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Local Leadership's Influence and Three Hot Indiana Real Estate Markets
Posted in Real Estate

When business leaders go hunting for the right place to put down roots, there are the usual considerations of location, zoning, utilities and access. However, one important factor that is often overlooked is the local leadership of the community. The mayors, city and town councils, and their staff strongly influence how attractive a city or town is to a potential investor.

The most influential leaders have a clear message regarding the type of development their community is seeking and put in place rigorous, but fair regulatory processes. They help create themes that emerge over time that allow their communities to attract investment.

It’s no accident when you see growth and robust investment in a community. One shining example of the influence of local leadership is Carmel, Indiana. Just as Mayor Jim Brainard’s strong leadership has advanced that community, you can see similar types of influences in other area cities and towns.

Following are three Indiana communities that I think are great examples of hot real estate markets with strong local leadership. They differ in theme, but each has positive momentum.

1. Indianapolis is a world-class city battling for world-class talent. This is a focus for Mayor Greg Ballard and local leadership. Indianapolis is committed to moving the needle, adding to the tax base of Marion County, while supporting residents’ quality of life and boosting amenities.

Over the past several years, the concentration for business investment in downtown Indianapolis has been on infield sites or existing areas that were undeveloped or underdeveloped. The result has been and continues to be, moving toward, offering housing and retail options for people who make Indianapolis their home. Attracting and retaining talent and young professionals is at the crux of this push and could be considered Indianapolis’s “theme” for development.

CityWay, for example, is a mixed-use residential offering on Delaware Street between Maryland and South streets that reportedly will include 250 luxury residences, a 209-room world-class hotel, YMCA, retail and restaurant space, and more to attract urban dwellers to downtown.

The former Indianapolis Star property at Delaware and New York streets is another mixed-use project, transforming a 190,000-square-foot building and 500-space parking garage. The new construction of a Marsh grocery store on North Illinois Street also signals the city’s desire to cater to residents. These investments in downtown Indianapolis reinforce and support other businesses that have made an investment here and reflect the city leadership’s vision.

2. Westfield is a rising star that will continue to rise. Mayor Andy Cook and his administration’s focus is making Westfield a top destination for families and youth athletics. The brand new Grand Park includes a 400-acre campus with 26 baseball and softball diamonds, 31 multipurpose fields, two indoor facilities and more than 10 miles of trails.

Grand Park is a driver for new investment and will lead others to discover a real jewel in Hamilton County. The planned Chatham Hills residential development is a perfect example. The 1,500-home project will include a new Pete Dye golf course, walking trails and other outdoor amenities. Grand Park is a field of dreams for young athletes and a bold vision of Westfield’s bright future.

3. Zionsville is bringing its tax base back into balance. Current leadership on the Zionsville Town Council has helped this community rebalance its somewhat lopsided tax base. As recently as the 1970s, industrial interests played a prominent role in the town’s economy, but rapid residential growth during the ‘80s and ‘90s created an imbalance. Once tax caps were instituted, something had to change. Zionsville, in effect, has gone back to the future with projects like FedEx and LIDS.

FedEx Ground is building a 300,000-square-foot, $40 million package-distribution center in Zionsville on 106th Street. LIDS Sports Group announced earlier this year that it is expanding its corporate headquarters to a brand new 150,000-square-foot building in Zionsville. Both projects will add quality commercial development while easing property tax woes for residents over the long term.

Zionsville leaders, for many years, have protected and promoted its charming downtown and brick Main Street. This attraction is being extended south along Main Street, adding a new Bub’s Burgers and several other shops. South Village of Zionsville (as it is called) creates an attractive southern gateway into Zionsville’s historic Main Street.


Having strong leadership at the local level is one of the real drivers of real estate investment.

  • Partner

    Matt is the managing partner of the firm's Indianapolis office and previously served as the chair of the Economic Development practice group. His areas of concentration are business and real estate transactions involving ...

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