Westfield reworks Grand Junction Plaza design to avoid $13 million budget overrun

The updated design for Westfield's Grand Junction Plaza. (Image courtesy of the city of Westfield)

Westfield officials have redesigned their proposed $35 million Grand Junction Plaza project to avoid spending the extra millions it would take to build the park as it was originally approved.

Jeremy Lollar, the city’s public works director, updated the Westfield City Council on the project’s higher-than-expected construction bids on Monday and detailed the changes made to avoid spending $13 million more than what was budgeted.

The new design for the six-acre park on the southwest side of Main and Union streets features a concrete stage instead of an amphitheater and replaces a permanent skating rink with a seasonal installation. Other changes include a consolidated playground, less-expensive materials throughout the park and the elimination of a creekside seating fixture and a trailhead building with public restrooms.

“We had to start doing some value engineering and making tough decisions,” Lollar said.

With those changes, Lollar said the project isn’t expected to go over budget. The latest guaranteed maximum price accepted by the city’s redevelopment commission clocks in at $31.5 million.

Council member Scott Frei said it takes some “fine nuance” to claim the project isn’t over budget, and other council members were even more critical.

Council member Cindy Spoljaric said the $35 million project was controversial when its funding was approved by a 4-3 vote in 2019, so she’s even more flustered now to see the park won’t be built as promised.

“We were sold a vision,” Spoljaric said. “For our community to find out we can’t even afford what was in that plan—for those dollars—is hard to accept. We’re not getting everything we’d hoped for.”

Council member Troy Patton said he’d like to poll the community to see if residents felt they were still getting the park they wanted.

“This is so disheartening to see,” Patton said. “Frankly, we’ve soiled our pants and now everybody has to smell it.”

Lollar said removing a building at the park’s trailhead, featuring public restrooms and a gathering space, will save the city roughly $3 million.

“What we are going to deliver is the utilities and everything necessary below grade to be able to come back in and add this building to the project at a later date, once the $3 million is available,” he said.

He said the city is taking the same approach with the plaza’s amphitheater. By building just the infrastructure and a concrete stage, Lollar said the city will save $5 million now and pave the way for a full amphitheater to be built in the future.

Lollar said the city will save $3 million on mechanical infrastructure by choosing to install a temporary skating rink each season instead of erecting a permanent skating facility. Lollar said the city’s approach would be similar to Carmel and Noblesville’s, and that they’d use an outside contractor to install the rink.

Finally, Lollar said the last major changes would replace a stair-stepped seating area overlooking the creek that runs through the property with a more passive seating area. Also, a separate 3- to 5-year-old playground will be absorbed by an adjacent play area that will be paid for in part by the city’s park impact fees.

Lollar said the park’s new design still delivers what the community asked for, and the Grand Junction Plaza Task Group is prepared to seek corporate sponsorships for the amphitheater.

“We would be happy to name that amphitheater pavilion after whatever,” Lollar said. “Duke Energy, for example.”

He said, with another $8 million, he could bring the project closer to its original vision.

Marla Ailor, vice president of the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County and a Westfield resident, said so much of the downtown’s development—including State Road 32’s rework and Old Town Cos. Union Station project—has been based around the project as it was originally proposed.

“It’s as if this is what we do in Hamilton County. We start a project we know is going to go over-budget and we turn around and ask for more money,” Ailor said. “Budget should be used as a verb, not as a noun. They need to slow down and assess where they are.”

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19 thoughts on “Westfield reworks Grand Junction Plaza design to avoid $13 million budget overrun

    1. That isn’t a true statement David G. The contractors aren’t able to be in the design process for Government work. This is all vision from engineers, architects, and developers. Contractors can only build and price what is given to them. However, the designs for these types of projects are legacy to the aforementioned and are a waste of a lot of money in my opinion. And school designs are one of them for sure.

  1. thanks to Troy and Cindy for watching over Westfield tax dollars. Government needs to be held accountable for this out of control spending. I wonder if they would put up with this kind of overrun if they had a project going on at their residence and were spending their own money.

    1. And just how much revenue would that create? I’ve really never understood the entire concept. PS Grand Park is having an astounding amount of rapid growth (i.e. revenue) on sr32 and beyond. The change in US 31 and Grand Park has accelerated this growth.

  2. Spot on Marla! Hotel Carmichael in Carmel comes to mind. At least they didn’t lie to the public for over a year to get the mayor elected and quietly second mortgage city property with no approval

  3. So we will build a large public gathering place- with no restrooms? That is a non-starter. I am sure the nearby businesses will not be impacted- or we have people relieving themselves in public. With all the other listed “value engineering” takeaways- what is it that we are actually building? And I assume a passive sitting area means grass seed on a slope? Westfield, we can do better than this.

    1. You can be like Carmel and pass an ord making it illegal to urinate, defecate, and have sex in public. Bonus you keep the fine money!

    2. Not true. Watch the council meeting on the City Of Westfield YouTube channel. They are only eliminating one building with restrooms. Three other buildings will have restrooms. The other two eliminations are the expensive roof over the stage area, and the ice skating rink. The latter will be replaced by a seasonal, temporary ice rink, similar to what Carmel and Noblesville have been doing. Personally I’m glad there will be no permanent ice rink. Too much money and upkeep for what, three months a year of use.

  4. How is it even legal to build a large public space with no restrooms? Are we just going to count on the local merchants to open up the restrooms in their businesses. I would think restrooms would be an absolute minimum. Go back to the drawing board.

  5. Kudos to defining a plan that fits within the budget. Recognizing deficiencies, lack of restroom facilities has been clearly noted, are there other alternatives or modifications that could be implemented OR would citizens be willing for fork over more for restrooms. And, in consideration of ongoing maintenance costs, have user fees been considered for restrooms or parking or would these cost be incorporated in the annual budget?

  6. I did not see the original plans, but I am not sure how you could spend $35 million on a 6 acre site and not have something that looks like the Taj Mahal. $35 Million is A LOT of money.

    1. that is a crazy amount of money- and much of the 6 acres is a creek bed. The reasonable thing to do would to have been to get bids before you started the project? Seems really late in the game to still be getting bids. Going forward any public works project is going to be looked upon negatively and compared to this screw up. As you said, we will be smelling the soiled pants for quite a while.

  7. “Government construction project” is an oxymoron & microcosm of where we are today. Big dreams, pretty pictures and no clear plan always get “fixed” with OUR tax money, bond money, influence money …. and yet we scratch our heads on how we got where we are?

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