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Buckingham rethinking plans for prime Zionsville site

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Buckingham Cos. says it is still weighing options for a key property it controls in downtown Zionsville, but two nearby landowners are trying to sell their parcels after talks with the developer broke down.

“I guess they decided not to move forward with it,” said Ralph Stacy, who owns a now-vacant commercial building at 125 W. Sycamore St., just west of the former gas station at Main Street and Sycamore that Indianapolis-based Buckingham has under contract.

Stacy has his 1-1/2-acre property up for sale with an $895,000 asking price. Farther west along Eagle Creek, Marcella Compton’s 14.3-acre Zionsville Adult Village mobile home park is available for $500,000.

The listing broker is Cassidy Turley’s Bo Leffel, who also handled Buckingham’s acquisition of the vacant lot at 420 S. Main where a Citgo station once stood. Leffel told IBJ he could not comment on the Buckingham parcel’s status, but the Zionsville Times-Sentinel reported March 19 that the property is back on the market.

The company declined to comment on the report.

“Buckingham is continuing to evaluate various development options for the Zionsville site,” Senior Vice President of Development John Cumming said in a written statement. “We will share additional details as those plans evolve.”

As IBJ reported in October, Buckingham was negotiating to acquire three adjacent lots: Stacy’s and Compton’s properties and the 2.2 acres in between. The company said it was working on plans for a mixed-use project “that effectuates the best of village infill redevelopment.”

Indeed, the corner lot was one of three potential redevelopment sites identified by consultants conducting a downtown market study and parking analysis for the Zionsville Economic Development Commission. The suggested uses: retail, residential and/or offices, with on-site parking behind a building hugging the streets.

Unused since the gas station closed in 2008, the 2.4-acre parcel is considered a crucial connection between Zionsville’s historic village business district and new office and retail development to the south.

Officials are working to ramp up commercial activity and diversify the town’s tax base, but the community is fiercely protective of its quaint downtown.

Neighbors have been anxious about the prospects for the Sycamore property given the scope of other recent Buckingham projects, including the $155 million CityWay apartment-and-retail development in downtown Indianapolis.

Buckingham has not publicly shared any plans for the site, but the company went back to the drawing board after having preliminary conversations with Zionsville leaders and staff, said Town Manager Ed Mitro.

“It just wasn’t going to work,” he said. “We need to make sure whatever goes there fits with the character of the community, enhances the whole rather than an individual parcel.”

Town Council President Jeff Papa assured a neighborhood group in November that officials would take the area’s historic charm into consideration.

“It should not be something that swamps the Village and makes us lose what we have,” Papa said then. “We’re just not going to do something that ruins the Village.”

Any significant development on the site almost certainly has to be dense, given the limitations presented by assorted topographical challenges and the high cost of the land. The Citgo property was listed for $2 million.

A complicated ownership structure and deed restriction kept the Citgo property from being sold for years. IBJ has reported that Buckingham’s deal calls for the developer to lease the land until September 2015, when it can exercise a purchase option.

The town had considered buying the former gas station site, but officials ultimately decided the asking price was too high. Still, when PNC Bank closed its branch at the northwest corner of Sycamore and Main last year, the Town Council voted to pull $650,000 from its Rainy Day Fund to acquire it—and gain additional control over its use.

Buckingham turned down an invitation to meet with members of the Zionsville Village Residents Association in January, but association President Scott Lusk is hopeful the developer will engage neighbors before doing anything on the Citgo site.

“We are excited about good and appropriate development at this important entry to the historic village of Zionsville,” Lusk said.•

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