Rural McCordsville now a blooming burg - Retail-office project poised to unleash surge in growth
By Jeff Swiatek - The Indianapolis Star
January 16, 2008
An old farm house rots away at the main intersection in town, council members meet in a trailer and dining choices come down to Joe's Grille and the Wagon Wheel Eatery.
Not the description you would expect for one of the Indianapolis area's growth hot spots: the crossroads town of McCordsville, long seen as too rural and distant for developers to bother with.
Not so now.
"I wonder on a daily basis what's going on around us," said Jenny Adams, waitress-turned-owner of the Wagon Wheel. "We try to keep up (on new projects) with construction workers who come in here."
Suburban sprawl not only is lapping up against McCordsville's farmland, but turning it into tract subdivisions, three newly opened retail centers, a coming Meijer department store, and one of the largest mixed-use developments ever planned in Hancock County.
A dot on the map in northwest Hancock County, McCordsville enjoys one uncontestable advantage for new development: Its 1,400 homes and smattering of businesses cluster around the key intersection of Ind. 67 and Mount Comfort Road. The two roads are emerging as the main east-west and north-south routes for traffic generated by development spreading through far-northeastern Marion County and around Geist Reservoir in Hamilton County.
"This could be considered the primary intersection in this whole area," said Kurt Mathewson, a senior vice president at Coldwell Banker Commercial in Indianapolis, who is working for a California real estate investment company that is developing the 90-acre McCord Square project in McCordsville.
The 538,000-square-foot retail and office development will rise at the key intersection. That farm ground over three to five years will be turned into a regional shopping center, with two or three big-box retailers, numerous smaller stores and about three office buildings.
In the zoning approval stage now, the $40 million project by Tower Investments of Woodland, Calif., "will help the town redefine itself and help create an image for it in the future," said Mathewson.
The town council is weighing an offer to swap the 21/2 acres that contain the town hall (a converted veterinary clinic with a converted apartment above and a trailer out back) for a site within McCord Square where a new town hall could be built.
"That's the hope," said Town Manager Tonya Galbraith, who is looking forward to gaining an actual office to replace the former apartment living room where she now works.
The project would bring walking trails and three manmade lakes to the town, which has no parks.
McCord Square, with planned access to Ind. 67 and Mount Comfort Road, "has been fairly well hashed out. There really haven't been any sticking points so far," she said.
McCord Square comes on the heels of three recently built retail centers with room for about eight stores or offices each. They are still largely vacant, a sign of a slowed-down retail leasing market.
One of the three, Gateway Crossing, was built on the outskirts of a 120-acre residential development that includes 160 home sites and a 160-unit apartment complex. About 125 homes have been built so far in the 6-year-old community, said Stephen Shea, president of Paramount Realty Group, project developer.
"There's a lot of really extremely positive things happening," he said.
Shea said McCordsville is well- positioned along Mount Comfort Road (also called County Road 600 West or Olio Road to the north), which more people are using as a short-cut to travel between I-69 in Hamilton County and I-70 in Hancock County.
Galbraith, the town manager, said the growth has forced the town to plan a major upgrade to its sewage plant. Growth could pose a problem for future restaurant owners seeking liquor licenses.
The town's quota of state-issued liquor licenses has been met, based on the 2000 census that put the population at 1,134 people, she said. But in the seven years since the census, the population has swelled to more than 3,000, judging by all the newly built homes.
That may make it hard to lure new restaurants until the next census is done in 2010 and the state can get justification to issue a few more liquor permits, she said.