Transforming Zionsville’s South Village

5/5 - (3 votes)

April 2024

This past March, Zionsville Mayor John Stehr announced the town’s plans for a $250 million project—South Village. Stehr has been touring various locations across town [South Village Chats], he presented his plan to the planning commission on April 15, and addressing questions and absorbing feedback from local residents and business owners.

The South Village project is an ambitious endeavor spanning 160 acres south of Brick Street. It aims to incorporate various amenities and facilities, including offices, green spaces, connections to the Big 4 rail trail, public restrooms, new parking facilities, restaurants, shops and residential areas. This development is designed to enhance the livability of Zionsville and provide a vibrant, inclusive community for current residents and newcomers alike.

Transforming Zionsville’s South Village

Project Goals

Upon adoption, the South Village plan achieves several long-term goals that the Town of Zionsville has been working towards for many years. The plan:

  • Harmonizes new development with the Brick Street Business District.
  • Creates and protects land areas for development south of the iconic commercial area.
  • Ensures that future designs meet the cultural and economic needs of the community.
  • Stabilizes an area that has fallen into disuse.
  • Combines retail shopping and entertainment to create a destination.
  • Attracts office development and corporate citizens to the community.
  • Welcomes residential development near the Village to increase the economic vitality and versatility of Zionsville.

The South Village area, located south of Pine Street, west of Elm Street, north of Zionsville Cemetery on Zionsville Road, and east of 2nd Street, is bisected by Eagle Creek and includes active, passive and natural park settings. A new urban park within South Village will host festivals, markets, entertainment events and winter activities for residents, drawing visitors to Zionsville. Zionsville will lead master land planning, street improvements, landscaping, parking and utility infrastructure improvements to promote South Village’s development.

Maintaining the Authenticity of Zionsville

Stehr emphasized the importance of preserving the authenticity of Zionsville as plans for the development and redevelopment of South Village move forward over the next several years.

The South Village plan promotes an aesthetic compatible with the Village character, characterized by multi-story connected buildings defining the street and creating a sense of enclosure. Landscaping is formal, with regular street trees, planters and lawns around park areas. Surface parking areas are located behind buildings and screened from view by the principal building, landscaping or other buildings. Structured parking is preferred over surface parking, and parking variances are discouraged. The district encourages vertical mixed-use development and various housing types, with retail, restaurants and service businesses on street-level corridors and upper levels of mixed-use buildings providing office and residential uses. Less visible streets may include village homes, rowhouses and multi-family buildings.

Residents and business owners have raised questions and concerns about future parking and proposed traffic patterns, wondering whether it would lead to a more pedestrian-friendly environment.

Stehr replied to those concerns, “There will definitely be a net gain in parking spaces. The pedestrian crossings are going to be much more efficient and much safer than they are right now. The [proposed] traffic flow is designed to slow down the traffic approaching the village, and also by rerouting it, it will move more efficiently so we don’t have those big backups at certain times of day. In the end, there will be more customers on the brick street as a result. We are going to discourage people from using [the brick street] as a through street, which will encourage more people who want to patronize the businesses along the brick street to come.”

John Stehr Zionsville’s Mayor

Stehr continued, “As we reroute the road to 1st Street so that the intersection of 1st and Sycamore is the main intersection of town, both Hawthorne and Pine [Streets] will be turned into two-way streets allowing access back to the bricks. I think that it is important that as people come up Zionsville Road that they have a good visual into downtown and the brick street to see what’s there and get a little taste of it before they get there.”

When asked about how important phasing the construction will be so as to minimize the impact on the businesses, Stehr emphasized, “I think it’s really important that we phase this project correctly so that access to the downtown businesses—throughout the district—is not compromised at any time. The parking lot that’s located next to The Friendly [Tavern], we think, will ultimately become the civic plaza, but that’s the very last project that we do. If we do it any sooner, it’s not going to have the people in proximity to make it successful. So, for at least 5-6 years, there’s going to be no impact on access to the businesses. The goal is to put a parking garage next to The Friendly, which will make access even easier. I’ve explained that it’s not going to look like a parking garage that you see in downtown Indy, but it’s going to be wrapped; there’s going be retail on the first floor, and it’s going to look like a building that fits in with downtown Zionsville. The entrance is going to be on Pine Street, not on Main Street. Again, phasing these projects in a way that’s not going to impact anybody’s access to anything is important. That’s one of the reasons why the town should lead the PUD—so that we have people operating under our direction and authority.”

Bridging North Village and South Village                      

Stehr shared that the town has a big-picture perspective that will be conducive to the growth that is here and coming while making the North and South Village areas viable without losing the heart and culture of Zionsville’s village district.

Stehr emphasized the importance of connectivity between North Village and South Village, highlighting the proposed civic plaza as the anchor that would facilitate this connection.

“It was pointed out to me that once the South Village grows, the space where we think the civic plaza should be will become the centerpiece of the town. It will be the bridge that connects the two of them, making it all one contiguous space. I think it will be important to program it through our Parks Department and positively activate that space. I think that it’s going to be a really big economic development piece and will become a popular spot for people year-round.”

Transforming Zionsville’s South Village

Stehr added, “It’s the ‘live, work and play’ model. It gives people an opportunity to live and have some flexible office space, restaurants and entertainment venues that they can use. The brick Main Street is our heart and soul, and the way to keep the heart beating is to put people in proximity to use it. What we have, other towns and cities spend millions of dollars to create. Ours is authentic … it’s organic and real and has existed since 1852. While it’s important to preserve that, we also have to recognize that in 30 years, Zionsville will be a different town that will have a different sensibility. To lose that authenticity would be an absolute shame … we can’t lose that. Maintaining what is historic and important needs to be the goal, and that is what is driving us.”

For up-to-date details and more information about South Village, visit the website at www.zionsville-in.gov/southvillage.