Architect: ‘Old Filling Station Best Site in Entire City’

(The Times photo by Betsy Reason)
Republic Development president Richard Arnos (left) speaks Thursday morning at a ground-breaking ceremony for a Republic/J.C. Hart $60-million mixed-use development with four-story apartment building, parking garage and retail shops at Fifth Street and Maple Avenue along the east side of the White River in the 3.4-acre area of the former McMillan’s Auto Care & Towing and the Hamilton County Employee Parking Lot in Noblesville.

More than 10 years ago, Noblesville High School graduate and architect Randy Sherman envisioned apartments, a parking garage and retail shops at Fifth Street and Maple Avenue overlooking White River in downtown Noblesville.

He had driven by McMillan’s Auto Care & Towing, a former Shell gas station, hundreds of times.

Sherman’s hope was to design a mixed-use project there and make it a reality.

‘The best site in the entire city is the old filling station by the river right off the Square. And it would be my dream to work on that someday,” Sherman told John C. Hart, chairman of the board at J.C. Hart, a Carmel company that has been developing, building and managing luxury apartment communities since 1976.

“Randy told John Hart and I on several occasions,” said Todd May, J.C. Hart’s senior vice president of development. “Well, eventually, we got the hint, Randy. So it’s really gratifying to see a dream come true.”

May introduced Sherman, 51, Fishers, principal partner with Weaver Sherman Design in Broad Ripple, as the architect of East Bank, a $60-million mixed-use development that broke ground on Thursday morning at Fifth and Maple.

J.C. Hart teamed up with Republic Development of Fishers, and together the two companies are known as East River Partners, for the project. Republic Development president Rick Arnos opened the ground-breaking ceremony with thank-you’s to the County Council and Commissioners, and City of Noblesville, and introductions of his staff.

Randy Sherman, Lead Architect for the new development

The East Bank project — with four-story luxury apartment building containing 219 apartments, parking garage with about 275 spaces and 5,000-square-feet of ground-level retail shops — will be built along the east side of the White River in the 3.4-acre area of the former McMillan’s Auto Care & Towing and the Hamilton County Employee Parking Lot.

“Today was fun for me because it’s a local project that I grew up seeing in my head and wanting to see something happen and make it a positive change for the community,” Sherman said. “Today is kind of the day that it starts to become a realization.”

He said, “Ten years ago, we did some sketching on it and brought it to J.C. Hart to say, ‘Hey, this would be something that’d be good to look at for the community.’” He said, “The issue at that point, we really didn’t have the ability to acquire the land and do that. Republic (Development) came on board and was able to get that accomplished without us knowing it initially. So that was even a greater surprise and a good find, to find out they’d been working on it.”

Sherman said, “It’s going to be exciting to be able to drive this road and know what was here before and be able to see what is going to happen to it in the near future.”

May praised John C. Hart Sr., who was unable to be in attendance. “John was just an absolute driving force behind this development … Every single day … he was just pushing us and pushing us forward,” said May, who introduced his J.C. Hart team, including Mark Butler, who will be “running the show” as the project manager for the East Bank project.

“Soon there will be dozens and dozens of subcontractors working on this project, employing well over 400 to 500 people,” May said. “We’re proud to announce that everybody we have hired is a Hoosier-based company. So we’re really proud of that.”

(Rendering courtesy of the City of Noblesville)
Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen in 2021 announced East Bank, a $47.9-million, now $60-million, mixed-use development — a four-story building with ground-level retail space and 219 apartments — by J.C. Hart and Republic Development, that will be built on the 3.4-acre area that is formerly McMillan’s Auto Care & Towing and the Hamilton County employee parking lot. The ground-breaking ceremony on the project was Thursday.

He also thanked the City of Noblesville. “They were so supportive on every step of the way,” and in particular, Andrew Murray, the City’s economic development director.

Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen, who referred to Murray as a “tough negotiator,” said, “It’s really important to remember that every day when we enter a P-3 agreement with J.C. Hart or any other one of our corporations that we work with, we are investing taxpayer dollars in our community … “I believe we’re getting a great bang for our buck here with a $60-million investment. I’m so excited about this.”

He said, “…These new projects, contrary to what you may hear at times, are designed to add value to downtown, not take anything away. I know this project will do that.”

While it’s been several years since negotiations began about redeveloping this site, Jensen said, “With all great things, they take time.”

He also brought the conversation back to our Noblesville grad, the project’s architect, with his own connection and tidbit. “Randy Sherman is not only a great architect, but he was raised by a good mother, my fifth-grade teacher, Jeanne Sherman, who’s out here in the front row,” said Jensen, a 2002 NHS grad, who attended Hinkle Creek Elementary School.

Jensen attended the grand-breaking, along with other elected officials, including County Commissioner Steve Dillinger and City Councilor Greg O’Connor, and local leaders Noblesville Chamber of Commerce president Bob DuBois and Noblesville Main Street executive director Kate Baker, and others.

McMillan’s, owned by Chuck and Dotty McMillan of Noblesville for more than 35 years, since 1985, closed in November. Charlie McMillan, a 1981 NHS graduate who in 2020 ran for election for County Commissioner District 2 and who is currently running in the May 2022 primary election for Noblesville Township Board, is a master auto technician who worked all 35 years for his family business.

McMillan’s Auto Care had been a Shell Oil Co.-branded filling station since 1938, according to history, until the gas pumps closed in 1999. Long before that, McMillan’s was the site of Noblesville’s first brewery (built in 1865), shown on a map in 1866, provided by Hamilton County Historian David Heighway. In a photo, circa 1880, was the Xafer Joseph brewery between 1869 and 1890, he said. Soon after that, it was occupied by Alice Manford, who ran a boarding house and restaurant. She sold it in 1935, and the first gas station was built in 1938. An April 27, 1938, Noblesville Ledger newspaper article reads that the filling station would take the place “of one of the oldest if not the oldest landmark in Noblesville,” according to Heighway’s research.

With Noblesville so rich in history, it would be thoughtful if developers would include some connections to history in the naming of space in the project, such as a Xafer Joseph brew pub lounge area or an Alice Manford commons area in East Bank, and old photos of those businesses and other that have existed on this property could be displayed in the lobby, to keep our history of Noblesville alive. Just ask Heighway, and he’ll be right there with plenty of ideas, because he is always tickled to share local history.

– Contact Betsy Reason at [email protected]