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Investing in the future of Zionsville, brick by brick

Submitted by John Stehr


I could not love my town more. Between our iconic brick street, our first-class school system, elite business community and our cherished history, Zionsville has a lot to love. 


Yet it's no secret that Zionsville has been resistant to change over the years. But as times change, we sometimes need to consider changing, too. In simple terms: How we got "here" is not how we will get "there."


If you talk to just about any­one in our town, they will tell you that the brick street is our "heart and soul." We need to protect it. Yet for years, we have not moved forward with any substantive plans to do that. I believe to keep the heart beating and the soul strong, we need to put more people on the bricks in proximity of our restaurants and shops. The path is clear-and it heads due south from the center of our town through an area we are calling the "South Village." 


The South Village project encompasses 160 acres of land that has never reached its high­est and best use. An old gas sta­tion and car wash stood in the area that is now a vacant gravel lot. Weeds and brush have over­taken a former Dow Chemical Co. research center. And a for­gotten former trailer park site is hidden from view when you enter or leave town.


Landowners have tried to work in the area in recent years but have not gotten their projects off the ground. We need a new approach, and that's why I am proposing a town-led planned unit development that gives us control over the size and scope, architecture, setbacks and the overall feel of the area. It includes flexible office space, retail stores, restaurants and public amenities like restrooms and trails. It also proposes a limit to the height of new construction so that it blends seamlessly with our existing historic buildings and creates the best place in Indiana to live, work and play. 


Where the South Village meets the brick street, a civic plaza will be home to an out­door stage for concerts and other events, a pavilion for winter ice skating and space for farmer's markets in the summer. 


We will also seek to create new parking spaces closer to our first-class amenities with stra­tegically planned garages that incorporate retail and restaurant space. In all, we hope to attract about $250 million in private investment, a down payment on keeping alive the promise that our ancestors saw when they platted our town on the Elijah and Polly Cross family farm in the 1850s. 


South Village is not just about the buildings; it is also about what we will not build in the area. We are committed to conserving at least 40% of the town-led PUD for greenspace. Walking and biking paths will connect to the village, the Big 4 Rail Trail and existing nearby parks. 


We live in a time when agreement on anything is hard to achieve. But I think most of us who live here can agree that our history is important and that it should always inform our future. The South Village is the link between the two. Granted, this is a big swing for Zionsville — a grand plan the likes of which we have not seen before. Don't think of it as "Zionsville 2.0" but rather as a bridge from the first 172 years of our history to the next generations who will write their own family histories here. 


I invite everyone to watch us evolve, whether you are blessed to live here or are able to make regular visits. You will find our town warm and welcoming, with one foot firmly in the past, one eye on the future and open arms extended to all.

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