Westfield council OKs $2.5M to make way for mixed-use project

The city of Westfield will help Westfield High School replace its aging football stadium, making way for a $40 million commercial development at U.S. 31 and State Road 32.

City Council members heard from a half-dozen ardent supporters during a public hearing Monday night, but most already had decided to approve the $2.5 million contribution. The measure passed 7-0.

Westfield-Washington Schools had asked for the financial boost to accelerate construction of a stadium behind the high school, allowing the district to sell the high-profile parcel to a local development team with a grand vision.

As IBJ reported Friday, Westfield Community Investors is working on plans for a mixed-use “life wellness” project on 14 acres northeast of the intersection, now home to the district’s athletic fields and administrative offices.

The stakes are high, given the property’s location at a key gateway to downtown.

The developer expects The Junction to include a multi-story medical office building, a hotel with meeting space, an indoor family entertainment center—think laser tag and mini golf—and some restaurant and retail space, partner Randy Zentz told the council.

A future phase could include an “independent senior living product,” he said.

Council President Jim Ake said the $2.5 million would come from proceeds of the city’s water utility sale, and the money would be repaid through property taxes the commercial development will generate. School-owned land is not taxed.

And the project could serve as a catalyst for additional development, he said.

“I don’t know of a better win-win situation than this,” he said before the public hearing.

No one spoke against the proposal, and Councilor Steve Hoover said only one of the 300 or so emails he received on the subject was negative.

Councilor Rob Stokes said he would support the contribution as long as it was understood—and made official during the rezoning process—that the city would not offer any additional incentives for the project, and that the property owners and tenants must be tax-paying, for-profit entities.

 “One of the principle reasons we’re looking at this is the tax base incentive,” he said.

Mayor Andy Cook praised the council’s willingness to work with the school district to determine what’s best for the community.

“It shows, with cooperation, what government entities can do,” he said.

The Westfield Chamber of Commerce board also supported the proposal.

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