By James Feichtner
A year of action
Right around this time last year, one would refer to Fishers, Ind. as the largest town in the state. Now as the year 2015 comes to a close Fishers finishes its first year as a city. So much has been accomplished since Fishers has become a city, but what lies ahead for the municipality?
In November, the city announced its bold mental health initiative, a plan that was the result of nearly a year’s worth of development involving monthly meetings with Hamilton Southeastern Schools, Community Health Network and the Fishers fire and police departments. The mental health plan is the city’s goal to help improve the state of mental health in the community through various actionable items. 2016 will mark the implementation of the plan which could prove to be one of the city’s biggest challenges next year.
“The mental health plan is a whole new venture. We don’t really do a lot of the social stuff, so when we went into that it’s been a whole different experience,” Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said. “I don’t know how successful we’re going to be at it but we’re going to do our best and we’re going to be open and honest and work hard to try and affect some sort of change. I know I can build you a road, but I don’t know if I can reduce the number of people who are suffering, but we’re going to try.”
Upcoming economic developments
Indianapolis Metro Airport
For nearly 20 years, the town of Fishers wanted the Indianapolis Airport Authority owned Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport, located off 96th Street near Interstate 69, to be removed from its city. After a stagnant state of disagreement, the city announced its plans to collaborate with the Indianapolis Airport Authority in October to foster a community development project on unused space at the airport. Fadness said he is hoping to have a request out for a proposal to the development community by the end of the 2016 first quarter giving “plenty of time to engage our residents and have a conversation about what they want to see and what they don’t.”
Swedish-owned furniture store Ikea announced its plans to build its first Indiana store in November. The building is expected to be approximately 296,000 square feet with 1000 parking spaces on 35 acres of land located off of the eastern side of Interstate 69 and South of E. 116th Street. Construction is expected to be in fall of 2016 with a grand opening scheduled for fall 2017. The economic development is expected to bring approximately 500 jobs during initial construction and add 250 new IKEA employees for the store. In addition to retail, the store will feature a 350-seat restaurant and children’s play area.
In-progress economic developments
Construction is already well underway on The Switch building located off 116th Street and Municipal Drive in the Nickel Plate District. The Purdue University College of Pharmacy’s Center for Medication Safety Advancement and Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership has signed a lease to occupy the second floor of The Switch. Also joining Purdue will be cloud based service and software company CloudOne as well as national site selector company Ginovus. Expect The Switch to be completed in summer of 2016
While local co-working space Launch Fishers has held its headquarters in the basement of Hamilton East Public Library for almost four years, the more than 500-member company will soon be moving into its own building the first quarter of 2016. Formerly the location of DECA Financial, the 52,000 square-foot building located is at 12175 Visionary Way and was purchased for approximately $3.1 million with renovations at about $400,000. The facility will be the first AT&T fiber ready co-working space in the state.
Lantern Road mixed-use
A two-story, 16,000 square foot mixed-use building with 8,000 square foot dedicated to commercial office space is expected to be completed by spring 2016. Four Day Ray plans to be the first-floor tenant in the new urban storefront development located at 11671 Lantern Rd., and has proposed a production brewery, taproom and restaurant. No confirmed second tenant has been approved as of press time.
106th Street and I-69 Overlay
The biggest of road projects in store for Fishers in 2016 will be the 106th Street and I-69 overlay. The project is intended to reduce congestion at existing I-69 interchanges at 96th and 116th streets, increase traffic safety in the area and provide direct interstate access at 106th Street. Direct access will serve existing residential and commercial destinations and accommodate development and population growth in the area. Expect the project to go out for bid in March of 2016 with beginning construction to follow later in the year.
Fall Creek Trail
The nearly 20-year-old trail located along Fall Creek Road will be seeing its construction completed by the end of 2016. The nearly one-and-a-half long trail will be widened to 10 feet to allow for increased pedestrian traffic. In addition to widening the trail, the city plans to redo some of the bridges and boardwalks, making it more efficient and aesthetically pleasing to residents. The city has awarded the project bid to Indiana based construction company Olco, who the city has worked with in other sidewalk projects.
“We anticipate some tree clearing over the winter and then really the trail construction will really ramp up from April to October timeframe.” Fishers director of engineering Jeff Hill said.
New Goals for New Mayor of Lawrence
Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier discussed attracting new businesses to Lawrence. Collier said he hopes to put together a task force responsible for coordinating with potential businesses in helping aid in their decision to establish a presence in the city.
“We’re putting together a team; working together with chamber of commerce, local business leasers; I will be a part of it. We’ll have some people representing the local arts and culture aspect. Someone from redevelopment, someone from reuse authority community development committee who will be the team who, when we have people who want to come to the city, their job will be to present a presentation to convince them to come to the city of Lawrence,” he said. I’ve already been contacted by two people who want to come to the city of Lawrence. One who has an employee base of about 140 and the other one has got about 45 employees.
In addition, Collier said he is aiming to increase tax increment financing in some areas south of Pendleton Pike and establish working contracts with public safety personnel in the city.
New Personnel in Lawrence
Several new personnel will be joining the city of Lawrence staff. Lawrence will welcome Steve Collier as the new mayor for the city. Collier comes to the position from serving on the city council and other governmental committees, as well as spending 33 years in the Metro School District of Lawrence Township. Other new staff members will include Jason Fenwick as the new City Controller, David Hoffman as the new Lawrence Police Dept. Chief, Dino Batalis as the new Lawrence Fire Dept. Chief, James Gutting as the mayor’s corporate attorney, Maura Hoff as the new city attorney and Julie Kukolla as the new Executive Assistant.
Lawrence Animal Shelter
The next steps toward Lawrence receiving a no-kill animal shelter in the city will be underway quickly after the new year begins. Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier said that there are a couple options in establishing a location.
“It’s not that big of a deal but it may be in our best interest to select another facility. We have the existing pound that the city of Lawrence has as an asset,” Collier said. “Maybe it makes sense to take the funds from the sale of that asset over here and build a brand new one over here. We’re going to try and keep our options open over what can be done, but try to get it moving relatively soon.”
Fishers Police Chief Retires
Fishers Police Chief George Kehl announced last September that he will be retiring from the police department in Sept. 2016. Kehl joined the department in 1975 as a part-time deputy marshal. By 1978 he became police chief. During his tenure, the police department has grown from one sworn officer to a department of 103 while leading the department to become a nationally accredited institution. Kehl has led the department during explosive population growth, and instituted policies that ensured Fishers remained one of the safest cities in the United States. Despite his retirement Kehl’s service to his community will not be finished as he plans to eventually run for the seat on the Hamilton County Council.
Since August, Fishers has been putting together its comprehensive plan as part of its Fishers 2040 initiative by forming a steering committee with several task forces made up of city employees, citizens and outside consultants. The task forces shared their findings on Dec. 14. After its approval at the Dec. 21 council meeting, Fadness said that the plan will begin to be shared with the public beginning the first half of 2016.
“To be smart we need to have a well planned community. We started the comp plan because we all agreed we needed to do something and we’re not done yet. We’ve got to take this collection of thoughts and ideas, put a plan together and execute on it, so that will be a big project this upcoming year. In the first quarter of next year you’re going to see us taking it out to the whole public to get their input and we’re going to start implementing those things.
Another goal Fadness said he hopes to achieve is more transparency in the financials of city government.
“My hope is in the second or third quarter of next year that you’ll see a complete transparency to our financials so anyone can go on a website and see everything,” Fadness said. “Let’s eliminate the conspiracy theorists and say, “here you go, here’s real time financial information, the same that we see.” That has never been a purposeful thing that we’ve kept from people, it’s just we haven’t had the professional management to be able to organize ourselves and get that stuff pushed out to the public.”
Hamilton Southeastern Schools have spent the past several months preparing for a recommendation of a referendum. With the previous referendum having expired, a new referendum will go before the HSE school board at the second HSE School Board meeting in January. If approved by the board, the referendum will go on the ballot during the 2016 May primary election.