Fishers might soon require council OK for new big-box store tenants

The Fishers City Council might soon be allowed to review, approve and set conditions for tenants moving into former big-box spaces, like this 180,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by Fry's Electronics. (IBJ Photo | Kurt Christian)

Commercial, public and institutional tenants might soon need approval from the Fishers City Council before they can move into any of the city’s former big-box retail stores.

The Fishers Plan Commission voted in favor of a proposal Wednesday that would allow the city council to review, approve and set conditions for certain tenants interested in moving into a building with a floor area of 25,000 square feet or greater.

The proposed Unified Development Ordinance text amendment would work the same way as Fishers’ site-specific commercial use limit overlay zones, which were implemented in 2017 to prevent two former Marsh Supermarkets and one existing Kroger from being redeveloped as something other than a grocery store.

If approved at next month’s Fishers City Council meeting, the proposal would exempt medical, industrial, manufacturing or office users from the additional review.

“This is really in response to a national trend that we’ve seen, a change in consumer habits and big-box stores going out of business,” Megan Schaefer, the city’s planning and zoning director, said.

Although Schaefer wasn’t sure how many properties the new rule might affect, she said there have been several large retail spaces that have been vacated in recent years. The most recent was Fry’s Electronics, which announced in February that it was closing its 180,000-square-foot store at 9820 Kincaid Drive.

Schaefer said big-box stores are more likely to have an impact on the surrounding areas than a 5,000-square-foot retail space, so the new rule would give the council an opportunity to reduce potentially adverse impacts to the surrounding properties.

Those adverse impacts consider whether the new tenant would be “…detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.”

The text amendment also considers how the new tenant and its ongoing maintenance would affect nearby property values, neighborhood character, public facilities, traffic, the city’s plans for that area and the underlying zoning.

Selina Stoller and Pete Peterson, members of both the city’s plan commission and city council, spoke in favor of the additional council oversight.

“This is very much giving yourself another bite at the apple with the spaces that are available out there,” Peterson said.

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11 thoughts on “Fishers might soon require council OK for new big-box store tenants

  1. I hope that the tenants that “shadow” these vacancies are considered when deciding whether or not to allow a replacement tenant to occupy such spaces. They often depend on the traffic these spaces generate for business. Certainly they struggle when a Marsh as an example closes but why hurt them more by deciding against a tenant that could significantly help them attract business. I would tend to think the Landlord and the replacement tenant have a substantial investment in the vacancy and have considered the viability of success before making such a decision. Wouldn’t they be the best judge of success?

    1. Exactly. Very strange for the council to be able to dictate what must go into a space. The market dictates and the landlord responds with the highest and best use for a space which will in turn generate the highest potential value. This may not be the same use as what an inexperienced council member would like to see there.

  2. Devils advocate, in favor for this proposal: Since uses that will be exempt from this review would be “medical, industrial, manufacturing, and office”, it seems like it would mainly be exercised for retail. With the whole landscape of retail markets being disrupted by Amazon and now COVID fall-out, this could be a way to ensure the highly-volatile and shifting retail market doesn’t manifest in Fisher’s real estate markets.

    Devils advocate, in opposition for this proposal: The 3rd to last paragraph states that the amendment considers impacts on “nearby property values, neighborhood character, public facilities, traffic, the city’s plans for that area and the underlying zoning”. Shouldn’t that be the purpose of the zoning ordinance and existing plans? It seems like this also would mainly involve institutional uses, as well. Could this be a response to Trader Point Christian Church planning to expand to a vacated Marsh on the northside? Does Fishers want to have more control and involvement in proposals like that?

    Food for thought

  3. A property is zoned for a specified use(s). If a future use is different there is the variance process. End of story. Anything more is government overreach. Have they considered the compilations the property owner will have finding a lender comfortable loaning on an asset that, should the current tenant vacate/fail, a council (who future members and their personal interests are unknown) have TOTAL control over backfilling the space. The result will be big vacant buildings, loss of value, tax income, jobs…. While I understand their underlying intentions are to benefit and manage the ongoing development of Fishers, what they are proposing is misguided and just plain bad.

  4. For the past 20 or 30 years, watching big box stores come and go; I’ve often thought that the cost of destruction should be included in the cost of construction. Lafayette Road from 25th to 45th, a couple miles of Michigan Road, and that asphalt desert formerly known as The Indianapolis International Airport airport & its 40 acres of abandoned parking lots come to mind. There are many more. If something is built, there should be a future plan to repurpose it. The buildings should be torn down and the asphalt reused. These sites are a blight, attract crime, and they heat up the overall environment. The site should be made ready for redevelopment when it is abandoned. This cost should not fall upon taxpayers or new developers shoulders, as it hinders repurposing. Tearing down a building and ripping up the pavement is a fraction of the cost of building. It keeps jobs where people already live. The city should pass a law that the money required to clear out a prior development be included in the construction cost. The city could bank that money until it is required. Indianapolis has a lot of unused land because some piece of junk is occupying it. Good land with utilities and roads already built; the cost of clearing it should and would be covered when it is zoned and permitted. We are missing a great opportunity to places like Westfield, Carmel, & Zionsville, where they are converting farmland into office & retail, because Indianapolis is not ready for it. This problem is easily solved. Steven Pettinga, Indianapolis

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