Urban Vines eyes move to former equestrian campus

A horse-riding school near Westfield’s Grand Park may soon be repurposed as the Urban Vines Winery’s production facility and the new home of Urban Farmer Seeds.

Noah Herron, owner of the two Westfield-based businesses, is planning to invest $3 million in redeveloping the 35-acre Affinity Equestrian property near West 186th Street and Spring Mill Road. His purchase of the property is contingent on getting approval of his plan from the city of Westfield. In addition to moving the winery’s production and online garden supply store to the site, Herron may also build rustic-themed group lodging and self-storage facilities near the sports campus.

“If we hit the ground running, I’m hoping to have Urban Farmer in the new building around October,” he said. “Then, hopefully, I’ll be able to move Urban Vines … in by the end of the year. We’ll be bringing both companies in, still separated, but under the same roof.”

Urban Farmer currently operates in about 4,000 square feet and the winery’s production takes up about 2,000 square feet. If his plans are approved by the Westfield City Council, Herron hopes to move those operations into a 20,000-square-foot horse barn on the equestrian property.

“We would come through and totally gut the whole thing and renovate it to fit our needs,” Herron said.

Herron started Urban Farmer Seeds, an online garden supply store, in Broad Ripple in 2009. Since moving to Westfield in 2013, Herron said Urban Farmer has seen a 35% increase in year-over-year sales. Recently, increased demand from a wave of new gardeners inspired by the pandemic-related shutdown has Urban Farmers struggling to keep up with demand.

“It’s just insane, the amount of demand for seeds right now,” Herron said.

His winery’s tasting room, Urban Vines Winery and Brewery, will remain at 303 E. 161st St., where it opened in 2017. Production would shift from that site to the horse property. Urban Farmer would move from 120 E. 161st St.

The company is experiencing rapid growth, Herron said, because its wines are catching on. The winery—known for its line of sweet candy wines with flavors like cotton candy and peanut butter and jelly—has grown its revenue 60% year-over-year, according to Herron.

In 2019, the vinery produced roughly 40,000 bottles of wine. Before COVID-19, Urban Vines was on track to produce 80,000 bottles this year.

Herron anticipates that moving to the larger facilities will allow the winery to ramp up production to as many as 400,000 bottles per year in the next 5 years. Herron said there’s also a 5,000-square-foot, 19th century barn on the property that he may eventually turn into a distillery—but that won’t happen for some time.

Herron’s pitch to the city council also includes plans for 66 for-sale, climate-controlled, electric-outfitted self-storage units near the Sundown Gardens landscaping center on the north side of the property.

To give Grand Park teams and sports fans another option for staying the night in Westfield, Herron is also envisioning a series of two or three barn-like group lodging accommodations with room for up to 30 guests.

Some Westfield council members who heard Herron’s pitch at a May 11 meeting were concerned about certain elements of his plans.

“I’m a little concerned that we’re mixing so many businesses in a relatively small area,” council member Mike Johns said. “As we move forward on this, I would like to have some better clarifications for how those businesses are going to work together and how the roads will be outlined in that acreage.”

Council member Scott Willis agreed. He said he loved the agritourism concept, but he wasn’t sure about the self-storage or lodging. The city’s plan commission is scheduled to further review the project on June 3, but Herron is already looking at altering plans for those storage units to meet the city’s requests.

“Those are just kind of side projects that don’t make or break the whole deal. If they work out, great. If not, we’ll find something else for them,” Herron said. “We’ll do whatever they feel is in the best benefit of that area.”

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