A Matter of Time

A Matter of Time

A Matter of Time

June 2002 - Hamilton County Business Views

By: Shari Held

What comes to mind when you think of the I-69 corridor around Fishers? Commercial construction. Growth. Activity. Lots going on. You almost can’t escape getting caught up in the energy. Right? Same for the 37 Corridor around Noblesville. No surprise here. Hamilton County is one of the richest and fastest growing areas of the state and the country.

But if you go just a little northeast of Fishers and little southeast of Noblesville to Exit 10 off I-69, all this changes. At Deer Creek Shops, ornamental trees covered with white and pink blossoms form a border around a virtually empty parking lot. Traffic is so light, that Shawn Clos, manager of Amish Furniture Mart, can say without exaggerating, “When we see someone coming down the road, we know they’re coming to see us.”

What if you built a mall and they didn’t come?

That’s almost exactly what happened back in the ‘90s when the mall, Hamilton Commons as it was called then, was developed. Despite proximity to I-69 and the popular Deer Creek Music Center, the grandiose plans developer David Carter had for the 22 acres fell apart almost from the start. Competition from two new malls – Circle Center in downtown Indianapolis and a mall in Daleville at Exit 34, twenty miles north on I-69 – may have been contributing factors. Other possible factors include poor visibility from I-69 and a lack of residential development in the neighborhood. “The reason that it didn’t become something sooner that now is kind of a mystery,” said Chris Hamm, economic development director for the City of Noblesville.

But that’s all in the past. Today there’s a new name, new management and the potential for a bright new future. Lack of foot traffic isn’t necessarily a death knoll for the regional “destination mall” and office space concept that Peggy Barts, property manager, hopes to bring to fruition. When she came onboard as property manager in July of 1999, she had only one tenant – Amish Furniture Mart.

While they still maintain their position as the sole retail tenant, Barts has added Defining Gardens, who currently uses the space for storage; Burgess Auctions and Appraisals; SophTech, Inc., an internet-based business that connects equipment manufacturers with industrial companies; and the Fall Creek Township Assessor’s office.

When it comes to attracting new tenants, Barts says, “My tenants are my best allies. They really like it here.” That’s no exaggeration either. Clos, whose business fits the “destination shop” concept, loves it. “Business is just fantastic! We have a perfect location facing I-69 and business has increased every year since we opened,” he says.

Zack Burgess, president, Burgess Auction & Appraisals, moved his auction house to this location because it is “close to everybody” and has seen his business grow steadily.

SophTech, Inc. is the newest tenant. “It’s wonderful! The building is nice, open and has plenty of light,” says Scott Fine, president. He also likes the fact that it’s an easy access from the interstate and only two-and-a-half miles from his home.

Pam Zagar had never even considered Deer Creek Shops – she thought it was strictly retail – as a good fit for her assessor business until she met Barts at a Fishers Chamber of Commerce function. When she told Barts that she had outgrown her former location, Barts suggested that she take a look at Deer Creek Shops. She’s glad she did. She’s been there for a year-and-a-half now and loves the fact that her office is so convenient for her customers.

Bart continues to have high hopes for populating the shops. She gets drive-by inquiries about leasing and says there is continued interest in office space and single proprietor shops – some looking to make the move from the heavily congested Castleton area. She also anticipates attracting people looking to “get in early before the market rate goes up.”

Getting new neighbors will also help. The fairly vacant area is becoming the focus of multiple residential development projects. With this new wave of residential development “coming literally to my back door,” Barts expects to see significant change over the next 12 months.

Republic’s Saxony project should kick-start activity in the area in the coming months. Saxony, a neo-traditional neighborhood design concept, will include single and multi-family homes, entertainment centers, retail, business offices, parks, restaurants and commercial areas. “This 350 acre project is a dynamic project that we believe with be a tremendous asset to the community of Fishers. There’s nothing like it in the state of Indiana,” says Wes Bucher, director of the Department of Development for the town of Fishers.

Other housing development projects are anticipated in the area, causing Bucher to say, “In three years you’ll see a very different Exit 10 than you see today.” And, as everyone knows, “retail follows rooftops.” Presently there simply aren’t enough rooftops to handle the retail that you would expect to see at Deer Creek Shops.

While retailers aren’t beating down the doors of Deer Creek Shops today they may be soon. “This area is a prime location for future growth. I believe this facility (Deer Creek Shops) may have just been ahead of its time. The word is most definitely out about this once sleepy little town,” says Zagar.