Westfield schools ask city for $2.5M to speed development

April 29, 2014
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Westfield-Washington Schools is asking the city to help pay for a new football stadium to accelerate construction and make way for what’s being described as a $40 million-plus commercial development at U.S. 31 and State Road 32.

The school district has agreed to sell 14 acres northeast of the intersection to a group of local investors with big visions for the site, Superintendent Mark Keen told the Westfield City Council on Monday.

A development plan expected to be submitted this week calls for a three- to four-story office building and hotel on 9.6 acres west of Shamrock Boulevard, now home to Westfield-Washington’s football/track stadium and junior varsity baseball field.

The deal also includes 4.5 acres east of Shamrock, where the district’s administration building currently stands, though that parcel won’t be developed immediately.

The initial projects could add $40 million in assessed value to the city’s tax rolls, Keen said, and the developer is eager to get started.

But proceeds of the land sale—about $4 million for the western parcel—aren’t enough to build a replacement football stadium, even with the pledges Westfield-Washington has received through its $7.5 million “Build the Rock” campaign.

So Keen asked City Council to contribute $2.5 million to “expedite our move.”

He took pains to describe the requested cash as an investment, rather than a gift. The distinction: The anticipated development should generate enough property taxes to repay the city in less than three years, Keen said. School-owned land is not taxed.

The new 5,000-seat stadium also would be a community asset, the superintendent said, potentially hosting more than 300 events a year thanks to the installation of artificial turf. (Grass fields need periodic “rest” periods.)

Keen said the venue has been planned since Westfield High School was erected in 1995, but development was sidelined during the residential boom as the district focused on building schools. The district has nearly doubled in size since then.

And commercial development east of the U.S. 31 interchange could spur additional investment along State Road 32 leading into downtown Westfield, he said, supporting the city’s ongoing Grand Junction revitalization initiative.

“It’s important to get going quickly,” he said.

Westfield-Washington accepted bids for the property last year, but declined to accept the lone offer it received. Mayor Andy Cook said he hasn’t seen the development plans, but he said councilors have been meeting with school board members for several months to discuss how the public entities can work together on economic development.

“If we can accelerate the private-sector use and move the property to a taxpaying entity, great,” he said. “We want to provide additional momentum to the commercial tax base in that area.”

Councilor Rob Stokes asked for more information about the proposed projects, which officials said will be made public after plans are filed. A representative of the development team declined to comment before then.

The council will hear public comment on the proposal at its next meeting May 12, President Jim Ake said, urging residents to share their opinions during the hearing or via email.

“We want to know if there is wide community support,” he said before sending off the standing-room-only crowd of green-clad Westfield schools supporters with a smile and hearty “Go ‘Rocks!”

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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