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Fishers partnering with airport authority to lure developments

October 16, 2015

After years of disagreements about the future of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport between airport officials and the city of Fishers, the two entities are teaming up to attract developments to hundreds of acres on the property.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority, which owns the facility, approved a memorandum of understanding Friday morning detailing the relationship it will have with the city as the two bodies move forward on securing private investments on between 200 and 300 acres of land deemed unnecessary for aviation.

The Fishers City Council is expected to consider a similar resolution when it meets Monday night.

indy metro airport land 15col The airport, bounded by 96th and 106th streets to the south and north and Hague Road to the east, would offer the land outlined in red for development.

The arrangement allows Fishers to develop a master plan outlining a vision for the land available for commercial, office or retail projects, and issue requests for proposals. IAA will have final approval of the master plan and any projects because it will continue to own the land.

“I don’t know of another case like this,” IAA executive director Mario Rodriguez said.

Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport covers 445 acres and has a single runway totaling 3,850 feet. An average of 151 takeoffs and landings occur daily, and more than 150 aircraft are based there. It is one of four reliever airports for Indianapolis International.

Rodriguez said depending on the development proposed, the board could lease or sell the land. He said the airport will see some revenue from the projects, but most of it will be directed back to the Federal Aviation Administration, which financially supported the airport when it opened in 1961.

“It’s mostly to spur economic development,” Rodriguez said about the airport’s interest in the arrangement. “[The airport] is a selling point to bring corporate headquarters here.”

Rodriguez said airports typically purchase more land than initially needed to allow for expansion.

“At the time it was purchased, it was probably the right thing,” Rodriguez said.

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said he expects the master plan to be completed around the end of the year, with RFPs hopefully issued early next year. The land could be sectioned off for several developments or one overall proposal could be approved.

I think you’ll see this come to fruition faster than typical projects,” Fadness said, mentioning a project could start in 2016.

For years, Fishers officials were hopeful the airport would relocate to Anderson or Noblesville, but now Fadness said he sees the potential it could have in attracting large corporate headquarters to the city.

Earlier this year, local officials discussed the potential for commercial development on about 60 acres of airport property, but Rodriguez said they’ve now identified between 200 and 300 acres that won’t be used for aviation.

Fadness said he thinks commercial retail would do well along the property bordering 96th Street, but offices might be better suited for the Hague Road portion. He mentioned that the city will look for businesses that see the airport as an asset, rather than a burden from the noise.

“Buyer beware—the airport will continue to be out there,” Fadness said.

Regardless of what develops, local officials think the economic impact from the land is going to be significant.

“I think the sky’s the limit,” Fadness said. “We have businesses that would build there tomorrow if they could, so we know the demand is there.”

Hamilton County Commissioner and IAA board member Steve Dillinger said he’s never seen an agreement between governing bodies come together as smoothly as this one.

“I have been so pleasantly surprised with this,” Dillinger said. “It seems like common sense. Unfortunately, common sense doesn’t always prevail, but this time it did.”

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