Could Central Fishers go the way of Dead Malls?

The intersection of 116th and Allisonville serves as an icon of Hamilton County’s suburban boom. I recently visited the area, and concluded that unless it undergoes an aggressive transformation, it could easily become a strip version of the next dead mall.

Here’s a view of the built environment in this area.  Fishers Station is to the right, Fishers Crossing is to the left:

Image via Google Maps.

Compare this with a struggling area in Indianapolis, the intersection of Lafayette and Georgetown Road:

Image via Google Maps.

As far as I can tell, there are not many real advantages for Fishers versus this intersection in Lafayette Square.  It does have sidewalks, and is a bit more compact and closer to its residents.  However, Lafayette Square does have transit access to downtown, while Fishers currently does not.

The tenant list for these two large strip centers in Fishers are beginning to betray Hamilton County’s carefully crafted image as the place where Indy’s better half lives:  Dollar Tree.  Goodwill.  Advance America Check Cashing.   This could be fine if the businesses were flourishing, but the massive parking lot for Fishers Crossing was at least 3/4 empty on a normal Saturday night.  Another possibly troubling sign is that the northwest corner of the intersection appears to be a vacant brownfield.

The town of Fishers has a booming population, although 2 of the 3 census tracts surrounding this intersection actually lost residents:


Source: US Census Bureau

This map also displays that the growth in the last 10 years has been farther away, in new developments.  116th and Allisonville is no longer special or unique, as people in the area naturally gravitate to the newest and best places.  What can central Fishers feature that is unique or worth building upon?  That is the challenge that is on the horizon for the owners of this swath of real estate.   Here they could actually learn a bit from Lafayette Square, which is now proudly featuring its immigrant community.  Immigrants are beginning to show a decent presence in central Fishers.  The town might be wise to take advantage of that influx of residents now if they intend to stave off further population erosion.  I don’t know if the area will fall as far as Lafayette Square did, but perhaps they might be wise to learn from its plight.

Comments 22

  • If my memory serves me, I am pretty sure that vacant northwest corner used to be a gas station until it closed a long time (maybe 10 years) ago. No clue why they weren’t able to repurpose it.

  • I will be honest I have never found anything in Fishers that really attracted me to want to go visit. The closest that they have as far as unique built forms, is the train station at 116th & the Nickel Plate. Besides that, there are cul de sacs spread at will next to roads built to move as many cars as possible. I have always been confused by the national studies that award Fishers as one of the best places to raise a family. It sure doesnt have a glut of cultural facilities. There are a lot of sidewalks and some bike trails here and there but otherwise, families are forced to pile into the truckster and head down to Castleton Mall, Carmel or (now) Hamilton Town Center. None of these are places that actually locate within Fishers, nor are they really of any special significance other than the fact that they offer the latest offering of big box corporate retail designed to funnel money away from the town of Fishers.
    Sounds like some key opportunities for them to excel here…

  • Fishers Station was just redone this past year….most, if not all, of the shops have been or in progress of being occupied. Fishers Crossing on the other hand is pretty run down and other than Kroger, Dragon House, Papa Johns and Sugar salon it’s been pretty empty for years. The neighborhoods are pretty strong around these places and I wouldn’t doubt they start filling back up once the economy bounces back. I’ve heard nobody wants to build on the gas station lot because of it’s size and there would be no parking for a business there. My wife and I have lived in the area for the past 7 years and like it….mostly for the fact we can get to our jobs without having to mess around with traffic on 69.

  • If you haven’t found anything, anything in Fishers worth your time, you really haven’t looked. The #1 thing I point out to visitors is India Sizzling restaurant, on the east side of Allisonville, south of 116th.

    And, you don’t need to ‘truckster’ too far. For instance, my family walks to the following locations with regularity: Library, Post Office, farmer’s market, Holland Park, YMCA, Friaco’s Mex restaurant, Chatham Tap, and Nickel Plate (Ok, I stumble home from those last two).

    I would love to see the Nickel Plate line pulled up and converted to a trail, as the Monon. How cool would it be to have a Nickel Plate greenway link with the Monon via the Midland Trail? No use for light rail, thank you very much.

    • I do not agree with you and here is why. While I agree that a bike trail would be an awesome public space, I think that the NE Corridor project stands to improve this area and could be a better catalyst than a bike/pedestrian trail.
      When the NE Corridor plan is complete, there will be a land use list of guiding principals and recommended uses for station areas. What this will do, is provide communities and developers with the tools to build better projects. Instead of a Fishers Station like what Kevin has analyzed with this post, a more sustainable landscape could be created. One that could be highly adapatable for the future as long as low parking requirements are spelled out; something that is typical for rail transit stations.There are plenty of good examples of vibrant stations around the nation. The fact that Fishers is already ahead of the game with a nice station, gives me a feeling that further development could be positive.
      Something like that, is a Fishers destination that I would be interested in visiting and seeing.

      • Compromise: pave over the rails and put in a busway for BRT with side paths for bikes and peds. Then after Marion County has its rail system, grind up the pavement and Fishers can have a train too. 🙂

  • Sadly, that intersection looks quite a bit like some of the intersections in Greenwood as well (more than I care to think about actually). The problem for Greenwood is that Fishers still looks nicer than Greenwood overall, I think, which is unfortunate because Greenwood used to be a nice little city. There’s still hope, but there’s a lot of work to be done.

  • Central Greenwood also lost population. It’s kind of the unwritten story of the last census in the region. The cores of county seats such as Noblesville, Shelbyville, and Franklin did not fare too well in particular. The burbs are booming, for sure, but much like Marion County, the growth is at their outskirts as their cores stabilize or even lose some luster.

    • Greenwood’s center definitely has taken a hit, and the city has been annexing like crazy the last few years. The City Council did recently put a stop to an increase of the biggest subdivision in the city, which is east of I-65 and had been approved by the Planning Commission (they have done a terrible job here). Hopefully we’ll stop expanding and focus on improving what we have, starting with Old Town and Market Plaza.

      I hope the same happens with other cities around Indianapolis, but the trend is bad. I know Franklin has an awesome, old downtown area they have really worked on recently, but they are building terrible neighborhoods elsewhere. Same can be said for the other cities you listed, which is a pity.

  • When I talk to people from Fishers and ask how they like living there I have noticed consistency in the answer. They all say they love the convenient location of Fishers and then proceed to name off how long it takes to locations not located in Fishers. They speak of the short commute to Castleton or Hamilton Center malls, downtown Indy, Broad Ripple, Morse Resevoir, Geist (although part of the lake is technically in Fishers)… Fishers overall is mismanaged and has no real draw. Nickel Plate and Chatham Tap are a sad excuse for an example of the lure of Fishers. Any small town in the State has a couple of bars. Fishers lacks retail beyond department stores, it lacks any fine dining or quality restaurants beyond the typical chain restaurant, it lacks a true area where the community can get together for festivals or events (please don’t use Holland Park as a counter), and it lacks any community cohesion or pride of being from Fishers. What it does have is an inferiority complex and is constantly explaining why they love living in Fishers instead of Carmel, Indy, Zionsville, Noblesville……..

  • As one of the posters above noted, I do think one of the advantages held by that part of Fishers is that it’s an area that connects well to Indianapolis without the necessity of using the I-69 bottleneck. As Chris Barnett notes, that intersection would be a great place for high density, mixed use development that could pretty easily be connected via bus or trolley to the proposed commuter rail about a mile to the east. On the other hand, given that this a a part of Fishers that already is getting a bit downtrodden, the idea of apartments might give some homeowners the vapors.

    From talking to some people elsewhere, there is becoming a stratification between the two high schools in the HSE district. Although it is confusing, because both high school campuses are east of I-69, it is my understanding that students east of 69 go to HSE, while students west of 69 (including the 116th & Allisonville area) go to Fishers. While both numbers would be very low, it is true that Fishers has nearly twice as many free and reduced lunch students as HSE (13 percent to 7 percent). Who knows, maybe we are seeing suburban flight within the HSE district, not just from Marion County to the collar counties. This post should be a lesson that the shiny new suburbs of today are not immune to what has happened to their Marion County predecessors.

  • It’s important to note that the part of fishers being discussed here are mostly the “older” neighborhoods of fishers….early 90’s mostly. Give the eastside of Fishers sometime before the CP Morgan “building tomorrows ghetto, today!” neighborhoods start going down the drain. This particular area of Fishers isn’t downtrotten….there is a large AMLI apartment complex located just west of this interection though and another large apartment complex locacted just east of Holland Dr that play a role in some of the “downtrotten” ie, free lunches, demographic numbers. Just doing a quick search on talk to tucker or such you can see a large number of the homes in this area are quite valuable. My wife and I like it because it is the more “mature” part of fishers as you can actually get shade from some of the trees.

    • I’m sure you are right about the apartments fueling the school lunch numbers. And I agree, if I were going to live in Fishers, I would prefer your area to the way-out locations to the east. But then, I’m the sort of person who prefers living in Irvington to living in suburbia, so of course I would prefer the established, shaded, closer-to-town part of Fishers if I were to live in Fishers. Still, what you are saying could have been said of many concentric circles of Indianapolis and other major cities. Suburban development in this country has been driven by the fear of people who live in apartment complexes and use free and reduced lunches. And don’t think your shade trees will save you, either. Look at the gorgeous wooded lots in the 1950s/60s subdivisions in the 46th & Emerson/Arlington areas. It is a vicious cycle. The poverty numbers bump up just a bit, and the test scores drop just a bit. A few people who aren’t in that demographic move further out, because there are no real barriers to new development on farmland. The scores dip a bit more and poverty goes up a bit more, and so on.

  • I guess my point was that the “eastside” of Fishers with the cookie cutter CP Morgan type developments will take over the “downtrotten” aspect of Fishers. I’m not sure how much further out people will be willing to go before it just gets to be too much a pain in the ass getting to work.

  • I like the site Kevin….great job.

  • The NW corner of 116th & Allisonville that you are referring to now sports a Jck in the Box resturant.

  • Most of those vacant spaces that were located here are now filled….pet stores, workout centers, the old pizza hut torn down and new 4 store building built…we’ve moved to 106th and Hague. Now that is going to be something to watch with a new exit getting put in there and Thompson Thrift just purchase 70ac near 106th and Lantern by Roche.

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