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Blockbuster deals drive interest in Anson: Developers seeking Target, theater, home builder

April 7, 2008

Executives at locally based Duke Realty Corp. fielded questions for years about what was taking so long with Anson, a $1.4 billion residential, retail and industrial development along Interstate 65 in Whitestown.

Not anymore. A string of blockbuster new tenants including MedcoHealth Solutions Inc. and Amazon.comInc. have fired up interest in the 1,700-acre project, particularly its industrial component known as Allpoints at Anson.

Together, the companies plan to invest more than $175 million-Medco is building an automated pharmacy and Amazon a distribution center-and bring more than 2,000 jobs to Anson within the next year alone. That's more than double the population of Whitestown, which has annexed the Anson property.

Major retailers Meijer and Lowe's also have inked deals at Anson, and Duke is pursuing a Target and movie theater. Ryland Group Inc. has sold out a six-unit and a seven-unit town home building and is working on a third building with 19 units. Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins Properties has leased about half of its 40 apartment units, including all the one-bedroom offerings, and soon will release another 40 units.

And Duke is moving on after Californiabased KB Home, the project's designated single-family home builder, withdrew from the local market when the housing market began to sour. Officials say they're nearing a deal with a local builder to construct four to six homes a month. They would not identify the builder.

"We've been very deliberate about the planning of this project," said Tom Dickey, Anson's general manager. "It's been a journey that's been well worth it."

Duke began looking at the I-65 corridor in Boone County in the late 1990s and acquired options on much of the land in early 2004.

Allpoints at Anson is a joint venture between Duke and locally based Browning Investments Inc. To date, Duke and Browning have spent more than $100 million buying properties.

The goal is to build a master-planned community of hundreds of homes, retailers and other businesses connected by a network of sidewalks and trails. It is named for Anson Mills, a Civil War-era surveyor, developer and soldier who was born in Boone County.

"There's nothing like it in Indiana," said Charlie Podell, a senior vice president at Duke.

The developers built the 630,000-square-foot facility Seattle-based Amazon is taking on spec, expecting two or three tenants would occupy the space. New Jersey-based Medco is building its own facility.

The companies now are talking to tenants and preparing to begin construction on two speculative distribution buildings: one 500,000 square feet and the other 140,000 square feet.

Browning is encouraged by the project's momentum, said John Hirschman, that company's director of development.

The firm's joint venture with Duke also includes Allpoints Midwest in Plainfield, a 920-acre park that last year netted its own huge deal: a 1.2-million-square-foot lease with locally based Prime Distribution Services Inc. The Allpoints projects have yielded 2.4 million square feet of lease deals.

Construction on the Lowe's store is expected to begin in May, and Meijer plans to break ground next year. A 38,000-square-foot small-shop retail building is about 40 percent leased. A third retail phase calls for an open-air "lifestyle" center anchored by a movie theater and a Target, if the retail giant bites.

Residential plans include more than 3,000 homes straddling the Zionsville and Lebanon school districts that will be built over a 15- to 18-year span.

Anson already is bringing big changes to Boone County and Whitestown. There are challenges, too, not least of which will be building infrastructure, said Jason Tribby, president of the Whitestown Town Council.

"You can always plan and hope for the best, and that's what we've been doing," Tribby said. "But Medco and Amazon, did I ever expect that? I can't say I expected that. I'm very happy."



Greg Andrews has the week off. Behind the News will return next week.
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