Commentary by Rocky Shanehsaz
Recent news about the visionary plans to develop 58 miles of the White River between Hamilton and Marion counties give me hope and excitement for our city’s future. For too long, we’ve tiptoed around the need to expand riverfront enhancement projects in downtown Noblesville to promote economic development and improve quality of life.
We need to use this wonderful waterway as a resource to reshape our city and make it a more vibrant and attractive destination. A city with riverfront activities and a trail system that ultimately connects Noblesville to Westfield, Carmel, Fishers and Indianapolis would be an invaluable resource that would attract more jobs and commerce and promote a healthy lifestyle for Noblesville residents.
Ideas from the community include biking and hiking paths, a river walk, boat cruises, more access for canoes and kayaks, a horseback riding path, a promenade with lawn space, more festivals and events, among others. While most preferred no housing development along the riverway, high-end apartments or condos with a riverfront view in certain sections could be a great selling point to attract and retain the talent needed for economic development. Residential sections along the river, or even light commercial sites, could add to the safety and security of the developed recreational sections by establishing neighborhood crime-watch areas.
The White River winds right through our historic downtown, which bustles with activity and is nearly bursting at the seams. In the White River Vision Plan, the expert job sectors targeted for growth were identified as: life sciences, aerospace, transportation and industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals and technology. Noblesville could entertain the idea of expanding its downtown toward the south and create space to attract these types of industries.
The Noblesville Parks and Recreation plan includes goals to create a riverfront master plan, and the city already owns about 25 to 30 percent of land within the floodplain. Just like the multiple-jurisdiction river plan, Noblesville needs to decide how to manage the plan, how to implement it and how to pay for it. Noblesville city leaders need to consider other ideas from the community for its section of the waterway and encourage private investors to partner with the city to diversify its options.
As a longtime real estate developer in Noblesville, the first thing I do on any project is try to gain the support and blessing of nearby neighbors and business owners. For instance, in the 1990s, when I refurbished the Matteo’s building, I found the second floors in most of the downtown buildings were unoccupied or underutilized.
With help from Main Street, my vision was to attract more businesses to downtown by adding technology, such as internet and fax services, to the buildings’ second floors. Technology is always one of the first priorities for any business. By expanding office space to the second floors, this allowed the ground floors to be better utilized for the growing retail, restaurants and other businesses we see downtown today.