A plan officials are considering for a town center in McCordsville calls for green space along with commercial and residential developments. Image provided
A plan officials are considering for a town center in McCordsville calls for green space along with commercial and residential developments. Image provided
McCORDSVILLE — Where is the heart of McCordsville? Where lies the town’s central location, that focal point, its nexus of activity?

Right now, it’s in a 70-page document.

And officials hope it will guide them and developers over the coming years for the businesses, restaurants, housing and green space envisioned near the town’s two main thoroughfares.

McCordsville’s town center is expected to take more than a decade and cost tens of millions of dollars in public funds, an investment one official thinks needs more scrutiny before moving forward. The town council will take up the plan at its meeting this coming week.

The project is analyzing 120 to 150 acres east of Mt. Comfort Road and south of State Road 67. Most of it is farmland. A plan draft prepared by Fortville-based Context Design and discussed this week outlines more than 900,000 square feet of building space across various buildings and floors. That includes commercial properties and mixed-use buildings along with multi-family, single-family and town-home residences for a total of 843 residential units.

Two main green spaces; pedestrian connectivity; and more than 2,000 parking spaces are also part of the plan. Officials hope to put town hall there one day as well.

Initial funding estimates come in at about $42 million in public investment and about $173 million in private investment. Ryan Crum, director of planning and building for McCordsville, said at a town council meeting in November 2019 that most of the public investment will be needed for roads, infrastructure and green space.

“The town is not going to be able to just create this overnight,” Crum also said. “This is going to take a lot of patience, time and potentially investment to see this to fruition.”

Crum told the Daily Reporter it will create a focal point and nexus of activity, something the town currently lacks.

The plan draft states another motivation has to do with property tax caps, which put pressure on public budgets in bedroom communities like McCordsville. A town center will attract more commercial tax base and boost quality of life, according to the report.

Developments making up the project will inevitably deviate from the plan, according to officials.

“This is a plan,” Crum told McCordsville Redevelopment Commission members on Tuesday, Jan. 7. “As long as we’re comfortable with it, let’s get it adopted, and as we begin to have those next steps — the implementation, discussions with developers — we’ll get a better idea of what direction we need to go toward in terms of parking and building sizes, all those things.”

And the order in which it all happens, added Suzanne Short, commission chair.

“We’ve got an idea of the phasing, but it may happen completely differently, and that drives some of the design as well,” she said.

Money is a significant factor too, Crum continued.

“I think a lot of it will come down to what can the town afford to do and how much at a time,” he said. “And how big of an interest we get initially from the development world — that will drive a lot of our decisions most likely.

“We’re trying our best to phase this, but it’s going to happen as it happens,” he continued.

Tim Jensen, principal of The Veridus Group, based in Indianapolis, agreed officials could expect plenty of deviations. The redevelopment commission approved an agreement with the firm for an amount not to exceed $38,500 to help the town implement its town center strategy.

“The one thing that I can guarantee about this plan is that it won’t look like that when it’s done,” he said. “Which seems kind of weird, that we’ve spent all this money on a plan, but I’m telling you, developers need to see and feel and understand what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to taste and feel before they will invest money.”

Greg Brewer, a McCordsville town councilman, told the Daily Reporter that he likes the concept of a town center but feels there hasn’t been enough discussion on how the town would fund its part of the endeavor. A town with a population of several thousand adopting a plan before determining how to come up with an estimated $42 million investment is putting the cart before the horse, he said.

“Do we have the public money secured for our part of the public infrastructure?” he said. “If we don’t, this whole concept is a moot point.”

Context Design has assisted McCordsville with the project since 2018. A steering committee made up of local officials and the proposed site’s property owners have been part of the process as well. Members of the public provided input at pop-up events, town hall meetings and public hearing as well as through a survey and the town’s website.

The plan draft indicates the survey drew 365 responses. More than 60% said the town center should be a priority for the town. More than 90% said they’d like to see dining there. More than 80% said they’d like to see shopping. Sixty percent said the character of the town center should reflect the town’s history.

McCordsville Town Council approved a consulting contract of almost $50,000 with Indianapolis-based A&F Engineering in November to devise a way to turn the future town center’s stormwater drainage into an amenity.

“People are attracted to water,” Crum said at that meeting. “We’re going to have stormwater there; what can we do to maximize those two things and make it the most functional amenity?”

The endeavor calls into question the future of the houses along Mt. Comfort Road on the site. Crum said at the redevelopment commission meeting that an entity interested in the town center idea owns most of those houses, however.

The plan for McCordsville’s town center is comparable to Fishers’ Nickel Plate District in terms of land mass, but likely won’t be as far as density, Crum said. Four- and five-story buildings stand in the Nickel Plate District. Crum said there could be one or two such buildings in McCordsville’s town center, but he anticipates far more two- and three-story properties.

Tonya Galbraith, McCordsville town manager, said she expects the town council to hold its first vote on the plan on Tuesday, Jan. 14, and its second in February. Context Design will give a presentation on the plan at the upcoming meeting.

If approved, the town will use the document to work with developers, Galbraith said.