-300-unit senior assisted living facility, as well as a 50-unit veterans’ domiciliary. One of Indiana's best-known local breweries is located on the former base, as is a state-owned hotel. The Fort hosts a 19,000-square-foot medical office building offering urgent care services, and a YMCA with 13,000 members. Bloomerang, a nationally known developer and deliverer of tools and perspectives to support non-profit organizations, is also located on The Fort.
Numerous historic structures have been restored and over 1,000 acres are covered by woodlands. A generous donation by the Lilly Endowment has spurred a public-private investment of more than $6 million to build a new cultural campus near the Fort’s theater, including the relocation and repurposing of a WWII Communications building into a Visual Arts Center. These projects will provide significant amenities for the people who live and work at the Fort, while creating public space that encourages additional visitors to discover the campus.
A strong military presence remains at the Fort. The Defense Accounting and Finance Service employs over 5,000 personnel in a one-million-square-foot building. The Indiana Army Reserve, Indiana National Guard, Post Exchange and Commissary remain on the former installation. The American Legion has constructed and occupies a 65,000-square-foot office and warehouse facility.
Established in 1903, the former post was comprised of 2,500 acres and served as an installation for non-combat military training including the U.S. Army Finance School, the Inter-Service Postal School, and the Military Police Corp. The Defense Information School trained service members and Department of Defense employees to become journalists in print, radio, television and photography, and provided advanced supervisory training in public affairs, media and community relations.
Fort Benjamin Harrison was recommended for closure by the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. It officially closed on September 30, 1996, resulting in the loss of 1,050 civilian positions.
Representatives from Marion County and the City of Lawrence formed the Fort Harrison Transition Task Force to oversee conveyance and redevelopment of the former post. The State of Indiana passed legislation providing this stand-alone public body the power to buy, sell, and lease property at the fort. The Task Force adopted the Fort Benjamin Harrison Reuse Plan in 1994. It then purchased 800 acres of the former main post through an economic development conveyance. Through a public benefit conveyance, the State of Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources acquired approximately 1,700 acres of the former post and established the Fort Harrison State Park and Golf Course.
The Fort Harrison Redevelopment Authority, the successor implementing organization, re-adopted the Reuse Plan in August 1995 after the Army’s Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision were issued in May of that year. Most of the Fort Harrison Redevelopment Authority’s land was sold within the first five years of conveyance with some land sales continuing today.
In addition to land sales, funding mechanisms for the Authority have included issuing bonds, borrowing money, and establishing a tax increment financing (TIF) district for the entire base area. The Authority credits its ability to incur debt and create a TIF district as one of the reasons for the project’s success, along with great inter-governmental cooperation and favorable market conditions.
Updated October 2020