HANCOCK COUNTY — An internationally recognized research organization will spend next week studying growth along the Mt. Comfort corridor and advise local leaders on economic development strategies.
Urban Land Institute, a think tank that has offices in Washington D.C., Hong Kong, London and Frankfurt, Germany, plans to deploy an advisory council of “experts” to interview government officials, business owners, residents, local developers and organization leaders located near the Mt. Comfort corridor and study other aspects of the area, said NineStar Connect President and CEO Michael Burrow.
Burrow said panel members will “blitz” the community all next week before presenting a plan to the public on Friday.
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The towns of McCordsville, New Palestine and Cumberland and Hancock County each contributed $10,000 to the study. Several other local businesses and organizations also helped fund the $135,000 contract with the Urban Land Institute. NineStar, Hancock Health and Greenfield Banking Co. were the top givers.
The Mt. Comfort corridor runs along County Road 600W, also called Mt. Comfort Road, and connects three western Hancock County towns. It also intersects with several main state and federal thoroughfares, including U.S. 36, U.S. 40, U.S. 52, Interstate 70 and Interstate 69 (in Hamilton County). Western Hancock County, especially near McCordsville, is one of the top areas of population growth in Indiana.
Burrow said it’s inevitable that the corridor will keep growing as more people and businesses make western Hancock County home.
“The question becomes is: Is it going to be well-thought out, quality-type growth? Or is it going to be whoever is the first to propose developing something, then that becomes a default standard?” Burrow said.
Cumberland Town Manager April Fisher said she hopes the growth along the corridor has a positive impact on local residents, and that ULI can help town leaders continue their collaboration.
“We think that if we all can get on board with one vision for the corridor, it will be a lot easier for that to happen,” she said.
Burrow said ULI only completes a few studies a year, adding it’s a “testament to town leadership” that the group chose to study the Mt. Comfort Corridor. NineStar has invested a lot into the western part of the county, providing power to many residents and also by purchasing the Gem Water utility.
“When you’re in business and you see all of these government entities aligning,” Burrow said, “then certainly you want to be a part of it because you recognize it’s going to be something really good.”
Steve Long, president and CEO of Hancock Health, told a crowd gathered for the State of the Community luncheon last Wednesday that the hospital is focusing on its “western strategy” in the county. Hancock Health is building a low-cost diagnostic center at Interstate 70 and Mt. Comfort Road and is also adding a new fitness center in New Palestine, also along the road.
Long said the company might build a second hospital along the corridor in the years to come.
Tonya Galbraith, town manager of McCordsville, said she’s eager to see how the panel studies the corridor from an outside perspective, providing new ideas. McCordsville has chronic traffic congestion issues along 600W and is developing a town center for the fast-growing area.
“It’ll be eye-opening for everyone, I think,” Galbraith said. “Hopefully, it’ll be positive, but we’re really looking forward to what they come up with for us.”