Study: Downtown Zionsville needs more restaurants

April 1, 2014
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Zionsville is fiercely protective of its quaint downtown, and with good reason.

Mom-and-pop businesses line historic Main Street, drawing residents and visitors alike—a time-tested version of the community hubs other suburbs are spending millions to build.

But as leaders look to ramp up commercial activity in the largely residential town, they’re looking to a work-in-progress market study to help guide future development and make sure the jewel of the community keeps shining.

Early results suggest there’s room to grow.

Village merchants produce an estimated $21.9 million in annual sales, or about 9 percent of Zionsville’s total spending power, according to a market-share analysis from consultant Business Districts Inc. The suggested goal: 13 percent.

Getting there means filling existing vacancies, developing as much as 10,000 square feet of new space and strengthening the business mix on Main.

The study found downtown offers plenty of antiques, art and jewelry options—not to mention hair and nail salons—but could use more eating and drinking establishments in particular.

Business owners also need to do a better job of marketing themselves (and the Village) to potential customers.

“Obscurity, not competition, is the biggest challenge for retail businesses,” said consultant Diane Williams of BDI.

A parking study from consulting partner TADI—founded as Traffic Analysis & Design Inc. but now known simply by its acronym—concluded that downtown has ample parking despite a perception that spaces are in short supply. At peak demand (weekdays at noon), just 77 percent of public parking is in use.

Even so, any development in the Village likely would have to include at least some on-site parking.

The consultants identified three potential redevelopment sites downtown, including unused lots at the high-profile intersection of Main and Sycamore streets. The town owns the former PNC Bank property on the northwest corner, and Indianapolis developer Buckingham Cos. controls the southwest corner. (Find the latest on its plans here.)

A full report is expected this spring, said Wayne DeLong, Zionsville’s director of planning and economic development. Then comes the hard part: implementation.

What’s your take on the business mix in downtown Zionsville? What does the Village need?

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  • Show me the numbers
    I question the methodology of the claim to an ESTIMATED $21.9 M originates from downtown sales and represents nine percent total Zville spending power. Just take the business addresses and compare to the state sales tax files to determine the current reported number. Make sure and only count retail and restaurant businesses, not financial or services. Then you will have a basis for comparison, BUT..... Using a total spending estimate is wrong as a comparison of Market Baskets should be utilized. So determine the total Zville spending power for restaurants and comparable retail to the like kind sales amounts generated on Main Street and you will have an idea of how insignificant Old Town is to the Zville economy. If you want to do some real reporting, then research the amount of real estate taxes contributed by the Old Town district by researching the public records at the county. Be sure and report which property owners have appealed and been granted reduced tax assessments. Extra credit if you total up the public dollars being spent on saving Old Town in comparison to the actual revenue and taxes contributed back to the community. Do be sure and include jobs generated, but also keep in mind jobs and tax revenue lost by the preservation mentality which has precluded growth viewed as being in competition with Old Town. Then ask the question "Should Zville have supported new growth in order to enhance Old Town?" The answer is found in many communities across the USA who were proactive in using experts to create a master plan. Examples: Ellicott City, MD; Chagrin Falls, OH, Lexington, MA to name a few.
  • Ladies who Lunch?
    Noon is the peak demand time for parking? Interesting. I've long thought of Z'ville a better dinner destination than the dense northeast side. Love to see more action in their eateries. And maybe a shop that stayed open past 5?
  • future of Zionsville
    Parking in Zionsville ain't that bad compared to places like Carmel and Broad Ripple. But I fear that will change with all the planned growth. As for more restaurants, yes. But have a variety on hand. It would be nice to have an Asian restaurant there.
  • Public Restrooms Needed
    Zionsville Main Street and Village need public restrooms for customers and tourists. Ever go to Nashville IN or even Carmel? They both offer well placed public restrooms. Zionsville chooses port-a potties for big events and lets tourists fend for themselves on regular days when nature calls. Zionsville needs to be more forward thinking and progressive by installing clean public restrooms on Main Street. This is a no-brainer.
  • owner
    I agree with James. Zionsville needs to offer public restrooms to visitors. It needs to be a priority. The town already has fabulous restaurants and is getting two new ones: Rosies (in former Eagle Creek Coffeeshop & Le Dolce Vita location) and the Salty Cowboy (high end Mexican which will be behind Black Dog Books on Oak Street. If people are willing to walk a couple of blocks sometimes, then parking is not an issue.
  • Resting on their laurels
    Zionsville is a great town with amazing shops, Black Dog Books, Ballerinas and Bruisers, Lesley Jane and Earth Explorer Toys are text book small businesses. Too bad the city has done nothing to help the efforts of these business owners. Z'ville should never grow to the size of Carmel, but they have rested on the quaint reputation too long. Innovative marketers and developers need to spearhead some creative ways to attract bodies and money to the area without the typical over development. I frequent these shops and the Friendly Tavern, but the same core group of residents cannot continue to be the only source of revenue for the hardworking folks.
  • Bring Back ZORBAS!
    I really miss Zorbas. Nobody does Greek like they did. We have checked out all the other places along 86th St. and in Carmel and their food is so BAD that we won't return and waiting for the Greek Festival is just too long.
  • Bub's
    Great tradition in Carmel is now in Zionsville
  • Steak house
    I would love to see a nice steak house move into the Sanctuary. Plus, The Village needs more places for late-night cocktails. Excited the old Eagle Creek Coffee space is getting filled. Visited the Cobblestone Grill for the first time Saturday night, big fun! It will become our new go-to place for cocktails and local craft beer.

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