Westfield's booming growth

October 25, 2007
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WestfieldThe 19-square-mile, 24,000-population town of Westfield could balloon to 56 square miles and 110,000 people in the next several years. More than 11,000 new homes are in the works. And the residential rush has caught the attention of commercial developers, who are planning one of the most ambitious concentrations of mega-projects in central Indiana. Projects include: A 430,000-square-foot lifestyle mall dubbed Lantern Commons on 60 acres northeast of U.S. 31 and 161st Street (shown here); 1.7 million square feet of retail, restaurant, office and entertainment attractions called Eagletown north of State Road 32 and east of Eagletown Road; and a $300 million mixed-use development called Aurora covering 315 acres south of State Road 38 and east of U.S. 31. For more, check out the full story from this week's Commercial Real Estate Focus section.
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  • Where are all of these people supposed to be coming from?
  • Shane, they are coming from Marion County.
  • I'd really like to see more growth in the central county...but unfortunately it seems like Marion County will continue to be stagnant and lose wealth; Hamilton County will continue to experience this boom. If you look at the major office and corporate growth in the city...most is located up on the northside now. Carmel really is its own edge city and a much stronger population is now located up there.

    I hope I'm wrong...but I feel as if Indianapolis metro is probably going to continue to decentralize, with downtown weaking as a core and economic center. I guess thats what happens when 95% of the pop growth is out in the cornfields.
  • Babbage, I don't really see downtown weakening as a core and economic center. If anything, I think its quite the opposite. I think the recent trends even demonstrate a renewed interest in the downtowm office market (as compared to that of the northern suburbs). For all the development occuring north of Indy it is all dwarfed by the development which has occured in downtown Indy for the past several years, and which will continue for some time.
  • Babbage -- good points all around. The trend is undoubtedly north in the Indy metro power game.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't call Indy/Marion County stagnant. While a large number of blockbuster projects are being announced outside Marion County, there's still plenty of investment happening in the central city. Even Venu is in Marion County/Indianapolis. Obviously the location of that proposal has a lot to do with its proximity to the populations outside of Marion County, but Venu will eventually be a huge tax boon to Indy.
  • Yeah, I'm being very pessimistic, but the metro area should do a little more to channel and plan its growth. Maybe promote more of an urban corrider, instead of simply plopping down a light rail line. Also, the success of transit has a lot to do with the concentration of jobs in a single area, such as downtown. I said it earlier, and I'll say it again, there should be a stronger presence of business here.
  • Marion County has significant net domestic outmigration. It only continues to grow because of natural increase (more births than deaths) and net international in migration.

    Downtown and some central city neighborhoods have remained strong, but let's not kid ourselves, this doesn't even move the needle. A thousand new residents might be huge downtown, but that's less than a single decent sized suburban subdivision.

    If you prefer a suburban environment, why would you pick Marion County? The taxes are higher, the schools far worse even in the townships (with very limited exceptions), the infrastructure is decaying, crime is higher, and much of the city is older and thus not as spiffy as brand new stuff in the burbs.

    Why choose Marion County? It would have to come down to price, proximity to things of importance to you (not a factor for many if not most people), and historical attachment.

    This isn't unique to Marion County. It is happening to almost every central city area in the US, and arguably worse elsewhere.
  • Can the Northside actually support all these LifeStyle centers? Clay Terrace isnt that far from this proposed location. Hop in your car and drive a few streets south. I'm not convinced we need a Bed Bath and Beyond and Kohl's every three miles.

    Central Indiana seems destined to become a never ending metro of sprawl, just like LA, and more recently, the Phoenix area. Lots of flat land and no natural barriers.
  • If you're truly a downtown person, the question of why live downtown is obvious.
    It's a completely different feel. Homes are (often) historic and have character,
    neighbors have years of history to share, I have a tree in my backyard that's
    8o years old. When you live downtown you feel a part of the city. If you live in
    Hamilton or other connecting counties you're a visitor. The city needs to make it
    more attractive to live downtown. Long commutes, heavy traffic, cookie-cutter
    homes and a disconnect from community are all negative aspects of not living
    in Marion County. What happened to green living? Does anyone have a clue
    how many acres of natural, undeveloped land they are dozing to build these
    homes in Westfield. Have we learned nothing from the current over development
    of land for housing nationwide.
  • has anyone on this forum read the book tomorrow's cities, tomorrow's suburbs published by the APA? Indy is basically continuing the national trend of rapid exurban growth and slower, but steady downtown/inner-city revitalization. The poverty is now being pushed out to the 'in-between' neighborhoods (housing mostly built between the 40's and 70's), creating somewhat of an increasing 'doughnut effect' in the metro area (although more like a horseshoe in indy, considering the affluent north side).

    Like it or not, this is the trend and will continue for the forseeable future. The only thing i see curbing this trend anytime soon (within the next 5-10 years) would be the ever increasing price of oil. Just a thought.
  • Matthew, not debating the truth in much of what you say, but I must refute the fact that most of the land is not natural/undeveloped. Most of it is farmland, which is equally, if not more, destructive to the environment.

    Also, I don't think the 150,000 or so residents that arrived in the burbs in recent years came from Indy. I live in the burbs, and yes, people move in and out all of the time, but I never hear any of them say We just moved from Indy. They are coming here from all over the country, and from communities outside of the Indy area for work.

    I must stress, in my neighborhood of 275 homes, I've never heard anyone say We moved from Indy. I've lived in two neighborhoods just like it, same story. Just based on personal experience, I would say that outmigration probably accounts for no more than 5%. Obviously that's subject to change, but now and in the past I believe it holds true.
  • Bill Hudnut wrote a book a couple of years ago about those first-ring suburbs. In Indy, that would equate to the township areas in Marion County that developed postwar. That is precisely where our newest slums are forming.
  • While the central city of Indianapolis is in horrible condition, it at least holds the prospect of revitalization. A certain percentage of the people, albeit a minority, will prefer urban environments and that is the only game in town. It is unfortunate that all too many of the residents really just want to recreate low density, single family suburbia downtown.

    The real challenge is redeveloping decayed suburban environments. Those have to compete with shiny new suburban environments on the fringe. Look at how much effort and money it has take to revitalize the core of even a prosperous suburb like Carmel. The decayed suburban areas of Marion County are much, much harder.

    Marion County will continue to experience relative decline and outmigration until it starts selling a product people want to buy at the price on offer. I believe it has to pursue a differentiation strategy because if they are trying to sell generic suburban environments, it's a suckers game since the collar counties will be cheaper and have better schools. To play in a commodity game, you need to be a low cost producer, which Marion County clearly is not.

    I see no evidence of anyone locally seriously grappling with these issues, however. The only place that seems to get it is Carmel. They know that they have to build something that will still be attractive not just today, but 25-50 years from now when they are no longer the shiny new things. Suburbs like Fishers, Westfield, and Avon are likely to experience similar challenges to Marion County once their day in the sun is over and they are stuck with an aging stock of mostly entry level homes and older commercial centers that no longer represent the preferred mode of the day.
  • The Census Bureau publishes facts on migration. Look here:

    http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/ctytoctyflow.html

    Between 1995 and 2000, 19,553 people moved from Marion County to Hamilton County, 13,002 to Hendricks County, and 12,000 to Johnson County. Total domestic outmigration during that period was 155,488. Total domestic inmigration was 125,495. That means a net of about 30,000 people moved out of Marion County in those five years (excludes international migration). My hypothesis would be that the trend has increased if anything since then.
  • The Urbanophile, we need people like you on the city council and in the mayors office!!
  • Good comments, Urbanfile. So far, downtown development has been little more than a conventioner's destination hospitality showcase. It has little to do with the average resident. It's surprising to me that we don't already have a casino downtown. While many adjoining neighborhoods have improved dramatically, it's not enough. When the east Washington street corridor from Alabama Street to Irvington is rezoned, reinfused with money and rebuilt with ambitious development, resembling what's going on in the outlying areas previously talked about, then a real road to recovery may be at hand. Until then, downtown will remain a 2nd tier convention destination with a few small, improved 'brownstone' neighborhoods providing a barrier to unsightly commercial and residential blight. You can sport an 'after 6' custom tux,...but if you're wearing brown loafers---
  • Downtown IS a 2nd tier convention destination - 2nd only to first tier destinations like Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando - which Indy and many other cities can NEVER be due to climate and other sexy reasons. This 2nd tier status is something to be proud of --- not something to look down on. Be greatful for this 2nd tier status - as other Midwestern cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Cleveland would KILL to be anything more than 3rd or 4th tier convention cities. Appreciate what you have, Indy. Be glad tens of thousands of conventioneers will visit over the next few months, alone, to fill your hotels, restaurants and stores.
  • On the subject of growth in Westfield and other North/Northeast suburbs... It's shocking how quickly this area is growing - and with such relatively affluent households. Of COURSE this area is one of the richest, per capita, in the country... When there were just corn fields 10-15 years ago - and when an area is pretty much the only area a six-figure, professional household in Indy would consider living these days, it's only going to grow and grow and grow. It's like a private club for the wealthy - and the wealthy east, west, south and center will either move north or wither and die. I don't blame them... why WOULDN'T an affluent family want to live by 10,000 others like them. However, in other Midwestern cities, the wealth is spread around. A city like Chicago has affluent clusters west, north, northwest and central city. Cleveland has affluent west, east and south. Cincinnati has affluent north and east. Columbus west, east and north. Indy = north affluence only. Cliqueness nouveau riche... Yuck. One day maybe Indy will be real city like the others (save even yuckier Columbus...)
  • Urbanophile is guilty of drinking too much Karmel Kool-Aid. First Carmel will never be able to duplicate an organic true historical downtown that Indy has.

    Secondly Westfield is not even half built yet, so no conclusion as to its' aging stock of entry level homes and commercial centers has been made. Much has yet to be decided.

    Furthermore Fishers median home prices are only $29,000 less than Carmel at $228,000, with many custom and properly maturing neighborhoods, harldy the entry level town you describe.The Commercial Centers in Fishers are in the process of re-developing and changing.

    Finally lets remember trends are everything and just as urban design and lifestyle centers are popular right now, something new and different will be around the corner sending even Carmel and its' Kool- Aid drinkers back to the design board!
  • I lived in Carmel, way back in the 1970's and suburban Northwest Indy later. I've lived Downtonw since 1996 and would not move back to suburbia. I moved back into the City because of societal disconnect. I have a front porch close to the sidewalk which gives me an opportunity to get to know my neighbors. We all interact socially and keep a watchful eye out for each other, and so on. I suspect that the out counties' residents rarely experience this socialization.

    Are Indy suburbs different from other midwestern cities' suburbs? Probably not!

    I can WALK to the grocery store, hardware store, bank, Circle Centre, theaters, restaurants, etc. Why would I want to live anywhere else?
    By the way I grew up here and, after the mistake of well scrubbed suburban life, I moved back to my roots.

    Yes the City has its problems. Lets look to all the positives that have taken place in the last 20 to 30 years. Imagine what the City could be like in the next 20 to 30 years. Stop fussing and pussing, get involved and help create a better community!
  • One other thing. These Lifestyle Centers, are just the re-birth of open air shopping, Glendale, Easdtgate, Southern Plaza, etc. Everthing old is new again.
  • Isn't Hendricks County the second wealthiest county in the state? I don't think it is that much lower than Hamilton County.......I feel that most of our 'burbs around the city are wealthy.......
  • Rich, did I say anything about downtown Carmel trying to duplicate downtown Indianapolis? I did not. I have two primary points about Carmel:

    1. They are trying to do something different, with a focus on higher end development and New Urbanism. Whether it succeeds or fails over the long run or not is an open question, but I believe that true measure of success will be over the long term.

    2. They have pumped a huge amount of money into a decayed central core that is just now turning the corner. And central Carmel was not actually that bad to begin with compared to some suburban Marion County areas. This demonstrated the difficult of suburban renewal.

    Fishers has some higher end homes, there is no doubt. And they've done some first class work on streets like 116th. I personally think Fishers has been superbly managed and has kept up with astonishing growth pretty successfully. However, the majority of Fishers is built out in a manner that differs little from other suburban environments in Indy or elsewhere. When Fishers is built out, where will the community go from there? How will it stay competitive when it's shopping malls are 10-20 years old, it's subdivisions older, etc. and there is all shiny new stuff in some new boomtown? That's the question I don't even believe has been asked in most of these communities.
  • The Urb:

    I'm not attempting to dispute the census bureau, just pointing out a personal observation. I would however like to gain understanding of what they consider outmigration (College attrition/brain drain to other states and Indy burbs, etc....I will read up). My point is, the population boom in Hamilton Co. should not be downplayed to just outmigration. I believe since 1990 the population has grown by over 150,000 residents. While some of that is natural growth (childbirth), I still believe Indy outmigration plays a smaller role than REAL growth.

    I lived in Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville and have yet to meet an out-migrant from Marion Co.. Not even at work (in Hamilton Co.). But what I do see is a huge influx of residents from other Indiana cities. Evansville, Ft. Wayne, Muncie, Anderson......I have had a lot of neighbors from those locales over the years. I think that speaks highly of the economic opportunity in our region.

    I know Marion Co. has problems retaining and attracting residents, I'm just defending the notion that Hamilton Co. is just a bunch of Indy has beens. It's simply false.
  • JoBu, you say you're not trying to dispute the Census stats, but then you go and do just that. You really think people should believe your anecdotal observations over Census data?
  • In 20-30 years Avon, Westfield and Fishers will be dealing with aging, empty shopping centers just like the eastside and westside of indy are now. Maybe if they limited the amount of development now and kept demand high for retail space, they could avoid some of the mistakes of the past.

    I agree that what urbanophile has to say makes perfect sense in regards to Carmel.
  • Jo, all of the factors you mention, such as college students, should flow both directions, cancelling out from a net-migration perspective. And clearly, Hamilton County has benefitted from in-migration from many places, not just Marion County, and has a healthy natural increase as well.

    I'd encourage you to look at the Census data. It has origin and destination movement for very single county in the US. You can see exactly how many people moved to Hamilton County for exactly where.
  • DM:

    I don't believe I disputed the numbers (19k migration), but I would concede that I am skeptical of the data (to some extent). I merely noted my personal take on the matter, and what I have stated based on that experience is not opinion, but fact. I have not met an out-migrant from Indy in either of the three subdivisions I've lived in, in three separate Hamilton Co. Cities/Towns. I'm not asking you to take my thoughts to the bank, or even to publish them. This is a discussion forum (a place to feed your appetite for conversation on real estate), and I am offering my point in the discussion. What is your point? To be crass without offering any insight related to the article?

    One more time, outmigration as a percentage is not the bulk of the growth in Hamilton Co., yet it continues to be represented that way. It seems to be a cop out for those who are for whatever reason jealous of or against the progress in Hamilton Co. Personally, I don't get it. It is all one Central Indiana economy.

    I'm sure out-migration will get worse before it gets better, but it needs to stop being a crutch. I read these forums every week, and you always get people demeaning the burbs and those that live outside of the Marion Co. borders. Indy needs to get competitive, and you can't count on residents flock to center township on 'good faith'. Families will never locate downtown in mass without a quality school system. It simply won't happen. They will move to Westfield, and line the pockets of this developer. :)
  • DM, this is for you...

    Based on The Urb's same take:

    Marion Outflow to Hamilton, Hendricks, and Johnson Co.'s was 44,555.

    Conversely, those three counties contributed to a Marion County inflow of 16,935.

    That net's the loss in Marion Co. to 27,620 (between those three counties). Considering the growth of those three counties I would venture to say that Marion Co. outmigration is a realatively small percentage of the actual growth. Unfortunatley I cannot locate population stats for 1995, only 1990. So I cannot offer up the exact percentage. In all, I think this justifies my personal experience in not seeing this HUGE migration problem (sarcasm). Chances are that only 1 or 2 people in 10 living in Hamilton Co. migrated from Marion Co. Food for thought.
  • dwirth:

    Another distortion. Carmel is NOT the only affluent area around Indy. If you haven't explored or become familiar with White River Township in Johnson Country (Center Grove School System), they you really are not as informed as you think you are.
  • ...and to follow on, there are affluent areas in Avon/Plainfield and Hendricks County, areas north of Brownsburg to Zionsville and beyond in Boone County, and between Cumberland, Greenfield, and Fortville in Hancock County.

    I grew up in whitebread suburbs all over the US in the 1960's and 70's. From my family's experience, young mobile families with kids get steered to easy suburban sells (like Carmel and Fishers here) everywhere in the US. That could account for the fact that most of Hamilton County's growth is from outside the metro area: new Lilly (or Dow or IUPUI or Clarian or State Government) employee asks colleagues or realtor where are the best schools and the answers that come back are Center Grove, Carmel, Fishers, etc. So that's where they buy.
  • Here is some info on the proposed project.
    http://www.westfield.in.gov/egov/docs/1192567153_740539.pdf

    Some things about this project.
    1. It will clear out thousands of well grown mature trees.
    2. Doesn't seem pedestrian friendly, not really a lifestyle center imo.
    3. Does not fit Westfield's Comp. Plan unless they make some changes.
  • City Doofus, before you make bold statements you should know the facts.
    1. Well over 2/3 of the project is already zoned for the intended use. In fact the proposed use will reduce what could happen or apppear on the site. Currently the zoning permits one large box user (i.e. Wal-mart, Meijer, Super Target). The developer for this project is willing to restrict the site so that type of user is kept out. If you actually read the comp plan this propsed use does comply based upon the text.
    2. The land in its current private ownership could be cleared of the trees tomorrow without any approvals. I love when people assume trees are protected property. By being developed the trees and replacements to said trees are far more protected than in their private status.
    3. As far as pedestrian friendly, the site is located along an existing town trail. The trail is brought into the site by the developer as well as additional amenities along an internal creek. The Monon (regarded by most as one of Indiana's greatest accomplishment in the last 10 years) crosses numerous heavily traveled streets. Clay Terrace has basically an on-ramp to U.S. 31 running right thru the middle of it. Both of these create a working harmony of pedestrians and vehicles. So the idea of pedestrian friendly is again just a veiled statement that really doesn't stick when thrown against the wall.

    Please state facts when discrediting a development. This site is great in that most people take the time to truely educate themselves and typically write sound comments and counterpoints. Veiled Hail Mary comments used to discredit a project is quit pathetic.
  • Indyman, I do know the facts. I was at the meeting where the petitioner pitched this project. I live in Westfield and I follow the development in this town.
    1. Yes I know this. Wal-Mart has been licking its chops for this property for a while now. But its commitments on the current zoning (the 45 or so acres) doesn't give retail flexibility to be a 'super' big box. This is why 'super' something’s have not moved on it. You state 2/3's of the project, I'm stating all 64 acres. The largest store is proposed to be around 110,00 square feet gla. What exactly is the difference between a 200k sq. ft. big box and 3 100k sq. ft. stores proposed?
    2. Yes, I know this also. Look again at what I said. If Lantern Commons goes in, my statement is true. If current ownership wants to cut trees, my statement is still true, but on less acreage. Westfield has plenty of open ag fields and the developer has to pick one of the most beautiful, densely wooded land that Westfield has. Either way trees will lose and I hate to see that. Wouldn't you?
    3. The trail you mention is the Natalie Wheeler trail. If Latern Commons goes in as currently proposed the trail becomes an expensive sidewalk. Its a far stretch to say the trail is brought into the site, but he will connect to it.
    I was talking internally. If you are at the most southern large store and want to go the a store in the far northern part there is a lot of parking area and gaps of nothing you have to cross. Creek? It's more like a ravine now. He will modify it to look like a creek. This project is not Clay Terrace.
    Why has Carmel tunneled under 116th St and has plans to tunnel under other heavily traveled streets? Concerns of public safety perhaps? Clay Terrace has access to US31 via Rangeline/Clay Terrace Blvd. because it needs it. It may not have direct access to US31 in the future. Ever walk across it at a roundabout? Better be on your toes! I only feel comfortable crossing at the light.

    Please take a look on page 52 of Westfield's Comp. Plan. Check Appropriate Land Uses in Highway Corridors. This project does neither of the 3. So my 3 comments are true, factual and should not be taken as descrediting. Please heed your own advice. Veiled Hail Mary comments to discredit a person is quite pathetic.
  • City Doofus,
    Typical rhetoric and responses from someone who ultimately shops and enjoys the fruits of private developers high risk investments. I have been a landowner, taxpayer and employeed in Westfield for almost 15 years. I am living with the success and failures of past administrations. The majority of the public live with the wants and needs of zeolets like you that pollute the process. You fly large banners with blanket scare tactic statements, but ultimately you are just an unhappy person. Get a hobby. The simple fact remains, the corner is already zoned for retail like it or not. You state that the commitments do not let super big box occur. If they wanted the corner bad enough they would reconfigure their plan to fit the commitment. The simple fact is the current petitioner is working with the Town and staff to deliver a far superior project than what could occur today. Westfield is leveraged to the point of breaking. They are under intense scrutiny to reduce peoples taxes all the while the school corp is discussing new stadiums at a high school that is land locked and to small for the upcoming classes (I see another new high school on the horizon or worst yet a community dividing Westfield North -vs- Westfield South H.S.).

    If you want to wait on office, medical, etc. go right ahead. But as for my wallet and family I will gladly take:
    #1 the increased shopping opportunities that keeps 1% of funds spent in town thru food and beverage tax.
    #2 the opportunity to at least hold the school taxes flat during the school infrastructure growth that is going to occur even if another house is ever built. Who knows, if the Town doesn't keep every dime from the TIF they recently adopted in this area our taxes might actually decline.
    #3 A high quality development that will set the bar for porhects to come.

    Your discussion on walkability is greatly shot down by the Towns own plans. They are requiring the frontage road construction that is a part of Lantern Commons. If walkability was a great issue than why is a new auto road necessary? Simple, people will never give up their cars. We want to live in one area, school in another, church in another, recreate in another, and shop yet in another. We created our own urban sprawl, not developers. Our own comp plan is creating sprawl with new districts called rural north and south west (1 home/acre with 60% open space or 1 home/3 acres). You think someone is going to walk from this type of housing ot shopping?
  • I agree with City Doofus when he talks about the thousands of trees which will be cut down regardless of what type of development takes place on the site. If it is already zoned for commercial, this just speaks sooo highly of the town of Westfield and hints at the way suburbs are run in general. As stated, there is plenty of farmland throughout Westfield for these developments. This is a case of the town wanting some quick tax dollars and a prime example of this is Shamrock tax payer, always settling. Suck it up and pay the higher taxes, these types of developments on rare wooded sites should not be allowed. Have you heard of protecting the environment??? I know this is a new concept for the suburbs, and most of the midwest as well. I could go on and on but its not worth it. I'm sure this development will go through and the continued destruction of our diminishing natural habitat will continue...
  • Thank you Buckeyes#1. Seems to be a tough crowd out there. Anyhow, an update. Tonight at the Comp. Plan Review Committee meeting, 3 members voted a negative recommendation and one voted a no recommendation. Even though there were some changes to their plan, the committee stuck to their guns and stated that this project does not fit Westfield's Comprehensive Plan in current form.

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