Fishers OKs train station project despite objections

February 18, 2014
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Fishers has attracted more than $93 million in downtown projects since making redevelopment a priority in 2012.

Is it too much too fast? Or a long time coming? The answer depends on who you ask.

The Town Council voted 5-2 Monday to proceed with plans for a $28 million mixed-use project on the site of the Fishers Train Station, part of a long-term strategy to strengthen the suburban community’s core.

Town leaders want to create an attractive, vibrant downtown that will draw both the small businesses that create jobs and the educated work force they want to hire.

First up: The Depot at Nickel Plate, a $42 million apartment-and-retail project developer Flaherty & Collins is building at 116th Street and Municipal Drive, in front of Town Hall. Fishers contributed the land and $11 million for a 430-space parking garage.

The town also provided land for a $5.5 million office building (and corporate headquarters) Meyer Najem is erecting just east of the Fishers Public Library, on the other side of the railroad tracks, and an $18 million mixed-use project at 116th and Lantern Road.

Under the terms of the new deal with Indianapolis-based Loftus Robinson Development, Fishers will hand over the 3.5-acre train station property and up to $9.5 million for a 400-space garage and public improvements on the site.

Resolutions like the one authorizing the train station project typically don’t require public hearings, but the Fishers council opened the floor—and the floodgates—on Monday anyway. Nine residents addressed council members; all but one opposed the proposal.

Attorney Greg Purvis, a Democratic candidate for Fishers’ first City Council, said the “ordinary citizens” he has talked to don’t support downtown redevelopment at the expense of public green space and the “character” Fishers’ older buildings offer.

“They don’t want this to look like Carmel East,” he said.

Purvis questioned the wisdom of the town borrowing money “to give away” to developers and the decision to demolish what he called a community icon.

“You’re taking away a building with history, a connection to our past,” he said.

After the public hearing, Councilor Pete Peterson scoffed at notion that the building is significant.

“I have a pair of work shoes that are older than that train station,” he said. “Does that make them historic?”

Built in 1996, the 8,000-square-foot brick building serves as a boarding platform for the Indiana Transportation History Museum’s annual state fair train and periodically  hosts other special excursions. Year-round tenants include the Fishers Chamber of Commerce, Fishers Town Court and the town’s employee health clinic.

Plans call for keeping the concrete platform in place and accessible via a pedestrian  plaza between the three-story office/retail building and four-story apartment building. Officials have worked with the Metropolitan Planning Organization to make sure the design would be able to accommodate future mass-transit needs.

The town-funded garage would have more than 100 spaces set aside for public parking at all times, council members said in justifying the investment—and more on nights and weekends, when  the office building will be largely unoccupied.

Other opponents criticized the decision to move forward with the train station project while The Depot is under construction, suggesting it might be more prudent to wait for that development to prove its viability lest space go unrented. Their message: Slow down.

The thing is, officials have been talking about redeveloping downtown Fishers for decades. Plan after plan failed to gain traction—until the town began priming the pump in 2012.

“This opportunity at The Depot and [the train station] site are a way to jumpstart the process,” said longtime Councilor Stuart Easley.

The lone supporter during Monday’s public hearing was Fishers resident and veteran business owner Fritz Kreutzinger, whose used-car lot was located on the train station property before the town acquired it in a land swap. (Fritz in Fishers now has locations across the street and in Noblesville.)

Kreutzinger said his mom-and-pop enterprise has grown along with downtown.

“As more business, more people, more activity came, it helped grow our business,” he said.

So what do you make of Fishers’ economic development strategy: Is the town making long-awaited progress or jumping into more than it bargained for?

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  • Keep Up with the Jones
    This has been a long time coming for Fishers. It has never really felt like a destination, but an in-between Noblesville and Indianapolis. The master plan and implementation of it will certainly give the new City an identity. I do question the economics of giving away so much land and money. But, in order to make things happen, thats what has to be done. Overall, I think the new downtown Fishers will be a huge benefit to this area.
  • The town that could've been.....
    The new building going up in front of the Town Hall is depressing. A low-rise blocking what seemed to me a symbol of the town. A welcome mat just off I-69 to a place that isn't as busy but still full of youth and energy. Now to replace the train station with a parking garage. Lovely. So - take a nice drive through downtown Fishers. Enjoy the giant apartments right in front of our beautiful town hall and steps from the busy street. Find your way through an alley to maybe find the train.....Perhaps a better plan that was would foster economic growth while keeping in line with the charm that drew us here would've been better thought through. Creating a walking green space between the town municipal spaces and the strip malls on the southside of 116th. There was an opportunity to create more of a Lincoln Mall type walkable space where the citizens and visitors could enjoy retail, dining, and entertainment without staring at parking garages. It is all reminding me of Broad Ripple Avenue. I guess we will see if the town council brings in the "night life" now. Fishers could've been beautiful. Now - I think it's a drive through and not a destination for me (and I'm a resident). Fishers can never be US 31 in Carmel - stop trying to look like a wanna be. I so wish Fishers could've found it's own identity instead of trying so hard to keep up with the bustle of Carmel. I will not be voting in any existing council members. I am all for economic growth and job creation, but this all looks visually haphazard at best. And Mr. Peterson's quote in this article - embarassing. Arrogant at best. So disappointed in you Mr. Peterson. So disappointed.
    • Benevolent Town Leaders
      Glad to see the momentum and placemaking effort coming to reality for Fishers Nickel Plate district. The current leadership of Fishers has proven to be an ally - not a deterrent - in the growth process. I caution the land giveaways with the added monetary "gifting." Developers should be able to make these developments work with one or the other, but, not both. Seems like these developments may be too far ahead of the need if they need all of these incentives to make the deals work. Hopefully the Town of Fishers is receiving income back from any asset that they contributed land/funds to create.
    • You are misinformed
      It is obvious that you have never seen the design for the new building that is under construction, or if you have, then perhaps you are not able to understand the plans and renderings. Fact is, the building has been carefully designed to create a beautiful, vibrant, walkable, pedestrian friendly downtown streetscape, the design of which is based on many historical Midwestern courthouse squares. The new building's facade is comprised of many individual, unique facade designs that emulate the best historical downtowns all over Indiana, with many different buildings that are side-by-side. Flaherty & Collins spared no expense in bringing a dazzling new building that Fishers will be proud of. And, take note, the garage is hidden behind the new facades - - you will not be staring at a parking garage unless you are inside it parking your car for an afternoon of shopping and dining. It will be a beautiful building that creates a true downtown that Fishers has never had (unlike Indianapolis and Noblesville), and ...it will be NOTHING like Carmel!
    • The Only Constant is Change
      I've been a resident of Fishers since 1991. "Downtown" Fishers is easy walking distance for us. Being a "Baby Boomer" I realize the "Gen X'ers" and "Millenials" desire a community with amenities within walking and biking distance, not driving distance. The plans I have seen are well thought out for the LONG TERM benefit for the community I have lived in for the past 23 years and have come to love. I DO NOT see this as "change for change's sake" or "keeping up with the Jonses, or the "Carmelites." For folks that prefer the status quo I can understand how this may be too much at one time. I do not fall into this category. For this fiscally conservative resident the time has come for this 20 year plan to start.
    • It's not just what they're doing
      It's how they're doing it. This project was approved with no bid process, to a developer who has almost no experience but has given a nice donation to our town manager's campaign for mayor. I would think any developer would be jumping at the chance to do work in a city like Fishers, but we shouldn't have to give away the farm, so to speak, to get this development. Another concern is the fact these projects will put strain on our infrastructure but won't pay property taxes for decades. And the increased number of apartments will bring more children to our underfunded schools but not property tax dollars from their parents. I've lived in Fishers since 1996. I've loved spending most of my adult life here and raising my child here, but the increasing greed and broken promises of our town council have me counting the days until our child goes to college so we can move away. I won't be supporting our town manager or my incumbent town councilman. It's time for a clean slate for our new city.

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