Construction on the new Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team headquarters in Creekside Corporate Park in Zionsville is still a couple of months away from completion.
But already, the $20 million facility is spurring increased interest in the park from companies and changing the way local officials see the park’s future.
Think less traditional office space and more creative uses—like the headquarters of a racing team or a retail space for high-end motorcycles.
The latter is one of several uses now proposed for the park, which has remained mostly empty since Zionsville partnered in 2013 with the local school system to purchase 91 acres of undeveloped land along 106th Street from Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co.
The idea was to attract mostly traditional corporate headquarters to a park that offers more natural amenities—walking trails and greenspace—than your average office park.
That’s still a goal, said Zionsville Town Councilman Josh Garrett. But “even that look may be different,” than officials originally anticipated, he said.
“Graham Rahal Performance is a great example where you have highly skilled, highly paid techs where it’s not an office they are working in front of a computer all day,” Garrett said. “But they are doing very hard to find-type skills and hard-to-find-type jobs and exactly the kinds of things I think that are good for any community to have and think about a diversified base of employment and of employers.”
To date, five of the park’s 15 lots have been purchased, and there are two companies in operation at Creekside.
DK Pierce & Associates, a pharmaceutical marketer and consultant, moved into its $3 million, 18,000-square-foot headquarters in 2017, a year after breaking ground in Creekside.
Group1001, an Indianapolis-based insurance holding group, moved into the former headquarters of Lids Inc. in 2020 after it purchased the 150,000-square-foot building for more than $18 million.
But if proposals currently on the table or in negotiation are approved, another seven lots would be sold, leaving just three more available.
Among the new proposals presented to the town include two from NTT IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal, who races for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and is the son of RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal.
Graham Rahal is proposing to move his two automotive businesses, including his Rahal Ducati Indianapolis retailer operation, to Creekside.
Wayne DeLong, the town’s director of planning and economic development, said Carmel-based Lauth Properties LLC, Indianapolis-based Kendall Property Group and Zionsville-based TreSSS Architectural Pool Safety Covers also have proposed projects at the corporate park. Those projects will be discussed at an April 25 meeting of the Zionsville Redevelopment Commission.
“The larger goal is to leverage the energy that the RLL project has brought to Zionsville and continue to ride that wave,” DeLong said.
Developing the park
The town’s vision for Creekside Corporate Park goes back more than a decade to when leaders wanted to see the land contribute more to the commercial tax base. Dow Chemical Co. owned the land at the time and was not interested in selling it piecemeal to developers.
In 2013, the town and its school system partnered to purchase 91 acres of land with the school’s existing bond money with an agreement the town would eventually pay for the land and the school system would get a share of the tax revenue from new development.
The land at Creekside cost the school system $3.4 million and it sold the property to the town for $3 million plus interest. Infrastructure improvements added another $4.5 million to the town’s investment. DeLong said the town has paid off all the money from the school system’s loan to the Zionsville Redevelopment Commission.
Debt from a 2013 TIF revenue sharing agreement and a bond issued in 2015 remain an obligation of the redevelopment commission through at least 2041.
So why has so little been built over the past nine years? Town officials said there are a couple of reasons for the lack of construction at Creekside.
One is the town’s desire to be selective about the types of companies that stake claims at the corporate park. Officials are looking for companies that want to build a corporate headquarters and businesses focused on technology and research and development, rather than warehouses and industrial facilities.
Another is that the town has avoided an “if you build it, they will come” approach. Instead, it wants companies and developers to propose their own plans for buildings.
DeLong said “there’s many, many cases” in which companies are looking to locate in an existing building or one that will be finished soon. But, he said, “that’s a struggle anywhere to building up rapidly.”
After delays due to weather and supply chain issues, the racing HQ is getting closer to its opening date.
Auto racing legend Bobby Rahal said he’s eagerly awaiting the day this summer when his RLL team can move into its new 115,000-square-foot headquarters rising on 13 acres of land at the northeast corner of Creek Way and 106th Street.
“I think it’s really a building that exemplifies our commitment, our faith in motorsports in this country,” Rahal said. “I think it’s a building that will attract sponsors, attract personnel, good personnel. I think it’s going to be a great thing for the town of Zionsville to use as a, ‘Hey, look at us,’ kind of thing.”
The facility will bring under one roof Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Brownsburg-based IndyCar team and its Columbus, Ohio-based International Motor Sports Association WeatherTech SportsCar Championship operation.
Rahal, the winner of the 1986 Indianapolis 500, compared his emerging RLL headquarters to the home of Concord, North Carolina-based Hendrick Motorsports, the most successful team in NASCAR Cup Series history.
“I believe that if [RLL] isn’t the finest racing facility in this country, it’s got to be close,” Rahal said. “I would put it up against anything I’ve seen in Europe.”
The building will provide space for approximately 100 employees in automotive R&D, light manufacturing, marketing, communications and public relations. He said he hopes to eventually add a family racing museum next to the race shop.
“It’s going to allow us to do whatever we need to do now and what we perceive to be our needs in the future,” he said. “This isn’t a building for 2022 or 2023. It’s a building for 2030.”
Garrett said the addition of RLL to Creekside shows that a non-traditional business can be a good fit at the corporate park.
“Whereas they might have once thought it would just be for corporate headquarters or other large offices, and as that market has evolved, being able to see what else creatively might fit in that space has certainly been good for momentum,” Garrett said.
That momentum could lead to the area on the southeast side of Creekside becoming a hub for the Rahal family.
Rahal’s son, Graham, told IBJ he hopes to move his Graham Rahal Performance and Rahal Ducati Indianapolis ventures from Brownsburg to Creekside.
He is in negotiations with town officials to purchase about 9.5 acres of land on Lots 10 and 11, which sit opposite the RLL headquarters on Creek Way. His plans include investing $25 million to $30 million on the two lots.
“Anybody who’s seen the building up there is probably surprised to see how awesome and how beautiful of a facility RLL is building, and we’d like to do the same. We’d like to build upon that,” Graham Rahal said.
Graham Rahal Performance, which sells and maintains high-end performance vehicles, and motorcycle retailer Rahal Ducati Indianapolis have both outgrown their facilities, he said.
A Zionsville resident, Graham Rahal also said he is interested in moving his businesses closer to his customer base.
“We have expanded the company so massively, but what is simply holding us back right now, aside from getting more employees, is space,” Graham Rahal said.
He expects to expand to about 100 employees and plans to include space for winter storage of up to 90 vehicles for customers as well as room for the Graham and Courtney Rahal Foundation. He also hopes to construct a motorcycle-themed café.
Graham Rahal’s GRP Cars and Coffee event, which he said has drawn up to 1,200 cars in Brownsburg, would also make the move.
“I feel like Creekside is the best opportunity right now for my company to get a design, to get going, to get building and to get an operation within 18 months,” he said.
Hurdles remain, however, with rezoning the land for retail operations. And Graham Rahal said he’s in discussions with other towns and municipalities just in case the Zionsville option doesn’t work out.
However, both the IndyCar racer and Zionsville officials said they are working to reach a solution.
At a town council meeting this week, President Jason Plunkett encouraged the redevelopment commission to allow Graham Rahal to purchase Lots 10 and 11. And the plan commission asked town staff to draft an amendment to the Creekside planned unit development that would allow for retail.
“Being a Zionsville resident, it was very appealing for me to be in that area and also with the financial commitment and everything my family has made with the race team,” Graham Rahal said. “I think the race team was a great shot in the arm for Creekside, and I tried to build on that with our business and all that we do.”
Work in the pandemic era
Other companies are lining up behind Graham Rahal to present plans for Creekside.
Lauth Properties LLC has proposed constructing a $9 million, 29,000-square-foot building on Lots 2 and 3 that would be broken up into five 4,800-square-foot spaces for standalone medical offices, DeLong said.
Also, TreSSS Architectural Pool Safety Covers is interested in Lots 4 and 5, while Kendall Property Group presented a plan for Lot 9.
Kendall is seeking to build two $1.9 million, 9,600-square-foot multi-tenant office buildings.
Kendall Property Group would occupy about one-half of the building to the west and seek professional office tenants such as attorneys, realtors, dentists, accountants for the rest of the space.
While town leaders say they will remain selective about the types of companies they consider for Creekside, the emergence of the RLL headquarters and changes in how and where people work due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to some rethinking about the park’s future.
Mayor Emily Styron, who made filling Creekside a focus of her campaign in 2019, said questions that will guide what she calls “Creekside 2.0” include: “What is the future of work for employees? How has the pandemic changed their demand for interest? What’s competitive now if you’re an employer?”
DeLong said Creekside’s scenic setting, which includes 24 acres dedicated to open space and trails, is ideal in the pandemic era when being outdoors has become a bigger priority.
In addition, having a mostly blank slate at Creekside could be an advantage given the rapid changes in what employees expect an office to be like in the post-2020 world.
“I’d love to say that was by design,” said Garrett, the chief strategy officer for Indianapolis-based information technology company Tangoe. “But I would say it’s more by luck.”•
Correction: An earlier version of this story erred in describing the agreement between the town of Zionsville and Zionsville Community Schools to purchase the land for Creekside. It has been corrected to say that the town has since paid off all the money from the school system’s loan to the Zionsville Redevelopment Commission. You can see all of our corrections here.