Champion for Smart Growth

Champion for Smart Growth

Champion for Smart Growth

December 2004 - Indiana Business Magazine

By: Pat Pickett

If you have picked up any area publication in the last month, you have certainly read about Republic Development's latest area efforts, Saxony.

The Ohio-based developer is deeply entrenched in Hamilton County's newest project located off of Exit 10/I-69 boasting a mix of retail, office and residential uses.  Heading up those efforts for Republic is Rick Arnos, a 20-year veteran of real estate development who spent five years on Wall Street after graduating from Harvard University.

Despite the Ivy League ties, Arnos is as passionate about Hamilton County and its future as if he grew up amid corn cribs and creek bed crawdads.  "Hamilton County is a great place in which to live today and it's on a path to achieve higher levels of excellence in the years to come, Arnos says.  But unbridled growth can have its downside."  "Sprawl today is the ugly side of development," he says, "an outgrowth of poor planning, formulaic design, misguided municipal codes and urban flight."

For Arnos, the married father of two who enjoys reading (everything from Tom Wolfe's "A Man in Full" to Slavomir Raivicz's "The Long Walk") as well as "spirited debate" and sculpture, his greatest professional challenge is to create great places in which to live and work that are enduring.

While Republic has been in the Indianapolis market for 20 years, it is Saxony that will undoubtedly leave the greatest footprint.  "This is a special project.  The design and planning for Saxony will stand the test of time.  It is a synergistically linked community," explains Arnos.  "One of the things companies need is a ready workforce.  They like being located in an area with residential developments in place."

When complete, the project will encompass 750 acres.

The native of Detroit, Mich. who grew up in Ohio says Saxony is strategically located close to area that is shaping up to be the life sciences corridor, bracketed by Warsaw's Zimmer Holdings to the north and Roche Diagnostics in Fishers.

He foresees many spin-off businesses springing up to support those powerhouses, much in the way the Silicon Valley proliferated two decades ago.

"This is a $12 to $15 billion-a-year industry growing by 20-25 percent a year," he says.  "We think that between Lilly, IUPUI and the medical research that's being done at Roche Diagnostics and others, this area becomes very compelling to biomechanical manufacturers.  It's a powerful industry, and its growth will continue."

Arnos chuckles when he remembers conversations from 20 years ago in regard to Hamilton County.

"I clearly remember talking with some builders in the late 1980s who were hesitant to build on 116th Street because it was so far out," he says.  "We've had other projects in Fishers and saw them as a wonderful opportunity to participate in that growth.  And we continue that outlook today with Saxony."

While he is quick to toot the horn of Republic Development's accomplishments, he's equally generous in recognizing the accomplishments of his peers.

"I admire the work of George Sweet (Brenwick Development).  Aesthetics play a defining role in each project he undertakes," says Arnos.  "His body of work is deep and well thought out."

He also has great admiration for Yaromir Steiner, the developer of the Easton project in Columbus, Ohio.  More than 18 million people are drawn to that particular urban planned retail development.

Arnos' vision for Saxony draws on qualities exhibited by both developers.

"We're striving to create an environment that feels good and makes time spent more enjoyable -- one that doesn't force you to get in the car and drive hither and yon," he explains.  "A mix of uses in one area, if done well, can bring enormous benefits."

Guiding that vision brings reward.

"To make a vision come alive requires clarity of purpose, imagination and tenacity," says Arnos.  "My greatest reward is working with a group of talented, dedicated professionals to create and then implement meaningful visions of ways to organize human activity."