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South-side company bets big on Bargersville: Welbourne Cos. plans major project near Clarian site

June 4, 2007

The recent purchase by Clarian Health Partners of 158 acres at the southwest corner of State Road 135 and Whiteland Road lends instant credibility to a Greenwood company's plan to develop the most ambitious commercial project to date in Bargersville.

Welbourne Cos., which sold the land to Clarian, still controls about 260 acres of farmland surrounding the intersection. The company plans to build a mixed-use development on the property. Initial phases call for 46,000 square feet of retail space, 42,000 square feet of office and at least 20 outlots for sale. Eventually Welbourne hopes to build 125 condos, along with either more residential or commercial space.

Clarian has not revealed its plans for the land. But its purchase already is fueling interest in the project, Welbourne's largest yet by acreage.

"In the development business, one of the keys tenants look for is not only rooftops, but daytime population," said Ron Feeney, the company's sales manager. "An employer of Clarian's magnitude just bleeds off other functions, driving demand for other retailers and support businesses."

Welbourne has won approval for the first phase of development and annexation into Bargersville, a town of about 2,400 people with a retail presence consisting of a half-mile strip of gas stations, banks and restaurants. CVS has bought the intersection's northwest corner and Walgreens is expected to follow suit on the southwest. A restaurant, tanning company and a nail salon are lined up for one of two shopping strips.

Town Manager Mike McCarthy says the Welbourne project will give the town a northern gateway.

"I think it'll help put Bargersville on the map," McCarthy said. "I don't think many people are aware of it with Greenwood immediately south of Indianapolis. This should help with property values in the area, and will help bring up standards in the area."

The company's purchase of farmland so far south, in an area where decisions still need to be made about a potential new east-west thoroughfare, was a pretty big risk, said Tony Alderson, president of Allen Commercial Group, another major southside developer.

The farmland-without a lot of housing nearby-normally would be a tough sell to potential tenants. But the potential presence of a hospital, along with the permanent employment base and related office uses it would bring, makes a big difference.

"It certainly makes the rest of the land marketable," Alderson said. "Understanding that area, now that Clarian has stepped up, all the other corners certainly have become more valuable and more of a secured risk. It might be a few years, but now you know you will get a return."

About 8,900 people lived within three miles of the South Grove site in 2000, but a projected 10,700 people will live in the area by 2010, according to Welbourne data. The median household income exceeds $80,000.

Welbourne is finishing up infrastructure work on South Grove Landing, a development southeast of the intersection. That portion will include a 26,000-square-foot retail strip and 45,000 square feet of offices, along with 11 outlots.

A 20,000-square-foot retail strip called South Grove Commons is planned for the northwest corner. The condos would go behind it, across Whiteland Road from the Clarian site. Welbourne does not control the northeast corner of the intersection.

Part of the company's rationale for buying the land was its expectation that Whiteland Road will be Johnson County's choice for a major east-west thoroughfare. North-south travel isn't as much of an issue, but the county's eastwest routes have been overwhelmed by new development in the last several years.

Welbourne is betting big on expected future road expansion elsewhere, too. The company has a 240-acre parcel southeast of State Road 37 and State Road 44 in Greenwood-a site it expects will be a major interchange along a future Interstate 69 extension. The company is calling the project White River Crossing and marketing it for retail, residential and commercial.
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