Pittman pitches $90M mixed-use project for Zionsville

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One of the highest-profile tracts of undeveloped land in Zionsville could be transformed into a commercial and residential hub if a $90 million project gets the town’s blessing.

Pittman Partners LLC is proposing to build The Farm at Zionsville, a 62-acre mixed-use development at the southwest corner of Michigan Road and Sycamore Street—a key gateway into the Boone County community.

Pittman farm zionsville 15colThe 62-acre property on Michigan Road currently is zoned for agricultural uses. (IBJ Photo/Andrea Davis)

Plans call for 122,000 square feet of retail anchored by a specialty grocery store, plus restaurants, offices and 400 multifamily residential units. Six single-family “estate” homes are planned for the western edge of the property.

Developer Steve Pittman, whose family has owned the land for more than 30 years, said its time has come.

"The community wants something there that is going to benefit Zionsville," and the market for such a project is increasingly favorable as the economy recovers, Pittman said.

Town economic development chief Wayne DeLong called the project “long anticipated,” but said it was too soon to comment on the specifics of the proposal filed May 14. Zionsville's Plan Commission is expected to consider the proposal at its June 17 meeting. The Town Council also would have to approve the project.

It’s no secret that Zionsville officials are trying to ramp up commercial activity in the predominantly residential community. The Town Council in September adopted an economic development plan that lays out a blueprint for growth.

Pittman Farm redidential Zionsville 15col The Farm will feature 400 multifamily residential units. (Pittman Partners LLC/CSO Architects)

That plan refers to the Pittman land—now zoned for agricultural uses—as Zionsville’s Gateway District, given its location at a high-traffic intersection, and recommends it for mixed-use development with “an emphasis on high-quality architecture, proportion and detail.”

Pittman said he and his brother, Chad, have spent more than a year studying similar projects nationwide. Their goal is to build something that draws retailers and residents alike.

"We want to create a place people want to come to," he said, mentioning live-music venues and movie nights as possible draws. "Not just for dinner or shopping, but to hang out with the family."

A microbrewery and breakfast restaurant are on his wish list, but Pittman said landing a specialty grocery store is a priority. "If you get the right one, it will attract other tenants," he said.

Pittman said he has had "multiple conversations" with a broker for a store he would not identify, saying he didn't want to sour a potential deal.

(Asked about multiple photos of Whole Foods stores included among the design concepts in the filing, Pittman said they're intended only to show that specialty grocers don't have a uniform look.)

A preliminary site plan shows retail uses along Michigan Road and office buildings facing Sycamore Street. The 30,000-square-foot grocery and smaller shops would be at the heart of the so-called Village Core, surrounded by upscale multifamily housing.

Whether that would be apartments or condominiums remains to be seen. A fiscal analysis submitted with the Pittman application concluded the project would provide “significantly greater tax revenues” with rental housing, which isn’t subject to Indiana’s 1-percent property tax cap.

"As it is built out over time, I think there will be demand for both" rental units and owner-occupied housing, Pittman said.

Construction would be complete within three to five years, if it's approved. The Farm at Zionsville should support 480 jobs and 550 residents, according to the report from Phoenix-based Applied Economics.

Longtime Zionsville resident Brent Davis of CSO Architects is overseeing design, Pittman said, which should ensure the project fits in with its surroundings. Because the Pittman family has no debt on the land, he said it can afford to be deliberate about development.

"We won't go in and build a bunch of buildings and hope they fill up," he said. "We will wait for the market."

Walkable communities are increasingly popular among empty-nesters and young professionals alike, Pittman said. So, plans for The Farm include a pedestrian trail network that could connect the property to Zionsville's historic Main Street business district.

"We want the development to complement downtown," Pittman said. "It's such an integral part of the community."

Town Council member Candace Ulmer said she supports development of the site as a way to broaden Zionsville’s appeal to residents of all ages. Diversifying the town’s tax base isn’t enough, she said.

“We need to attract the young professionals to settle in Zionsville and begin their adult life here,” she said in an email. “That means offering housing and amenities” to attract them.


Weigh in on Pittman's plan on IBJ's North of 96th blog.


  • Response
    Owner occupied housing. Clear enough?
  • What I think
    So people think I am paranoid. It's from experience in dealing with puds requested by developers who make major donations themselves to representatives, have nice fund raisers for those running for office and hide through pac's. then there are the public relation firms. You will note some pr comments below. You there Clyde Lee? My opinion. Commercial along 421, great. Multifamily housing, terrible idea that will change the town. Senior condos or zero lot line homes west, great. I suggest keeping all entries to commercial areas at 421. All entries to owner occupied on sycamore. Will keep the traffic on sycamore down some. Two other things. You can't trust what will be there in 10 years. Steve builds quality stuff, but areas change over time. Look at the changes at the wall mart center at 86th and 421 over the last 10 years. Look at the apartments and neighborhoods behind St Vincent's. Raintree properties WILL decrease in value if commercial and multifamily goes in near. It has already been happening around the bridges area. The houses that have been sold recently are way below market. Several deals not closed due to the Illinois construction and the whole unsurety of the bridges. It's pretty simple, Zionsville will approve the whole thing because the city council has been groomed over a LONG period of time for this. I might even suggest some are in their position as a result of this.
  • Esta?
    Esta, do you have a dog in this fight? You seem to really want to knock anyone against this project. No, I didn't move to Indiana for the architecture. I moved here for that red barn in the field. The horses and fields of corn. A place that is NOT overdeveloped. There are plenty of nearby places in Indianapolis that could be REDEVELOPED instead.
  • Reponses
    RKW - OK, we get it, you're paranoid. The question is, are you paranoid enough? Greg - Yes, Pittman(s) is (are) at it again. They are developers, they build things. It's what they do. So when you go to work tomorrow, Greg, you're at it again too. Cliff - Really? You moved to Indiana for its progressive architecture? That's like moving to England for the cuisine. Zionsvillain - The house you moved to was once a field or woods. I'm willing to bet folks were upset when that ground was plowed under and a house was built. But I guess now that you are in, everything should stop? "My house was OK, but the next one is sprawl." SE Guy - Please don't paint us with such a wide brush. Most reasonable Zionsville residents welcome planned, measured development.
  • Good stuff
    Good project for Zionsville - A group who has owned the property for many years has waited and worked patiently to bring highest and best use development to a major corridor, and mix that in with the great downtown you have. Win Win. All the Best to Pittman Partners and Zionsville.
  • Zionsvillites
    It is obvious from RKW that there is only a certain type of people that are welcome in Zionsville. Would you be so kind as to give us a proper description of the "right" type of people, so we can all try and comply.
    • Please, no...
      I did not move to Zionsville to live in Carmel. This and the subsequent developments to follow will ensure a vanilla uniformity of strip malls and apartment buildings as we seek to bring our town down to the least common denominator. We were warned before recent elections that pro-development council members would make sure their friends (landowners and developers) would be able to make their millions off of the exploitation of Zionsville. Why in God's name would we sell out the best preserved small town in the State of Indiana?
    • Yay, another strip mall, apartment complex
      This is the type of development that seriously makes me regret moving to Indiana. The only thing Indiana seems to come up with are strip malls married to apartment complexes.
    • Lesson to be Learned
      What a novel concept! A developer is bringing a plan to the local government, complete with financial impact analyses and full disclosure, to be routed through the appropriate, public approval process. There's no behind the scenes quasi-governmental appointed boards buying up ground, incurring hundreds of millions in debt, and then selecting who can build on it and what. I would expect there will be a request down the line for some type of assistance with basic infrastructure. I have no problem with that if a proper cost benefit analysis is done and it proves beneficial to the local tax base. I bet by the time this project comes on line, and our neighbors to the east see their tax bills skyrocketing to support their White Pacadermium, there may be a bidding war for the last few residential units.
    • Pittman Farm Good for Zionsville
      RKW's comments read like a modern "Chicken Little". As a Raintree resident for many years, "Yes, I'm ready for this." Matter of fact, I welcome The Farm because it's a development that compliments our town, brings new and desirable shopping & dining closer (specialty grocer, upscale shops, micro brew pub, etc), offers upscale condos for empty nesters who want to stay in Zionsville, is being planned and constructed by local, well-reputed firms and, of course, provides desirable non property tax benefits. We all knew the Pittman's were going to develop their property sooner than later. That one of the Pittman's will continue to live on the property helps assure The Farm will be everything promised. This also sets a standard for other developers as to the quality of future developments - which should keep an ugly Walmart at bay for decades. As we've no meglomaniac mayor, I seriously doubt Zionsville would ever aspire to over-priced statues or subsidized retail rents. And we already have a very nice public theater, the Zionsville Performing Arts Center, that meets our cultural needs quite nicely.
    • RKW's Neglect
      One can't help but realize the fact that the comment from RKW is neglecting the inevitability of 21st century growth in small cities like Indianapolis. This is one piece of a giant puzzle that central Indiana cannot avoid. Trying to "prep" the public for an onslaught of public relations via Pittman's team via a post on an article discussing the future of Zionsville seems a bit childish... If you are so against the idea, spend time with your locally elected officials, find a following and make your voice heard in public circles where your opinion might actually matter.
    • Pittman is at it again!
    • Pittman is at it again!
    • Addendum
      Please excuse any spelling or grammer errors in my previous post. Sometimes when posting from a phone, fat fingers make mistakes.
    • Watch out Zionsville
      Zionsville, be ready for the public relations blitz that will dominate the forums in the IBJ, and the star. There will be many many posts pro-project, from Steve's public relations team, under anonymous or fake names. Lets look at some problems here. 1. Multi family housing. No matter how you paint it, a lot of this will be transient. Don't look at how it will be when its built, look at how it will be in 10-15 years. 2. WalMart. Hey, you approved the Pittman property, why not approve ours? 3. Traffic. Forget the residential feel of Sycamore street, that will be lost forever. Look at whats happening to Spring Mill and 116th with the Bridges. 4. Roads. All of the roads around there will have to be widened,and the traffice will be horrible. 5. Raintree residents, are you ready for this? 6. Police. Think about all the additional police presence you will have to have for those 400 apartments. Look at other more recent apartments in your area, and figure out the cost of additional fire and police coverage. Have your runs increased because of the apartments? We all know there will be commercial (including apartments) on 421, but do you really want that creeping west? Who is this really benefiting? Residents along Sycamore? Residents in Raintree? The general residents (who own, and keep up their homes) in Zionsville, or is it benefitting mainly the Pittman family, and the developer group? Don't make the same mistakes that Carmel made. You don't have a Palladium to support, and don't pay for over priced statues. Nor, do you subsidize rents in commercial buildings to get them occupied (for now). As I understand it, Zionsville mainly needs more money for schools. You may be making a terrible tradeoff, with multifamily housing, that will not pay the additonal revenue that is needed, because of the additional students. Keep Michigan road, and the roads out of town commercial. Keep the town owner occupied housing.

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