Tom Dickey & Scott Fadness“…The Fishers of the future will have a physical identity. It will have a ‘centerpiece’ or central places where residents congregate and call the heart of Fishers. Such signatures will cultivate our sense of place.” – Fishers Town Center Development Plan, 1992

In August, earthmoving equipment initiated the first phase of creating a new vibrant center for the Town of Fishers. Located at the northwest corner of 116th Street and Municipal Drive, the Flaherty & Collins project will become the town’s first public-private partnership downtown project. Community planners have long envisioned creating a downtown destination for the residents of Fishers. “We’re entering an interesting time in Fishers. The way we’re growing is changing because we can’t grow outward as much. We need to start growing in a way that has connectivity and adds walkability to our downtown,” said Rachel Johnson, assistant director of planning for the Fishers Department of Community Development.

Redeveloping the downtown area of Fishers will help to create jobs and provide sustainable growth as the town becomes a city. The cost for the first phase of a multi-tiered, long-term plan is $34 million and will be shared by the Town of Fishers and Flaherty & Collins Properties. The Town will contribute approximately $10.75 million from bond proceeds, and the remaining developer investment is estimated at $26.65 million.

“Overwhelmingly we’ve heard from citizens that they want more pedestrian access and want to drive less, and our plans make that happen,” said Johnson. Across the country, developers are moving toward this type of development plan. Johnson watches the first phase happen from her window at Town Hall. Over three acres of green space is being transformed into an area of retail, restaurants and residential living space. A town-owned parking garage will be the first structure to be completed and will help to provide 140 spaces of free public parking. The apartment units will wrap around the garage to keep it mostly hidden from view on 116th Street.

Named The Depot at Nickel Plate, the plans for the complex show 240 one and two-bedroom residential units and 16,000 square feet of leasable retail space. The upscale interior finishes for the apartments include 9-foot ceilings, granite countertops in the kitchen and bath area, wood flooring and stainless steel appliances. Residential amenities feature a secured lobby, a fitness club and a media and gaming lounge to name a few. The aesthetic façade of the structure will include pedestrian friendly streetscapes.

“On these three acres, we’re creating so much activity on space that wasn’t being utilized. If you were to do this in a typical suburban development pattern with a surface parking lot, it would take a far greater number of acres to achieve these results,” Johnson said.

Construction at The Depot at Nickel PlateThe development has its own zoning code called the Nickel Plate District code. Having a zoning code in place will create an architectural standard guideline for maintaining the desired aesthetic quality for the new additions including the height of buildings. “We want to achieve a certain amount of interest at street level. People don’t want to walk by a continuous brick wall,” added Johnson. Unlike traditional zoning codes, the Nickel Plate District code offers more flexibility for property owners and tenants. “We want to represent our identity, and we’re open to variety, but we’ve set the baseline for quality architecture,” said Johnson.

Communities want a downtown destination with usable outdoor space. “We want families to go downtown, park their cars and figure out what to do, whether it’s dining, going to the farmer’s market or going to a concert at the ampitheater,” said Johnson, citing the success of the concert series as proof.

Developing by adding density is occurring all over the country as well as in other Hamilton County cities. Suggestions that Fishers is trying to compete with Carmel are untrue. “Carmel has been a great community for us to look at. We have been able to use guidance from Carmel planners, but we are not trying to copy Carmel. Fishers is its own distinct community,” Johnson said.

The Nickel Plate District downtown redevelopment project is part of the larger long-term 2011 Town Center Plan that includes developing four other districts: the Northeast Technology District, the Civic District, the Village District, and the Prairie District. Each district will have its own architectural guidelines. The 2011 plan establishes a framework for future growth in Fishers.

“We want community members to attend public meetings and provide input,” said Johnson. “Tell us what you want your Fishers to be.”