By Stephanie Dolan
Hendricks County is growing by leaps and bounds, and Danville’s Jerry Vornholt stands at the forefront of the developments that create jobs, housing and amenities.
Jerry Vornholt is helping develop The Barlow development in Plainfield, owns multiple buildings in Hendricks County and recently purchased The Republican Newspaper and building in Danville.
(Photo by Rick Myers)
He stepped into real estate in 1992 when he opened Vornholt & Associates in Plainfield. Since then he has assisted landowners, municipalities, investors and elected officials to bring development to Hendricks County.
“I was originally selling houses, and when you have kids, house selling is hard because people don’t want to work weekends and evenings,” he said. “I moved to commercial real estate. I focused on land acquisition for development.”
Vornholt started acquiring property in Danville when he moved to the town 15 years ago and works as a broker of land for developers. “I’ve not really been in development, but I’ve been involved in land development and owning buildings and things like that.”
It’s the kind of development that has propelled plans for The Barlow to get off the ground in Plainfield. Taking up an entire block of the town, it will include 116 apartments and 3,000 square feet of commercial space. Ground was broken Main Street and South Avon Avenue on Oct. 1.
“What we’re trying to do is be the iconic gateway to downtown Plainfield,” said Shelby Bowen, president of Rebar Development, The Barlow’s real estate development company. “Plainfield’s always been a strong community where people want to live, and the demographics of job growth and population put them at the top of the list of where things were happening. They have a downtown that has been around a long time that was unique but had lost its luster.”
Developers want downtown Plainfield to shine again, and they’ve been working behind the scenes to make it happen.
“Whenever you see something that looks like an overnight success, you might want to look at its history,” said Plainfield councilman Dan Bridget. “Over the last 25 years we’ve been developing an economic base that have provided us with revenues that help make Plainfield a good place to live.”
Bridget sited Plainfield benefits and improvements such as the first of its kind aquatic center, trail system and even a tax rate that is attractive to developers.
“There’s not one thing that says that Plainfield is a good thing to invest in, but there are a lot of things that have been put together over the years that make Plainfield a prime place to invest,” Bridget said.
Those prime investments are pouring into an area where many people want to live.
The Barlow will feature urban lofts as part of a multi-use property that has apartments and retail space. “It’s going to serve as the eastern gateway to our downtown area,” Bridget said.
Plainfield officials also announced plans in September for a new municipal building and performing arts center at Center and Main streets. The parking structure that’s currently under construction will sit in close proximity to the arts center, making it easily accessible to patrons. These plans coming to fruition were part of the Plainfield Town Council’s Conceptual Downtown Redevelopment Plan adopted nearly two years ago in December 2017.
“We don’t want to make a revolution in Plainfield,” Bridget said. “Based on who we’ve always been, what is the next iteration of downtown? Plainfield is over 170 years old. It’s constantly evolving.”
Enhancing businesses already located in downtown and increasing growth and walkability are all parts of the plan, Bridget said.
With a desirable school system and families flocking to the town, builders follow, Vornholt said.
“Plainfield has a lot going on, and it’s very desirable,” he said.
Plainfield isn’t the only Hendricks County town Vornholt has helped develop or has an interest in.
He owns several buildings in his town of Danville, including those that house The Children’s Ballet, Peace through Yoga, The Locker Room Sporting Goods and Chelsea’s General Store & Antiques as well as office space and a building that will soon house guest space for short-term stays in Danville.
After visiting The Republican newspaper in downtown Danville earlier this year to run an ad for a local theater production, Vornholt also acquired The Republican newspaper as well as the building that was built in 1899.
“I wasn’t real sure of the condition of the paper financially. I told the editor of the paper that if it’s ever in jeopardy to let me know,” he said. “It turns out the owner of the building and publisher of the paper was in New Zealand and said she wanted to sell.”
The paper has delivered news since 1847. Vornholt has no experience owning a newspaper, but he wants progress and news to continue to flow out of the Historic Downtown Danville Square.
“There was no way we could let the paper fold,” Vornholt said. “It’s got a history that is phenomenal. You can’t Google the history that’s in that building.”
Getting to know Jerry Vornholt
Job: Developer and real estate broker
Where do you find your inspiration? Just living everyday. I enjoy what I do, the hobbies and the boards I’ve been on. I enjoy real estate. I enjoy the newspaper. It’s history. I follow those things that stimulate me. I find inspiration in what the day is going to bring. People say ‘I hate Mondays.’ I love Mondays. It’s new opportunities.
What is the secret to your success? Doing what I love to do. Following the things that inspire me.
What are you currently reading? Lately I read a lot of news and nonfiction political things.
Do you remember your first business deal? I moved to Indiana in 1988 from Delaware. In Delaware, I flew stunt kites. I was flying a kite out here and broke a piece and went to find a kite store. There was no such thing in Indiana. I ended up calling a manufacturer. They sent me a 30 day supply of kites to sell for free. I got a retailers certificate from the state of Indiana. I went to a kite flyer society monthly meeting and sold them all. During the winter you don’t fly kites. I was playing darts. People were always talking about different kinds of darts. I called a dart company, and they sent me a free supply for 30 days, and I started selling darts at dart tournaments. Then my parents bought a house, and I can remember going with them and a Realtor to look at houses. I remember thinking, ‘I could do this.’ I got into real estate, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.
Do you have any pets? Two dogs, a miniature American Eskimo named Kevin and a German shepherd named Penny.