Fishers weighs incentives for office building

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Construction firm Meyer Najem Corp. is planning a $5.5 million office building in downtown Fishers for its growing operations and other high-potential businesses.

Fishers’ Town Council is expected to consider a project agreement Monday that calls for Meyer Najem to construct a 40,000-square-foot building on town-owned land across the railroad tracks from the Fishers Public Library.

Under the terms of the economic-development deal, the town would contribute the undeveloped Maple Street property—worth about $765,000—plus $1.4 million in tax-increment financing for needed improvements.

Meyer Najem, in turn, would move its headquarters from leased space at 131st Street and State Road 37 into the first floor of the two-story building. The company also promised to add 18 jobs by 2015; its 71 existing employees have an average salary of more than $84,000.

Fishers would master lease the 17,500-square-foot top floor, acting as landlord for high-growth companies in need of flexible lease terms. TIF revenue would cover any shortfall between what the town owes Meyer Najem and what the town collects from tenants.

A 125-space surface parking lot on the south side of the building would serve office occupants during the day and be available as public parking on nights and weekends. (The town owns that parcel, too, but plans to keep it for now.)

As IBJ reported in May, Fishers has been acquiring land east of its municipal complex for more than a year in hopes of accelerating downtown redevelopment. Most developers don’t want to bother with the hassle of dealing with multiple property owners.

Meyer Najem approached Fishers’ leaders about six months ago, as company officials began exploring relocation options. The growing firm is all but out of space, and its lease expires next year.

The company also considered moving to Noblesville or Westfield, President Tim Russell said, but those discussions cooled when talks with Fishers heated up.

“Fishers is a vibrant, growing community,” said Russell, a 24-year town resident. “We like where it’s going. And it’s great to be [going] downtown, to be one of the first companies there.”

Town leaders are looking to build a bustling downtown that will attract residents and businesses alike, creating an identity for the community and diversifying its tax base.

The first project: Flaherty & Collins Properties’ The Depot, a $42 million apartment-and-retail project under construction in front of Town Hall. Fishers contributed the land and $11 million for a parking garage. A second, smaller mixed-use development is in the works across Municipal Drive, at the current site of the Fishers Train Station.

The Meyer Najem deal is significant because it gets people downtown, said Town Manager Scott Fadness. Retailers’ interest in an area increases with the daytime population, he said, and having restaurant and shopping options draws more employers.

“If we can create jobs downtown, we can drive more retail, support more retail,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity to drive more and more people to downtown Fishers.”

The appointed boards of the Fishers Redevelopment Commission and Fishers Economic Development Commission also must sign off on the project agreement. Members have been briefed on negotiations during closed executive sessions and are scheduled for a joint meeting with the Fishers Town Council at 7 p.m. Monday.

Feedback so far has been positive, said Tom Dickey, the town’s community development director.

The Meyer Najem deal does not depend on revenue from a proposed food-and-beverage tax—a separate measure the council also is expected to vote on Monday night—but he said future economic development projects might.

Such projects often require public assistance, particularly when a municipality asks private developers to carry out a specific vision. But TIF spending can’t outpace receipts.

“There is a limit with respect to our current resources,” Dickey said.

Fishers officials take an open-book approach to determining the appropriate level of support, reviewing the developer’s financials along with the project details. In Meyer Najem’s case, the proposed incentives make the deal work.

“The town’s participation is important to us,” Russell said.

The construction firm would not be proposing a two-story building without the financial assistance, he said. As it is, the company only plans to use about 17,000 square feet of the ground floor; another 5,500 square feet will be available for future growth.

Designed by Indianapolis-based American Structurepoint, the building includes a patio outside the Meyer Najem break room and a rooftop terrace (open to all tenants) with a view of the town’s Nickel Plate District Amphitheater. Plans also call for indoor bike storage and showers, Russell said.

The company hopes to move in by late next year.

Dickey and Fadness are confident the town will be able to lease second-floor space to entrepreneurs who want to be part of Fishers’ renaissance. The town helped fund coworking space Launch Fishers last year to give promising startups an alternative to the extremes of coffee-shop squatting and long-term leases, and it already has “graduated” its first company, mobile app developer BlueBridge Digital.

Organizers have been working on plans for what’s informally being called Launch 2.0, a next step for Launch Fishers members who have outgrown coworking but aren’t ready for a long-term lease. The Meyer Najem building could fit the bill, at least temporarily.

“It’s a natural progression,” Fadness said.

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