I-65 exit plan not business as usual

A new Worthsville Road interchange is about a year away from opening and outside of a few small shops that could be built in the near future, new subdivisions, offices and factories are several years off.

When the area around the new Interstate 65 interchange does develop in the future, what you’ll see when you pull off the interstate will mostly be housing — modern apartment buildings, subdivisions and some higher-end neighborhoods.

Business development isn’t the primary goal at Worthsville Road, city officials said. Greenwood doesn’t want a bunch of manufacturers and warehouses at the new exit, like Whiteland is trying to attract at Whiteland Road. The city isn’t aiming for more hotels, restaurants and shops like Franklin wants at State Road 44.

The main benefit residents will get out of the new exit is an easier route to get to homes in southern Greenwood and less traffic at the city’s other two interchanges. Since the new interchange will primarily serve commuters, planning residential growth around it is the most reasonable fit, Greenwood planning director Bill Peeples said.

“Greenwood’s main export is labor into Marion County. People come here to live and work downtown or on the northside, and getting them off the interstate system and to their homes as easily and as painlessly as possible has been a goal. And that’s what we see that interchange will be,” Peeples said.

Outside of new housing, Greenwood envisions some office buildings eventually stretching along the east side of I-65 and some shops on Worthsville Road east of the interchange for residents or drivers pulling off the interstate. But before any of those developments start going up, landowners would have to sell their property and new sewer, water and stormwater lines will need to be built.

That means any major development is likely five or 10 years off, Peeples said.

West of the interstate, what you see now is what you’ll get. Some small shops and a gas station at Sheek Road could be under construction or ready to open when the new interchange is done later this year. But most of Worthsville Road is already developed with schools, subdivisions and churches, leaving few options for new projects.

“What we’ve always saw that as a commuter exit and entrance because we have such a problem at the Main Street and County Line exits. We think that once we open that, traffic patterns will change significantly and people will be using Worthsville Road as a commuter entrance,” Peeples said.

Greenwood has plenty of available land that can become large industrial parks in the area around Graham Road, so the city didn’t feel a need to set aside much more land for that purpose at Worthsville Road, Greenwood city engineer and director of community development services Mark Richards said. When officials were planning what kind of development they wanted around the interchange, they deviated a bit from the citywide plan formed in 2007 to set up the possibility of some office space, instead of all subdivisions and apartment complexes, he said.

Those buildings, like the medical and office buildings on County Line Road, can be tough to attract to the city, but the high visibility of the interstate makes it a possibility, Peeples said. New office or industrial development also brings in more taxes for the city, compared to new homes. So some business development would help the city’s finances in the long-run, Richards said.

Officials hope some of the new neighborhoods could become higher-end housing that isn’t currently available inside the city, Peeples said.

Before anything happens east of the interstate, utilities will need to be extended, Richards said. Sewer lines already run east of I-65, but any developer would need pay to have water lines extended to the site, which would likely be a costly project. The first developer would have to shoulder the cost of those utility projects, unless the city decided to use tax-increment financing, or TIF, dollars to pay for the work to help launch a development, Richards said.

Utilities aren’t a problem west of the interstate, but very little land is available to develop. Two Clark-Pleasant schools are located off the northwest corner of the interchange, and subdivisions have been built along the southwest corner.

One area to the west that could develop within one or two years of the new interchange opening is industrial land around Worthsville Road and U.S. 31. The newly widened Worthsville Road will allow trucks to get to the interstate in about five minutes, which will make the land there more marketable, Peeples said.