The Westfield City Council is considering issuing $11.5 million in bonds to support developers in the Wheeler Landing district as they make public infrastructure improvements and build new luxury apartments.
Wheeler Landing is a 321-acre planned unit development district that was approved at the northwest corner of State Road 32 and Wheeler Road in September 2018. The Wheeler family, which has owned the farmland since the mid-1800s, formed Wheeler Farms LLC and sought the district approval so it could bring multifamily, light industrial, educational, retail, warehousing and distribution uses to the property.
Wheeler Farms has since selected Carmel-based real estate developer J.C. Hart Co. to build a $32 million upscale apartment complex on the east side of the site, along the Monon Trail.
The first $8.8 million tax increment financed bond will help add new roads, a drainage lake and other infrastructure improvements around expected occupants of the district—including Portillo’s, Chik-Fil-A, CVS and the Ascension St. Vincent YMCA.
According to taxpayer agreements between a Wheeler affiliate and the city, the developers will reimburse the city for the bonds through property taxes from the increase in assessed value generated by new development in the area.
J.C. Hart President John Hart said his company’s apartment complex was crucial to proving increased tax revenues in the district would be sufficient to pay off bond debt.
“If we did not come along and have that increment, it probably would’ve delayed the funding, and the infrastructure would’ve been delayed three-to-five years,” Hart said.
Instead, Hart said, infrastructure work may start as soon as next spring and construction on the new 214-unit apartment complex would start next summer.
J.C. Hart’s luxury apartment project would feature 95 one-bedroom, 107 two-bedroom and 12 three-bedroom apartments across 10 buildings. The project is slated to feature 118 garage, 240 surface and 54 street parking spaces for a total ratio of 1.9 spaces per unit. Early designs also show there would be a clubhouse, fitness facility, swimming pool and courtyards.
Hart said the central clubhouse building would feature an elevator so those attached units would appeal to an older demographic.
The second bond issuance under consideration by the city would devote $2.75 million to the J.C. Hart project. Revenue from the boost in property taxes again would be used to pay off the bond debt.
Westfield Chief of Staff Todd Burtron said at a Westfield City Council meeting on Monday that the city would not be on the hook if property tax revenue couldn’t cover the full bond debt.
“If the increment is not there, they have to fill in the gap,” Burtron said of developers Wheeler and J.C. Hart. “They cover the delta of any shortfalls related to debt service. We are well-behind any sort of exposure, and it’s all being borne by the developers.”
The council will consider adopting an ordinance issuing those bonds at its Nov. 23 meeting.
As part of the initial infrastructure improvements, Wheeler Farms plans to extend Oak Ridge Road from 181st Street to Grand Park Boulevard to accommodate an expected increase in traffic. Hart said other infrastructure needed for the district includes a large drainage pond and improvements to nearby State Road 32.
“The city is very anxious to see these improvements go in because it will improve traffic flow and will create additional opportunities for tax increment growth in the whole market there,” Hart said.