Buckingham still tweaking plans for Zionsville project

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Zionsville residents will have to wait a bit longer for details of Buckingham Cos.’ vision for a busy corner in the heart of the town’s quaint downtown.

The Indianapolis-based developer last month confirmed it is working on a mixed-use plan for the former Citgo gas station site at the southwest corner of Main and Sycamore streets. In October, IBJ reported that the company is working to acquire about 20 acres of land along Eagle Creek for the project.

Buckingham representatives shared “very general” architectural renderings during a private confab with Zionsville officials, Town Council President Jeff Papa told a neighborhood group Nov. 12, but a development proposal isn’t expected until early 2014.

“We don’t have anything from them,” Papa said during a meeting convened by the Zionsville Village Residents’ Association. “They’re still working on it.”

Neighbors are understandably anxious about the prospects for the property, located at the southern end of the town’s brick Main Street. Papa assured them officials would take the area’s historic charm into consideration when weighing any proposal.

Because the property is relatively expensive—the 2.4-acre Citgo site was listed for $2 million—and has some topographical challenges, Buckingham likely will look to maximize its investment by building up. But size matters.

“It should not be something that swamps the Village and makes us lose what we have,” Papa said. “We’re just not going to do something that ruins the Village.”

Traffic is another concern. The town already is looking for ways to improve traffic flow downtown (recommendations were due this month), and the stakes go up with the expected addition of multifamily housing and commercial space.

Infrastructure improvements could be funded with revenue from the town’s Tax Increment Financing district, Papa said, since its purpose is to spur economic development. Most of the Buckingham project is located in the targeted area.

“Whatever is built there will need TIF money,” Papa said.

The town itself has a significant investment in the intersection, pulling $650,000 from its Rainy Day Fund earlier this year to buy the former PNC Bank branch at the northwest corner of Main and Sycamore. PNC offered Zionsville first crack at the property, Papa said, and officials decided to seize the opportunity.

The town already was leasing a portion of the property for public parking and the Zionsville Farmers Market, and leaders knew they might need to acquire additional land to upgrade the intersection. So it made sense to hold onto it for the time being.

“It gives us a little bit of control over what might go there,” Papa said. “It’s a very key corner, an entryway to Zionsville.”

Papa said he recommended Buckingham reach out to the ZVRA to solicit feedback on its project. The company is taking a collaborative approach “to achieve multiple stakeholder goals,” senior development executive Scott Travis said in an email last month.

Town leaders are just as interested in seeing what Buckingham comes up with, Papa said.

“I don’t think we have a specific goal for that property,” he said in response to a question about the city’s vision for the Citgo site. “But personally, I don’t think it should stay a concrete slab forever.”

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