The commercial area at 71st Street and Binford Boulevard is recovering from the funk it had fallen into five years ago,
but a true transformation hinges on whether area stakeholders can implement a master plan three years in the making.
The Binford Village Study focuses on the intersection of Graham Road and 71st Street just west of Binford Boulevard. It calls for transforming the area into a commercial and residential village that’s inviting to pedestrians. Planted medians, new sidewalks and buildngs that come right up to the sidewalk would change the character of the area, which is now a collection of retail centers fronted by acres of parking.
The plan is an effort of Binford Redevelopment and Growth, the group founded in 2005 to reverse the area’s decline. The demographics of surrounding residential areas were strong then as they are today, but the 1960s- and 1970s-era commercial strip centers along Binford Boulevard were losing tenants to development in newer suburbs.
BRAG’s purpose initially was to stop the bleeding, which it has done. Its efforts to market and beautify the area have coincided with an increase in the number of retail tenants at the intersection from about 20 five years ago to about 50 today, said Larry Riggle, a co-founder of BRAG who lives in the neighborhood.
The Binford Village Study is more ambitious than the rescue effort that BRAG started. It would involve loosening up zoning in the area to allow a mix of uses, from commercial to residential, and even envisions a transit hub for a future light rail line. The western boundary of the study area is the Hoosier Heritage Port Authority rail line, which is being studied for a light rail line between downtown and the northeast side. Transit hubs in other cities have been magnets for mixed-use development.
“We’re trying to make the BRAG area a destination,” Riggle said.
Schneider Corp., the consultant hired to work on the Binford Village Study, is expected to forward final recommendations to city planners in late January or early February. Those recommendations will be forwarded to representatives of the city’s departments of Public Works and Metropolitan Development, which have been part of the study process. That could lead to rezoning of property in 2010. Also next year, BRAG intends to have an engineering study done for sections of a pedestrian path that would extend east to west from Hague Road to Allisonville Road.
As the neighbors pursue their dream of a mixed-use village with a transit hub, the owners of commercial property in the area are making improvements that have reversed the neighborhood’s retail fortunes.
At the northwest corner of 71st and Binford, Donna Carr has pulled off the redevelopment of a retail center her late husband bought in the late 1960s. The center had fallen on hard times when the Carrs began talking to the Kroger Co. in 2004 about building a store there. Carr continued negotiating after her husband died in July 2006, and the Kroger-owned store opened in February of this year.
To accommodate Kroger, the Carrs had to buy land from an adjacent property owner and downsize their retail center, Binford Shoppes. It is now 25,000 square feet, a little less than half its original size. A façade improvement was finished last June, and the center is almost fully leased.
Across Binford Boulevard and south of 71st Street is another retail center that was bleeding tenants. Local developer Landmark Properties Inc. bought the property in 2003 and redeveloped it three years later. It reopened as Avalon Crossing in 2007. About 17,500 square feet are available in the 84,000-square-foot center.
The success of Avalon Crossing has caused the owner of a property a little further south on Binford Boulevard to invest in upgrades. The Pennsylvania-based owner of The Hawthorn Plaza retail and business center, at the northwest corner of 62nd and Binford, is about to begin a $100,000 façade reconstruction intended to make the center more competitive with its neighbors to the north, said Kara Riggle, a broker for Resource Commercial Real Estate, which was just hired to handle leasing at the center.
Riggle, the daughter of BRAG co-founder Larry Riggle, said about 25,000 square feet of the center’s more than 47,000 square feet of retail space is available. The $12 per square foot base rent her center charges is below the $15 to $20 charged at properties nine blocks north. Riggle said rents in the area have risen in spite of the recession because of the retail revival that has occurred there.
The area would get a boost from the multi-use zoning the Binford Village Study recommends, she said, but its fortunes would really soar if a transit stop is eventually located there.“It would be really big if light rail came through.”