Westfield nears decision on iconic towers along U.S. 31

June 24, 2014
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Westfield City Council is weighing a nearly $3 million plan to erect a pair of “landmark” towers at U.S. 31 and State Road 32, a key gateway to the growing community.

Made from precast concrete and stainless steel—and illuminated with digitally controlled LED lights—the 100-foot obelisks are intended to be iconic, beckoning motorists who otherwise might drive by without stopping.

U.S. 31 landmarks, WestfieldU.S. 31 will cross over State Road 32 just east of downtown Westfield. Supporters say the proposed towers would let visitors know they've arrived. Click to enlarge. (Rendering courtesy of RQAW Inc.)

Proponents say the so-called placemaking initiative will drive economic development and tie together two major city projects: the massive Grand Park Sports Complex west of U.S. 31 and the ambitious Grand Junction redevelopment plan downtown.

“We have this wonderful product, and now we need to make the world aware” of it, council President Jim Ake said Monday, introducing the project before a public hearing.

Funding would come from the $44 million Westfield netted from its utility sale. The proceeds, which can only be used for infrastructure improvements, should be enough to cross every item off the council’s infrastructure wish list with millions to spare, Ake said.

Councilor Rob Stokes said he would have preferred to spend the money on the police and fire departments, but that’s not allowed.

The council won’t vote on the measure until next month, but Stokes said he won’t support the project. First off, he’s not sure how the purely aesthetic towers qualify as infrastructure. And he thinks there are better ways to use the windfall—if it’s used at all.

“Just because we have it doesn’t mean we have to spend it,” he said.

Council members shared their thoughts after listening to more than an hour of input from Westfield residents and business owners on both sides of the issue.

Most speakers agreed that the city needs some kind of identifiable gateway to draw visitors, but some questioned the scope and scale of the project—not to mention the price.   

The proposal is the result of two years of work by the appointed Grand Junction Task Group, said Chairman Ken Kingshill, director of the not-for-profit Downtown Westfield Association.

At Mayor Andy Cook’s urging, the group set out to differentiate downtown Westfield from other exits along U.S. 31, which the Indiana Department of Transportation is transforming into an interstate-like highway.

They rejected the idea of building a distinctive bridge like the one at Interstate 65 and State Road 46 in Columbus, Ind., because of the cost, Kingshill said. Instead, the group focused on adorning INDOT’s standard “box bridge” with something memorable.

“It’s a priceless marketing investment,” he said, citing the potential for such landmarks to join Indianapolis standards like the downtown skyline, Monument Circle and Central Canal in central Indiana “beauty shots” during televised sporting events.

Local engineering-and-architecture firm RQAW Inc. refined an early concept, coming up with a design intended to reflect both the city’s heritage and its potential.

For example, the tower’s inner metal “crown” represents the “innovative directions and energy of the community,” RQAW wrote in a summary. With the lighting, the torch-like structures invoke the lanterns that identified safe stops on the underground railroad.

INDOT is installing the foundations for the towers now as it builds the interchange included in its $350 million highway overhaul, Kingshill said. City leaders need to decide soon whether to proceed.

Westfield solicited bids for the project earlier this year, receiving five proposals ranging from $2.4 million to $3.1 million. A contract can’t be awarded until the council authorizes the expenditure. (If the vote had been held Monday, it would have passed 4-2.)

Resident Birch Dalton, who is working with a local investment group to develop property at the southeast corner of 31 and 32, appealed to officials’ competitive spirit in urging them to approve the project.

“This is a great opportunity to beat Carmel to the punch,” he said, since southbound motorists will reach Westfield first. “It's good for business.”

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  • Another Great Idea (sarcasm)
    Love the last comment..."great opportunity to beat Carmel to the punch" Yes, Westfield, beat Carmel by wasting money in the same way Carmel has over the last 20 years.
  • Icon Missing
    Sad the article did not provide a better picture of the planned "landmark" "towers". Hard to tell if the money will be well spent or not. If they are hideous, then it will be a landmark "joke". Before they go forward with this expenditure and change to the landscape, the council and mayor would be wise to float trial balloons. If a clear majority of people like the icons, then it will likely be a good investment. If they are ugly, we'll simply be mocked with each drive by. Lots of bad modern art out there to provide a cautionary approach.
    • Sigh
      Dear Westfield, Really hoping you got over your Carmel envy. But alas you also seem to think you must spend it while you got it. Do yourselves a favor spend it on something that will benefit the entire community (real infrastructure) and not some p--- poor excuse for modernity. You can drive a few miles south and see plenty of bad examples of overpriced modern art.
    • Click the rendering to enlarge
      Voice, I loaded a larger version of the rendering. Just click the version in the blog post to enlarge. Thanks!
    • LIMESTONE
      One of the TWO places in the world you can get the highest quality limestone is southern Indiana in addition to Italy. I would rather see this kind of thing done in limestone, and I would wager anyone it would be less expensive. Anybody looked into this valuable Indiana resource for this project?????
    • stand out
      stand out or blend in. Stand out gets rewarded. Blending in gets ignored. I like Westfields plan. They'ed be foolish to pass up this unique opportunity
    • stand out
      You either stand out or you blend in. Stand outs get recognized and Blend ins get ignored. I really like the proposed design. Westfield would be foolish to ignore this opportunity
    • These Landmarks are Great
      As someone that spends a large amount of my time and money marketing the Downtown of Westfield, these are a fantastic idea. Westfield needs something to raise the curiosity of Grand Park visitors for one, which will keep their money local as long as possible before they are drawn to the south. We also benefit from these from a pride and progress standpoint. Downtown has a fantastic emerging culture but nothing substantial to send that message. These towers, no matter what their design, will act as a fantastic beacon for really cool things going on locally.
    • Waste
      This is the result when you trust GOV to spend other peoples money. I'm not against having a unique entrance to Westfield, but 3M? Give me a break. Can't think of a better way than to erect a huge concrete pillar...? I'm convinced that if gov has 10M surplus to and needed to fill one pot hole, they would pay 10M to do it.
    • worth it
      All cities have to market themselves in order to compete in the marketplace. The money this will cost in relation to the positive image it will create for years to come, makes it well worth the investment.
    • Don't waste your water dollars - save for a rainy day
      Westfield - I know that Citizens' $44M is burning a hole in your pocket, but don't repeat Mayor Ballard's mistakes of spending the proceeds of a sale of your revenue-producing assets - and yes, your water and sewer utilities were revenue-producing assets - on NON revenue-producing assets. Save the money for infrastructure for the next wave(s) of development that will come and bring jobs and assessed value with it. That is the fiscally responsible and mature approach. Don't be the kid who gets a dollar and runs to the corner store to blow all of his money on candy.
      • bad idea
        These are a bad idea. They are ugly and overpriced. Perhaps though, if the city is insisting on moving forward with these monstrosities, they could be rendered useful? Perhaps adding the ability to "hide" cell towers in them, etc... so that they can not only act as a decidedly hideous attraction, but also could generate income?
      • rendering
        Also, what's with the multi-story office buildings behind the road? If I've oriented this picture correctly, this drawing is eastward facing. Under the bridge, on the left side, is the new building proposed for where the football/baseball fields currently sit. What is really confusing is the "office tower looking building" above the bridge to the left of the drawing. This would be where the schools currently sit. Are there plans to move the intermediate, middle and high schools?
        • Few more months
          Can't Westfield just wait a little longer and Brainerd will build the huge monument for those 'coming to carmel'!! then westfield can just slap a sign on the opposite side. i get having something cool to let everyone know they've entered westfield, but i'm not impressed with the planned structure.
        • rick - schools
          Rick, the school has agreed to sell the football, baseball, and Admin building to a local group for $2 million less than the appraised value of the land (according the school's website). So yes there will be buildings there but I doubt they'll be more than 3 or 4 stories. Please see second document. http://www.wws.k12.in.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=211616&type=d&pREC_ID=469950
        • "iconic" or "tells a story"
          Since the city is trying to brand the city as the sports capital of the world should these towers reflect that brand? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to make the towers look like baseball bats and hang a mobile of soccer balls, footballs, a baseball glove, a lacrosse stick, and other similar items spinning on top of the bat? Would that scream SPORTS? Who looks at a cement tower with wire mesh and thinks historical Quakers or an Underground Railroad? Ridiculous!
        • IBJ or Star
          After reading the article I thought I was reading the Indy Star. How about a balanced article with comments from the other side of the debate? Why were they opposed? Was it due to the design or the money? It's hard to tell who is more right without hearing both sides.
        • The Two Towers
          Looks like from the Lord of the Rings. I believe everyone who is for this does have something to gain from it. Mr. Dalton is in partnership with a developer who owns the NE corner next to these proposed towers. Use public funds from the utility sale (rates will continue to go up until 2016) to make their property look good for redevelopment. Its like "Look visitors, at our shiny new bling" to hope they stop in DT to grab a bite to eat. If a visitor asks, "What do these mean?" Who would really know? If it was to bring interest to Grand Park, does that mean Grand Park can't do it on its own merits? You can bring a horse to water... Even Curt has something to gain from this. I hope you sell the old Black Plum Cafe-Nature's Cottage soon.
        • Say no to these towers
          These towers are as worthless and unattractive as the p--p statue next to Randall Dermatology. Only these towers cost more. Yes, have a gateway but do it more cheaply than you are doing. And give the people a say to cost and design instead of cozying up to people who have an immediate financial stake (ie. developers and real estate folks). I wrote to the council members months ago and never received an acknowledgement or reply.
        • Sleazy
          Take a short drive north on I 65 to the 139 Lebanon Exit and see how over $1,500,000.00 was wasted on a plastic sign that looks like entrance to Mexico. PS Mexico, Return our Marine!
        • save for a rainey day 2
          Thanks for saving some time writing a comment: spot-on right. By my rough-count, that is $100 per person in Westfield! Go ask a family of 5 to shell-out $500. Fiscally irresponsible for a community that talked of cutting teachers because of lack of funds. >>>from a long term resident of Westfield.
        • Surely you jest!
          I had to read "beckoning motorists who otherwise might drive by without stopping" several times to make sure I wasn't misreading it. Surely you jest! Who are the going to beckon? I'd be willing to bet that 99% of the people who drive through the intersection of U.S. 31 and SR 32 know exactly where they are and where they are going. Those stupid towers with LED lights are not going to beckon them to change their plans. If anything, they're more likely to piss people off when they think of all of the good things that could have been done with the money, like save it for when a tornado takes out half of Westfield. Come on, Westfield, grow up in a mature manner.

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