Zionsville eyes $600K for nature center, temporary town hall

Zionsville could spend up to $600,000 to construct a new building that could serve both as a nature center and temporary town hall.

Town officials have proposed the project to potentially address two needs, said Zionsville Mayor Jeff Papa. The Zion Nature Center likely will be forced to relocate from its current home, and the town could need temporary space for government operations if plans for a new town hall are approved.

The building would be located at County Road 400 South and County Road 875 East. The Town Council will weigh appropriating half of the $600,000 at its Nov. 2 meeting.

Town officials have been considering constructing a new town hall on the north end of its existing property at 1100 W. Oak St. It would replace the 45-year-old church on the southern end of the property that currently serves as town hall. That area then could be used for commercial development, which could generate tax revenue that would help pay for the new town hall.

The cost of the proposed 40,000-square-foot town hall has been estimated at $7.5 million. Renovating the 27,700-square-foot church is also still an option, which would cost about $3 million.

The church needs extensive repairs given its age, and its warren-like layout leaves much to be desired, Town Council President Steve Mundy said in January. Some spaces—like the former sanctuary where the council meets—are larger than needed, and others are all but unusable.

Papa said if officials decide to proceed with a new town hall, a temporary facility for daily operations would likely be needed during construction.

“We have nowhere to go,” Papa said.

One option he said he explored was operating out of temporary pods at Zionsville Community High School, but the cost would have been $300,000 to $400,000.

“That solution seemed like wasted money,” Papa said, when for $600,000 the town could construct a facility serving as a temporary town hall and a permanent nature center.

The existing Zion Nature Center is located on Eagle Elementary School property. School officials have told the town that the building likely will be needed for education purposes in the future.

Papa did not have details on what the building would look like as of Monday morning, but said he would gather the information as soon as possible.

No timeline has been proposed to construct the new building or move the nature center, but town officials said they’d prefer to move forward sooner rather than later.

The town is proposing up to $300,000 from the cumulative capital development fund and $300,000 from the parks and recreation department's capital fund.

“Hopefully, it wouldn’t even cost that much,” Papa said.

The Zionsville Town Council will consider the appropriation from the cumulative capital development fund at its Nov. 2 meeting. The Zionsville Park Board will consider appropriating the balance at another date.

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