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Major Westfield development projects making progress

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Amid all the development that’s progressing in Westfield, there’s an upscale retail project that city officials hope can finally get off the ground after several years of inaction.

About 64 acres fronting U.S. 31 at 161st Street is held by Northbrook, Ill.-based Pine Tree Commercial Realty LLC, which plans 430,000 square feet of retail space to be known as Lantern Commons.

Pine Tree has said in the past that Lantern Commons would have at least three national anchor stores. The project is listed among the developer’s projects on its website, but plans for it are unclear. Phone calls to its senior director of leasing were not returned.

Pine Tree executives have told city officials that they still plan to develop the property for upscale shopping, Westfield Mayor Andy Cook said. But work won’t start until at least 2014, when upgrades to U.S. 31 are complete.

“Nobody is going to develop that property until it’s finished,” Cook said. “We have to be patient.”

The highway project that began in 2011 will eliminate dozens of intersections—some clogged with traffic signals—and replace them with 10 interstate-like interchanges and collector/distributor ramps.

One of the interchanges will replace the intersection at U.S. 31 and 161st Street, which will be closed for most of next year from Oak Road, across U.S. 31 to the west, to Oakridge Road.
   
The economic downturn, not road construction, has probably been the biggest obstacle for Lantern Commons, said Mark Perlstein, a principal at locally based Sitehawk Retail Real Estate.

Sitehawk served as Pine Tree’s broker for the project until 2008.

“It had momentum going, in ’06 and ’07,” Perlstein said. “When the economy died, it died with it.”

Still, he said the project attracted interest from a few potential anchors and could gain momentum once road construction is finished.

“It was laid out to be a significant power center,” he said. “I think there’s a possibility that it has a chance to come back in the future.”

Other developments in Westfield are moving through the approval process and awaiting review from its Plan Commission.

The largest is the 220-acre Grand Park Village and the adjacent Grand Park athletic fields under construction on farmland west of U.S. 31. The complex is expected to be the largest of its kind in Indiana, featuring soccer, baseball and softball fields once it’s finished in 2014.

The park is expected to generate more than 1 million visitors a year and has drawn verbal commitments from hotels and restaurants interested in locating in the nearby Grand Park Village, Cook said.

A 20-acre lake with a boardwalk and beach, and offices, medical buildings and multifamily housing also are planned for the development.

Retail construction is set to begin in 2013 to be ready for the park’s opening the following year, the mayor said.

“As demand goes, the inquiries are quite immense,” he said. “We’ve had [hotel reps] come here and look at this and say, ‘we had no idea it was this large and it’s actually happening.’”

Two other major developments planned for Westfield are Towne West, a mix of retail and senior housing near 146th Street and Towne Road, and Springmill Center, a 6.5-acre commercial development at the southeast corner of 161st Street and Springmill Road.

Both projects are awaiting preliminary approval from the Plan Commission, and could go to the City Council within the next 60 days.

“We’ve been planning [these developments] for basically the first four years of this administration,” he said. “We need the economy to cooperate and keep the momentum going.”
 

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