A chance investment in the mid-1960s led Miami-based Sunbeam Television to become a major player in the development of Fishers.
Founder Sidney Ansin purchased 640 acres in Indianapolis in 1967, just north of Castleton to the Marion-Hamilton counties border, along Allisonville Road. As the area developed, Sunbeam Television launched Sunbeam Development Corporation, and turned its attention to the next big thing.
“That’s what got them into the Indianapolis market,” said Ken Kern, director of properties for Sunbeam Development Corporation. “The next obvious place after developing Castleton area was Fishers.”
Sunbeam found the seller of a choice location in the small town. The company initially purchased 400 acres from the Reynolds family east of I-69, from south of 106th Street to north of 116th Street.
USA Funds, at the time headquartered in Indianapolis, approached Sunbeam about the property. Then 300 more acres became available, and USA Funds (now Navient) was built and its headquarters moved to Fishers, in 1988. Forum Credit Union soon followed, and Sunbeam bought almost-400 more acres.
“The IKEA location has always been the gem of our properties,” Kern explained, of the high-profile property south of 116th Street. While Sunbeam retains ownership of most of their holdings, working with IKEA was a different story.
“The IKEAs of the world don’t want to lease, they want to buy. In this case, we thought that selling the site to them, the surrounding area would be more valuable,” Kern said.
Kern remembers how crowds packed the tiny former town hall, across 116th Street from the current municipal complex, in 1988 to hear how developers hoped to create something of value in the wide-open fields.
“We went to the town (Fishers) and said “We like this area, it looks like a good place. We think you want to grow,” Kern recalled. “The town council gave us flexible zoning package.”
Sunbeam thought it would be mutually beneficial to have options when it came to development, especially since their entry to the Fishers market came so early in what would become an explosion of growth.
“When it’s a small community like that, we’ve got this great land, what do we want to do with it?” Kern said. “It was just kind of a moving target; we’ll just have to see.”