The Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization, spent time in McCordsville and nearby towns in January collecting information to complete a study on the future possibilities of Mt. Comfort corridor, which stretches 14 miles from McCordsville through Cumberland to New Palestine. McCordsville’s portion of the corridor is approximately 5 miles.
McCordsville and neighboring communities received the results of the full study a few weeks ago.
“It said what we thought it would say. We have this tremendous opportunity along the Mt. Comfort Road corridor to chart our own path and control our growth instead of letting growth control us,” McCordsville’s Director of Building and Planning Ryan Crum said. “If we do that properly, a great mix of uses and things can appear along that corridor.”
The study showed if McCordsville, Cumberland and New Palestine simply allow growth to occur and aren’t proactive, there will be approximately $350 million in market investment during the next 10 years. If the communities take an aggressive approach, the returns could be dramaticlly higher.
“The kicker to it is if we take a different strategy and plan for that growth and talk about getting complimentary land uses and really try to attract and target certain industries to the corridor and manage the growth and promote good principles and high-quality design standards, (market investment) will be $800 million to $900 million,” Crum said. “If we do this right and plan for it properly, it can be really a great thing for residents, for businesses and the long-term health and vibrancy.”
Crum said preliminary discussions for land use have included medical technology, general technology, aeronautics and advanced manufacturing.
“We have great access with I-70, great fiber with NineStar Connect all up and down the corridor, so that’s a great asset for us to have,” Crum said. “They gave us some good information, but part of this is we need to sit down as a region and decide what specific industry we want to target. With the report just coming out a few weeks ago, part of the next steps is to create a small working group to identify next steps in terms of implementation.”
Crum said he expects the region to spend the next six months to a year creating the vision for the corridor. McCordsville, New Palestine and Cumberland recently partnered to apply for the Stellar Communities Program grant, which they did not receive. Had they received it, the $14 million grant would have been split within the region. The municipalities wanted to use the funds to improve Mt. Comfort Corridor. The connection with ULI stemmed from the Stellar Communities Program when the region began working with ULI during the grant process.
“We can create a place where people want to live, work and play,” Crum said. “Today in economic development, one of the biggest things you need to have is, you need to attract labor and talent, and labor and talent are attracted to places they want to be. They want amenities, they want recreation, they want shopping and dining. The holistic view is not just about seeking a specific industry and targeting it. It’s about doing that and doing other things.”
Crum said the Mt. Comfort Corridor will create a mix of dining, housing and shopping opportunities when it’s developed.
Hancock Economic Development Council Executive Director Randy Sorrell, who also serves as the spokesperson for the Coalition for Smart Growth group, which is looking at implementing the ULI study, said the study showed four different zones, or nodes, situated along the Mt. Comfort Road corridor: the McCordsville district, the airport district, the Cumberland district and the New Palestine district.
“The (nodes) will all be connected to each other but have somewhat different growth patterns,” Sorrell said. “The coalition is groups of planning folks, and some of the community leaders along those areas there just seeing how to strategize to grow those areas and do some planning going forward.”
Sorrell said a symmetry will be established so growth along the corridor in McCordsville won’t be inconsistent with that in Cumberland and New Palestine.
“The biggest part of this going forward is we are viewing this Mt. Comfort Road corridor as Hancock County’s gateway into the county,” Sorrell said. “It’s a way to develop that it not only has consistent growth patterns, but as people come eastward, they notice they are in a different locale. It’ll show it’s not just Indianapolis extended.”
Sorrell said the Coalition for Smart Growth is working on a regional implementation strategy to create development standards of consistency of the corridor.
“One of the reasons we did this is the population is growing very rapidly in Hancock County,” Sorrell said. “We wanted to get out in front of this plan accordingly, so as things happen, we are prepared for it and plan for it other than react to it.”
ULI visits McCordsville, nearby towns
Officials from the Urban Land Institute visited McCordsville, New Palestine and Cumberland in January.
“They’re a professional real estate organization that is international, and the whole goal is to advance good land use principles and practices that lead to vibrant, healthy communities,” McCordsville’s Director of Planning and Building Ryan Crum said. “They have what they call an advisory services panel where they put together a small panel of six to 10 folks who are considered experts.”
Crum said the McCordsville, New Palestine, Cumberland region asked the ULI advisory services panel to visit Mt. Comfort Corridor to complete a study. Crum said it was a competitive process.
“They only pick a few a year to do, and we were one of them for 2019,” Crum said. “It’s real immersive. They come in on a Sunday and are here until Friday.”
The advisory services panel conducted interviews with locals and traveled the corridor to gather information. At the end of the process, it gave a presentation.”
The cost to bring in the advisory services panel was $130,000.