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Commentary Noblesville gets traction under mayor:

March 19, 2007

When it comes to the battle of the 'burbs-at least those north of Indianapolis-Carmel seems to get all the glory.

Not that it's undeserved, considering the progress and growth that have taken place under Mayor Jim Brainard.

But lest you haven't noticed, Carmel's rival to the northeast-Noblesville-has fired up its afterburners in the last few years and is making major strides on the development front.

Some of the credit should go to that city's first-term mayor, John Ditslear, who was elected in November 2003 after his wife and friends persuaded him to take a run at the job.

A resident of Noblesville since 1966 and a guy who built an insurance business in the community, Ditslear has a strong connection and obvious love for his "hometown."

His passion and desire to see it prosper were contagious when he sat down recently with me and other IBJ staff members for lunch in our conference room.

Those same traits-coupled with the winning personality of a consummate salesman-no doubt played a role in securing some of the deals that promise a bright future for Noblesville.

Of particular note are the Noblesville Corporate Campus, a 3,600-acre, planned, mixed-use project west of Exit 10 on Interstate 69, and an extension of 146th Street east from State Road 37 that bisects the corporate campus all the way to Exit 10.

Smack dab in the middle of it all will be Hamilton Town Center, a lifestyle shopping center twice the size of Clay Terrace being developed by Simon Property Group Inc. and Gershman Brown & Associates.

The center provides a great new option for our booming northeastern suburbs.

A key player in these and other projects has been Chris Hamm, the city's director of economic development. A lifelong resident of Noblesville and 1991 graduate of the high school, Hamm has worked for the city 11 years, the past five as head of economic development.

The bad news is that Hamm is leaving. He's joining a partner to form a consulting business, which Ditslear likely will call upon in the future to continue the city's trajectory.

On March 13, as one of Hamm's final official acts, he pitched to the city council a downtown development plan for the "old Noblesville," which he's been crafting more than a year.

It's not often that you find a city packing a one-two punch at the top with such deep ties and commitment to the community they serve. What a great dynamic the city has benefited from.

Not to be ignored in this Noblesville boom is the continued expansion of Riverview Hospital, which employs 1,250 people and has modernized and expanded throughout Hamilton County to become a premier health care provider.

But Riverview now faces an interesting challenge.

The Noblesville and Fishers development booms have attracted other big health care players. Clarian, Community and St. Vincent hospital systems are building facilities at Exit 10, creating a competitive node that will be interesting to watch.

And Noblesville and Fishers both will benefit from Saxony, a 500-acre, mixed-use project near Exit 10.

The residents in our northeastern suburbs will enjoy all this progress, and I suppose it's only a matter of time before Boone County joins the party and helps pay for an eastward extension of 146th Street to Interstate 65 and the massive Anson development.

At that point, it might be time for all the stakeholders in the area, including the powers-that-be in Indianapolis, to get serious about mass transit. And that's something both Ditslear and Fishers Town Council President Scott Faultless favor.



Katterjohn is publisher of IBJ. To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send e-mail to ckatterjohn@ibj.com.
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