Officials, residents show support for town center plan


McCORDSVILLE — A plan for a town center in McCordsville was well-received upon its presentation to the public this week.

The vision for the town center calls for commercial, residential, mixed-use and community space developments on more than 100 acres east of Mt. Comfort Road and south of State Road 67. Officials foresee it unfolding over the next 20 to 30 years. Early estimates place public investment at $42 million and private investment at $173 million. Leaders are motivated to pursue the project to develop a unique identity and character, create connectivity and experiences and diversify the town’s tax base.

The town enlisted Fortville-based Context Design to work with a steering committee and process public input to create a plan for the town center. Fred Prazeau, a partner at Context Design, presented that plan at a McCordsville Town Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Prazeau talked about opportunities for nice restaurants and outdoor spaces to gather for special events along with convenience parking in front of first-floor stores and surface parking behind buildings for residences on floors above.

He said it’s important for the town to have a plan and skin in the game.

“Communities that invest in themselves find the private sector investing in those communities,” Prazeau said. “Communities that sit idle and do not invest in themselves get overrun with development they are not proud of.”

Tom Strayer, a McCordsville town councilman, agreed on the importance of having a plan and acknowledging that parts of it will likely change as time goes on.

“We need to have something in place to give our vision and I think that any project that comes forward is going to have to be decided at that time, just like any other development in the town,” Strayer said. “We don’t have to make those decisions, and we can’t make those decisions upfront.”

Prazeau encouraged officials to explore financial tools available to the town and assemble developer round tables for discussions on what’s realistic.

Greg Brewer, a McCordsville town councilman, asked Prazeau about the pacing of the project’s phasing.

“It’s really a question of momentum,” Prazeau said, adding Context Design drafted a plan for Fishers’ Nickel Plate District, which developed much more quickly than its 20-year vision. “That plan got roughly to where we thought it might be in 20 years at seven years. There are a whole variety of factors that lead to that.”

Projects can also go in the opposite direction and end up behind schedule, he continued.

Shirley Jacobi, a McCordsville resident who served on the town center steering committee, said at the town council meeting that she’s lived in the community since before it had water and sewer service.

“My contention then is the same as it is now: location, location, location,” she said. “Development is coming. We’ve had a certain amount of development already. I’ve been interested in trying to see that we have a community that we’re proud of and one that I still want to live in… I think the project is a great project.”

Steve Long, CEO of Hancock Health and also a member of the steering committee, spoke highly of the project as well.

“We are fully supportive of this kind of vision that you have here,” he said on behalf of the health care provider, which has a campus in McCordsville.

Rick Smigielski, who’s new to McCordsville, likes the plan too.

“I love this vision and I think the town should get on board now while they can, while it’s still in the early stages,” he said. “I’m fully in support of this.”

Suzanne Short, who said she’s seen plenty of town center ideas throughout her time on the McCordsville Redevelopment Commission over the past 15 years, described the current path as special.

“Nothing brings our vision to life like these documents and this experience has,” she said.

While the council was expected to hold a vote on the plan, new town council president Barry Wood could not attend Monday’s meeting, and town manager Tonya Galbraith said officials wanted to wait until all members could be present before voting.

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“Communities that invest in themselves find the private sector investing in those communities. Communities that sit idle and do not invest in themselves get overrun with development they are not proud of.”

Fred Prazeau, partner, Context Design