Petition opposes Union Square project in downtown Westfield

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Plans by Old Town Cos. to build a $25 million mixed-use project near Grand Junction Plaza in Westfield is meeting opposition from some residents and the city’s preservation alliance.

The Carmel-based developer in April announced plans to develop Union Square, a residential and retail space in downtown Westfield on the city block south of State Road 32 between South Union and Mill streets. The project is the first major private development to be announced as a result of the city’s $35 million Grand Junction Plaza project.

On Tuesday, the Westfield Washington Advisory Plan Commission held a public hearing regarding Old Town’s request to rezone the land to a planned unit development to accommodate the project. The four acres the project would occupy are zoned multi-family low-density and local business/historical district.

Ahead of that meeting, the Westfield Preservation Alliance launched a petition against Union Square addressed to Mayor Andy Cook and the Westfield City Council. As of Tuesday night, 288 people had signed.

The petition takes issue with the likelihood that the project will result in a public-private partnership between Old Town and the city and states that approval of the requested PUD is being rushed.

“By signing this petition, you will let the leaders of the City of Westfield know that the residents of our community are tired of being unfairly burdened through public-private partnership to invest in development that fails to consider the integrity of Westfield’s Historic Downtown District and small-town charm of our community,” the petition reads.

A development agreement between the city and Old Town has yet to be presented to the city council. Justin Moffett, a partner with Old Town, confirmed Tuesday that the company is “engaged in conversations with the city about the economics of the project.”

The petition also includes a list of reasons, including the destruction of historic properties, why the Westfield Preservation Alliance opposes the project.

An early conceptual plan gives residents and city officials an idea of what Old Town is proposing. In phase 1, three retail and residential buildings and one stand-alone restaurant would be built along Jersey Street. That phase also includes a stand-alone residential building along Union Street, north of Jersey Street. The current Westfield Lion’s Club would be demolished as part of that plan.

Phase 2 would see the demolition of Wolfie’s Grill and Westfield Pharmacy along State Road 32. They would be replaced with two more residential buildings and a mixed-use building at the corner of Union Street and State Road 32.

Moffett on Tuesday night cautioned residents that the conceptual plans presented are starting points and not final. Old Town seeks to build a development that is authentic to Westfield and includes an eclectic mix of buildings, uses and architectural styles and is open to adjusting its plans to reflect the community’s feedback, he said.

“The proposal for Union Square will certainly elicit an emotional response from those who care about the community,” he said. “Whatever the final plan is for the project, it will bring about significant change in the landscape of downtown, but change is already in motion.”

He said the four-acre site is underutilized with a lot of structures that are dilapidated.

“We’re trying to breath new life into this block of downtown,” he said.

During the public hearing, plan commission members heard from residents both supportive and opposed to the project.

Tim Leonard, who owns Select Home Services in Westfield, said he had the overall vision for Grand Junction Plaza in mind when he sought property on Penn Street for his business. He said he’s supportive of the Union Square rezone.

Westfield Preservation Alliance director Judi Shuck asked plan commission members to look at the big picture and not rush to approve the PUD. More discussion of the project is expected to take place at the next plan commission meeting on Oct. 7.

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11 thoughts on “Petition opposes Union Square project in downtown Westfield

  1. My wife and I are considering purchasing a home in Westfield, but one of our hesitations has been the lack of development in what is “downtown” Westfield. To attract young professionals, that area will eventually need to be developed. The sooner, the better. That being said, while I currently don’t have a horse in the race, I do support the Union Square project for Westfield’s long-term viability and growth.

    1. Aleksandar,

      Good response. Unfortunately, there is a small group, some of whom don’t even live in the city limits of Westfield, that oppose almost anything that will modernize and attract more younger families into the city. They equate old with historical, and historical with buildings. Most of what has already been torn down for the new downtown were cheap duplexes built in the 1980’s, and buildings that were never kept up by their then owners. I worked in one central Indiana city that all but died because the people clung to a past that was never going to return, and refused to look forward.

    2. Aleksander, Bill essentially nailed it to a T. There is a small group that is absolutely opposed to any type of change here in Westfield. I actually personally know two of them and they don’t even live anywhere close to downtown. They are west past Woodwind. Usually that’s the group that is opposing everything. I’ve lived here for 25 years and have seen all the good that changes bring

    3. There is no downtown Westfield, just a cluster of buildings from when Westfield was a one stoplight town. Move to downtown Indianapolis if you want to live in a urban area.

  2. The residents should be much, much more concerned about turning Main Street into a 6 lane monstrosity that will completely ruin any sense of place, destroy the small town feel, and reduce downtown into a place that people drive thru, not too.

    1. Walter… it’s people like you who are holding Westfield back…if you’re opposed to the 32 IMPROVEMENTS then you have absolutely zero clue of what is going on…The “downtown” (if that’s what you really want to call it) won’t be on 32 anymore. They are literally creating a brand new “downtown” area just south of 32 that people will drive to and want to go to. This Union Square project will be part of the new downtown. But no one will be able to get there if they don’t do anything with 32. Anyone with half a brain would understand that the 32 improvements have to happen. Have you ever driven on 32 through Westfield during rush hour? It literally gets backed up through the roundabout and onto the 31 ramp… Widening 32 HAS to happen. And don’t tell me “ oh they are going to tear down historic building”, nothing on the south side of 32 is historic. Only on the north side (which they are saving) are there historic building. SMH Walter, SMH

  3. Don’t know what the hew and cry are about. There is NO DOWNTOWN Westfield, just a bunch of old buildings on a state highway. Some find it difficult to just move on and allow growth that benefits all. Just remember what downtown Carmel used to look like. Our mayor is trying to enhance and develop in this 21st century.

  4. I’m with Aleksandar D. and Richard B. on this one – there is No Such Thing as “Downtown Westfield” – so practically any legitimate development would become the new de facto “downtown” at this point. Damn the NIMBYs in Westfield and Zionsville.

    You think they’re that new hospital is because of the current population? No – you’re going to get another 40,000 residents in the next 10 years, whether you prepare for it or not.

  5. Charles M, I”m not sure why you lump Zionsville in with Westfield. We do have a very vibrant downtown, with a strong historic heritage and a connected village of historic homes. We have successfully opposed development that would alter this, but also encourage development that enhances the historic context of our town and village. We are not opposed to tearing down unsafe buildings or those that have no historical context but as Richard B says “just a bunch of old buildings” is a little short sighted. Old buildings can be repurposed to be both beautiful as reminders of the past as well as fully functional for modern 21st Century purposes. I have yet to see Old Town builders repurpose anything. Just tear down and build new. It would be nice if they could work with the “NIMBYs” to find a balance. Good luck.

  6. Existing residents should be heard on these development matters, of course. I would just encourage those who have an innate disposition to oppose to reach out and have a dialog with the developer. Too often the formula is the same, the opposition starts with sound bite rhetoric – the development will overcrowd our schools and diminish their performance, existing property values will be harmed, public resources will be stretched, traffic problems will result, etc. So, efforts like these petitions pick up steam – when you are buttonholed on the street to sign a petition, who wouldn’t sign something to oppose all these terrible outcomes?
    Any good developer will acknowledge that no development is perfect, however the remonstration effort is usually loath to acknowledge any community benefit from the growth. Local politicians are naturally motivated to seek re-election and the incumbent citizens who run the remonstration effort threaten their political futures. Businesses don’t have the strength in numbers of voters, so their interest takes a back seat – yet the downtown vibe that is to be “protected” from growth are represented by the businesses (in Indiana at a tax cap triple that of homeowners) who generally want more customers.
    So, everyone should do their homework, then come to a solid conclusion as to whether opposition to the changes to incumbent citizenry that the development will represent should trump a course correction for a community that is intended to target a future demographic, likely well-researched by the developer.
    It’s easiest for humans to accept sameness – it’s familiar and so feels safe. But all of us should recognize that whatever experiences and environment we have has a “best by” date. Our society is changing and expectations for lifestyles in the future are not the same as in the recent past. A vibrant and alive community has the ability to accept and adapt. Change does not only represent loss of the past, it represents embrace of a hopeful future.