Auto mall gets wheels in motion

Several car dealerships could be the start of commercial development along Whiteland Road near Interstate 65.

But town officials want to see more development in the future, and they see that area along the interstate as being key to the town’s growth, Whiteland town manager Norm Gabehart said.

“That corridor is ripe for opportunity,” Gabehart said.

“We kind of get passed over because we haven’t sang our song enough. But the Whiteland Road interchange is just as significant as the Worthsville Road interchange and has more of a blank slate as far as what we can do. Looking toward the future, that corridor has a good, viable opportunity to keep things moving forward for us.”

But first, the town must extend water service to the east along I-65 in order for more development to be possible and is paying a consultant $32,000 for a study showing how the town can extend a water line to I-65, Gabehart said.

Currently, truck stops and fast food restaurants near the interchange rely on their own wells, Gabehart said. In order for the area to flourish with development, water service will have to be provided by the town, he said.

“Developers see the potential, but from the town’s perspective, we have to be aggressive and get that water line in the ground,” Gabehart said. “Whether that means the town constructs it or we work with developers, we’ll know more after the study is complete.”

Gabehart would like to have a plan for how and when the city will extend the water line by the end of this year, he said.

One development is already slated for the area, and he expects more in the future.

Last year, a group called Whiteland LLC purchased 105 acres off Whiteland Road, just west of the interstate. Early talks have been centered around several or one large car dealership, Gabehart said. No timetable has been set for construction or design or any other plans for the property.

“I think the developers see Whiteland as a viable (location) with opportunity,” Gabehart said. “The opportunity that exists is exciting. The wholesale lot or auto mall is the initial, conceptual plan. This could be a significant start to a lot of opportunities out there.”

The future of the area around the Whiteland Road exit goes far beyond an auto mall, Gabehart said. Town officials want industrial buildings for manufacturing, restaurants and banks and retail shops, Gabehart said. The Whiteland Road corridor has the potential to grow into an area similar to the Southport Road exit off I-65, he said.

Town officials have discussed the importance of industrial businesses, but Gabehart also sees value in a commercial corridor. If the area near I-65 develops the way it should, it will become a destination where motorists stop to eat or shop, Gabehart said.

The town’s enthusiasm to develop the I-65 corridor is motivated by officials wanting Whiteland Road to be the county’s east-west route, taking motorists from I-69 to I-65, Gabehart said.

Officials have also watched the progress of Greenwood and Franklin, he said.

Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2719.