Wrapping Up the Year and Ready for Another Four
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Janelle Morrison and Preliminary designs by BLN
Zionsville has had a lot going on this year and still has much to look forward to as 2018 winds down and we look towards 2019. From improvements to the town’s infrastructure and economic development to growth in both residential and commercial sectors, there is no question why people and businesses are attracted to this growing town that maintains its unique qualities. We sat down with Mayor Haak and discussed some of these issues along with others that he and his staff have been working on in recent months. We asked him what his goals are for 2019 and what his thoughts are as he heads into re-election season.
Update on Zionsville Road
The Zionsville Road project is well underway to make South Main Street and Zionsville Road more bike and pedestrian-friendly and accessible to the businesses along South Main. The next phase, which will include the complete road closure of Zionsville Road, will kick off next spring.
“You will be able to access Pizza King and Taylor Oil, but people will not be able to get through Zionsville Road,” Haak explained. “Residents will be able to access their driveways, and people will still be able to access the businesses along South Main just as they did during this last road closure.”
Haak said the Zionsville Road Bridge project will finish up in November and is on schedule. “People will be able to walk and bike down there, and the businesses are excited about that. Pedestrian access will be open down there while the road closure happens next year.”
The long-awaited construction of the North-South Connector will begin next year. It will connect the intersection of 850 East/Cooper Road with CR 875 East to the north. The design includes a roundabout (RAB) at the intersection of 850 East/Cooper Road and Oak Street as well as RAB at the intersection of CR 875 East and Whitestown Road.
“A public meeting was held last month,” Haak said. “We presented the overall view of what the road looks like. We have been meeting with each of the affected property owners as to how the road will impact them specifically and to discuss their individual concerns. We’re going through the schedule of compensation and how much of their land we are going to need.”
The mayor discussed how the North-South Connector will greatly improve the traffic flow and reduce the congestion along Oak Street.
“This has been in our town’s transportation plan since 1983,” he added. “Back then, they realized that the growth in town was going to be in the northwest quadrant of Zionsville. If you live in that area and are going to Whitestown or Indianapolis via I-65, you will most likely use the North-South Connector to get through town. It will create an efficient way for people to travel.”
The mayor added that once that project is complete, they will analyze the impact before approving and beginning any other improvements with the exception of the installation of a RAB where the stoplight is along Oak Street and S 800 E.
“The RAB at 800 and Oak will be installed after the North-South Connector is completed,” he stated. “We’ve always said that stoplight is temporary, and that’s why we didn’t do turn lanes there.”
In addition to the aforementioned road projects, the mayor listed some of the completed or soon-to-be started projects that were approved this year that he and his staff are proud of.
“We are on track for our new Street/Parks Department facilities and new Nature Center,” Haak said. “We are moving along into the design phase for that and will be starting at some point next year. We are working on a couple, possibly multiple, offers in Creekside [Corporate Park] right now and are working to get those finalized. We actually have purchase agreements on two lots that we are working through.”
The town’s new official tourism website for all of Zionsville launched and allows visitors to explore all the town’s amenities while adding another effective tool in the toolbox for the town to virtually introduce itself to prospective businesses that are considering moving their offices and/or headquarters here.
“The site is evolving,” said Amanda Dorman Vela, director of communications and community relations. “It highlights parks, attractions, shopping, dining and the town’s accolades and awards. There is a link to the schools and to the chamber and its event calendar. There is also a map of Main Street and Boone Village.”
The site will include videos of the mayor and other neat features as the staff continues to build upon it.
Haak mentioned that the town will be building out the upstairs at Town Hall over this winter.
“We will have three suites, so graduate companies of zWORKS can work out of here as they go into their next phase of growth,” Haak said. “Companies can start off in zWORKS and then come up here for a finite period of time. We will have a maximum term of occupancy, and then they will go out and become leasable. By that time, they will have determined how big they’re going to be and how much space they will need.”
When compared to its peers, the mayor said that zWORKS is on par or exceeding the level of graduating companies.
“I think its success has to do in part with its structure and the makeup of its board,” he said. “The location is also attractive to these local companies. We think that we are the only municipality that will have a graduate space in its own building, so we can help these companies, and they are attracted to that aspect as well.”
The 57-acre property at 8602 E. County Road 500S that was once considered by Little League International to build its new site is now slated to be a residential development. It was reverted back to residential without the special use variance.
“It’s going to be houses,” Haak stated. “The development plan has been submitted, and it will be on the Planning Commission’s October agenda.”
When asked what the mayor thinks about his years in office, he replied, “I want to do it [this job] for the rest of my career. This is the best job I’ve ever had. Every day is different. You get a true sense of accomplishment. It doesn’t take years to see the results of hard work that staff and the community leaders put into their efforts. It’s one of the few jobs that I’ve ever had where you can really see the impact of my hard work and the hard work of people that I work with. And every day is a new challenge and a new opportunity, and it is a lot of fun.”
Greatest Achievement While in Office
“We achieved our 80-20 by 2020 goal in 2018,” Haak shared. “It was a far-reaching goal to start with, but it really stabilized our budget by the diversification of our tax base and allows us to do projects, such as Zionsville Road, the North-South Connector, our new Nature Center and Overley-Worman Park. It also allows us to hire our firefighters and police officers, which would otherwise not be possible. We are able to reinvest more money than we have in previous years on road resurfacing, etc.”
Top Priorities Going Forward
“I want to see the completion of Zionsville Road and the North-South Connector, the improvements along Oak Street,” Haak emphasized. “Additionally, I want to complete the town’s maintenance facility and new Nature Center. Lastly, the completion of the Big-4 Rail Trail is a big priority over the next four years.”