Zionsville boosts VanTrust’s $98 million warehouse project

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Another set of proposed warehouses near the borders of Whitestown, Lebanon and Zionsville will receive a $3.2 million tax abatement over the next 10 years to round out the $98 million, 160-acre Hub I-65 project.

Kansas City, Missouri-based VanTrust Real Estate received a 10-year tax abatement worth $3.2 million from the town of Zionsville this week for the second phase of Hub I-65. The first $50 million phase secured a 10-year tax abatement from the council in early 2019, and construction on the 80 acres closest to the I-65 corridor is underway. The first two warehouses in the development near Indianapolis Road and State Road 267 are scheduled to be complete in September before construction starts on the final two warehouses next summer.

“Although I don’t love the idea of offering discounts, that’s the world we live in. In this case, it’s competitive, it’s traditional, it’s commonplace,” Town council member Alex Choi said. ““You have to be competitive with neighboring municipalities to be able to attract business.”

Phil Rasey, vice president of development at VanTrust Real Estate, describes Hub I-65’s two phases as nearly identical.

Hub I-65’s first half includes an 846,720-square-foot speculative warehouse suited for e-commerce, food-grade or bulk distribution tenants. The second warehouse in the first phase is a 219,240-square-foot building designed for multiple tenants that could serve as a distribution center for smaller companies.

VanTrust has not identified users for those buildings, but Rasey said that isn’t stopping the company from moving ahead with two more speculative logistics and distribution warehouses.

Matt Price, a partner with the Dentons law firm in Indianapolis, represented VanTrust in its request for a second round of abatements. During the meeting, he reiterated comments he made during a presentation on San Francisco-based Prologis’ proposed two nearby warehouses late last month.

“There’s always strong demand in this vicinity for this type of land use,” Price said. “What’s happened since the pandemic is, I’d say, is the intensification of that demand. The pandemic has changed supply chain logistics. It has called for retailers and other end users to increase their inventory levels in very short order, and there has been without question an accelerated acceptance of an already robust e-commerce economy.”

VanTrust is under contract to purchase the 81 acres of farmland at 4265 S. 300 East for its second phase. The company will have to rezone the property to light industrial before it can build its planned 780,900-square-foot and 399,000-square-foot warehouses.

VanTrust did not provide an exact number of projected jobs or total salaries for those speculative buildings, but city documents show comparable projects in the area have hired 50 to 100 employees making $12 to $15 per hour.

The project will require installation of a water line that VanTrust is using to sweeten the pot for residents of the nearby Saratoga neighborhood. The developer has agreed to loop the water line through the neighborhood and pay for residents to connect to it. Houses in the neighborhood currently rely on well water.

Price, VanTrust’s lawyer, played down concerns among some at the meeting that Zionsville and neighboring towns are being lured into a bidding war with each other to attract development.

“In the world we observe between Whitestown, Zionsville and Lebanon you do not see [commerce] jumping across the street. You see new users coming to the marketplace.”

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