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Greenwood eyes more office parks for I-65 corridor

May 29, 2012

New warehouses sprung up along the interstate in Greenwood before development slowed down prior to the recession, but the mayor and local business owners would like to see new construction, ideally office parks.

Mayor Mark Myers wants to see more offices, corporate headquarters and medical facilities along Interstate 65. He's been meeting with business owners and developers in the area to discuss ways they can team up to pursue that goal.

Myers hope the city potentially can partner with Franciscan St. Francis Health and Tilson HR to promote the development of vacant land along Interstate 65 to new companies. They've had preliminary discussions, but details haven't been worked out.

Franciscan St. Francis operates a hospital near the interstate, just north of County Line Road, and has opened new offices in Greenwood in recent years. The human resources company Tilson HR is headquartered between the interstate and Emerson Avenue on Greenwood's east side.

Myers has met with both companies and found they have a similar vision for the I-65 corridor between the County Line Road and Main Street interchanges.

He also has talked to developers about the future of that land and plans to meet with homeowners who live on Graham Road near the interstate to reassure them that the city wants new development that will raise their property values.

Greenwood will consider a plan for how land will be used along the interstate from County Line Road south to the proposed Worthsville Road exit, such as where retail stores would go and where office parks would be ideal, Myers said. City planners will review special design standards that, for instance, require more landscaping in that area.

The city must be smart about what businesses it allows on vacant land near the three interchanges, Myers said. Any development should have maximum impact because it's such prime ground, he said.

"We don't want any more gas stations or car washes," Myers said. "We already have one truck stop, and that's enough. We might have to say no to things to improve the area and wait for the right company. We've got to strategically plan because there's some prime business space."

The city also will continue to look at what incentives it can offer to attract projects.

"We want to see the east side take off again," he said. "We'd like to see a building boom."

Recent projects near the interstate have been encouraging, Myers said. St. Francis purchased the Sierra Business Center and Alpine building on Emerson Avenue and moved office workers into them. Online retailer One Click Ventures also invested $2.25 million to buy and remodel a building as part of a major expansion.

The city would like to see more office buildings constructed, particularly west of the interstate, Myers said.

Office buildings would bring a number of benefits to the city, including higher-paying jobs, more tax revenue and a good appearance for the gateway to the city, Tilson HR president Brent Tilson said. His company is headquartered just off I-65, and he's talked to the mayor about helping attract more offices.

More corporate headquarters would help support more high-quality development in the area. For example, his clients stay at nearby hotels during businesses trips, and more hotels could follow new offices.

Office workers also have the disposable income to eat out at nearby restaurants, Tilson said.

"It spawns more businesses in the immediate area," he said. "It leads to an increased concentration of growth."

The interstate corridor is attractive to offices because of its location, Tilson said. Businesses that want to serve a regional area are 20 minutes from downtown Indianapolis and a short drive from Louisville and Cincinnati, he said.

They also can pull in skilled and educated workers from a wide area, since it's easier to get to an office right of the interstate, he said.

His human resources firm employs workers from around the state.

"It's very easy to get to," he said. "The location means easy access and great visibility. It's good real estate in a growing, thriving area."

Tilson built a 44,400-square-foot office for his growing business in 2008. He has filled all the office space in the building by leasing it to Alderson Commercial Group, MedTech College and the federal General Services Administration.

He's had to turn away businesses looking for office space and takes that as a sign that there's a pent-up demand.

The market ultimately will decide what gets built along the interstate, said real estate agent Scott Langdon. His firm, Langdon Real Estate, represents more than 100 acres along the interstate corridor, including the corner where outdoor retailer Cabela's planned a superstore.

Langdon still would like to see a destination store at that corner but said that much of the rest of the land could end up as offices or medical facilities. The OrthoIndy Hospital, for instance, likely will attract more medical offices, he said.

Greenwood could help drive development by marketing the land, offering incentives and building roads, sewer lines and other infrastructure, Langdon said. But one of the most important things the city can do is to meet with the owners or executives of prospective businesses.

"Any time a municipality reaches out to the end user, there's a feeling of 'Hey, we're welcome here,'" he said. "Noblesville, Carmel and Fishers reach out in a polite way, and the companies get excited about it."

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