Zionsville town leaders share why they’re optimistic
By Carla Howie
Optimism is the word. Both Zionsville Town Manager Ed Mitro and Town Council President Jeff Papa agreed that optimism is in the air for Zionsville for 2014.
“The Economic Development Strategic plan that was adopted by town council in 2013 is beginning to pay its dividends. We’ve laid the infrastructure for many projects to come to fruition and when that does, Zionsville will have turned the corner. The delivered message will be that we are open for business,” Mitro stated.
Staying the course
“Our primary concern will always be providing essential services to our community; to ensure we have the funding to allow the proper functioning of the fire department, police department and others that address public safety of Zionsville residents,” Papa said.
“Last year the town had to learn how to work within the state-level tax caps, tough decisions had to be made and creative ways had to be found to work within the state limits. We are very prudent with our expenditures and will hold the line in not spending down our reserves. This year’s budget process was the smoothest budget process we’ve had in years,” Mitro said.
Coming to fruition
Both leaders agreed that the aggressive and cooperative efforts of all the town’s departments to advance development is beginning to pay off and will add diversified revenue to the town’s coffers. The 315,000-square-foot future home of FedEx Ground Distribution Center, located south of 106th Street and Bennett Parkway, is on course to open in the first quarter and the Redevelopment Commission has secured Rundell Ernstberger Associates to put together a master plan for the Creekside Corporate Parkway on the north side of the property along 106th Street and Zionsville Road. The plan will determine how much of the property can be developed to accommodate a mix of large buildings (50,000-150,000-square-feet) and small buildings (less than 50,000-square-feet) for office usage and manufacturing. The South village construction project, which includes Bub’s Burgers, is well underway with the framing of the remaining parcels next to Bub’s.
“Our focus areas for development are commercial and industrial, while being strategic. The town purchased the block of land on Main and Sycamore Streets to prevent anyone else from buying it. That is a one of the cornerstones of our town’s entrance and we wanted to preserve that space which is currently being used for the Farmer’s Market and public parking. That area should be developed to serve our downtown area and the town should determine how that area will be used, not an outside developer. That area is a critical intersection and as we move forward in strategic development of the intersection of First and Sycamore Streets, that area as well, will be considered,” Papa stated.
Another major development that will bring a significant enhancement to the look and feel and economy of Zionsville will be the Pittman Farm development; 62 acres at the southwest corner of US 421 and 116th Street. Rezoning of the property from residential to PUD (planned unit development) was approved by town council in August. This was the final approval necessary for Pittman Investors, LLC to move forward with plans to market the area and procure commitments from prospective businesses before breaking ground.
Collaboration has its benefits
Papa discussed the annexation process between Whitestown and Zionsville and stated that the benefit of collaboration between the two leaders of the respective town councils prevented litigation and both sides made concessions easily. One of the big concessions that favors Zionsville is the addition of 40 acres by Lowe’s. In conjunction with the 80 acres already belonging to Zionsville, the land will make for a prime development area.
Data to direct decisions
“We are awaiting the analysis of the Downtown Parking and Marketing study. It will provide data to determine the best way to market the brick street district, including the South Village. It was an opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard who have a vested interest in the area. Several businesses have applied for funding from the façade grant program and for the first time since the grant’s inception, it has spent its allocated budget. The grant funding 50 percent of the project is a strong indicator that the businesses are proactively getting ready in making improvements and positioning themselves for the future. The Architectural Review Committee is guilty of its own success,” Mitro said.
The town’s manager and the town council has reason to be optimistic. They have taken the elements of the Economic Development Strategic Plan and put them into a solid action plan ready to produce the fruit of the town’s growth, a diversified tax base, long term sustainability and continued quality of life.