Westfield has been on the map for developers for 20 years now but between the recession and uncontrollable’s it has taken that many years to really get their attention. For the last couple of years and especially in 2020 we have had more interest then ever from mixed use, commercial, residential and industrial planners with a desire to be in what we think is the best emerging market in Indiana. For years the residential developers have graced us with every level of home from the apartments to custom estates and with that comes an attractive market for business users. In the early years of a cities growth it can be unbalanced where we see much more residential development or traditional neighborhoods but as time goes on the need for commercial development and infill projects increases to make up for the burden a typical neighborhood brings. We are there and personally I think we are dealing with a pent up demand from years of lets just call it “high standards” for development.
Recently we have heard several neat projects come before the council and as a real estate professional in the market everyday a couple of them deserve much more attention and celebration from planners then they receive in my opinion. I understand that while hearing a project the job of the commissions is to vet out and plan the best for a community but at some point we have to celebrate and open our arms to the good ones. We have watched several projects that could have been game changers be run off and other times watched the process exhaust the anxious investor to go elsewhere. So I wanted to highlight a couple of projects that I feel warrant praise more then opposition and grand standing. We are blessed to be in the way of progress and its a gift we should not take lightly.
Lantern Commons – Lantern Commons is a 60 acre mixed use development chasing the modern demands on development. For starters its on a highly visible prominent site that has sat vacant for many years after several unsuccessful attempts to develop. Today its is being proposed for residential, hotel, retail and potentially some office use and it definitely has more positives then negatives as a long term project. For starters it has a developer wanting to buy it and invest in it which is a big plus but they also see it as a great place to put there money with a strong return. Apartment communities that attract young professionals to work and play in our city are something I think we overlook and small retail and office projects can be a pretty neat transition to a downtown. Obviously we spent the last decade wanting to be a hotel city so its a natural fit but todays hotels are much more than for team sports. They house families visiting and professional travelers and honestly are much better looking then Panda Express. Does it have a huge office building? No those don’t happen like they used to. I hope that this project gets approved and someone writes this out of state investor a thank you letter for choosing our little corner to risk their money.
Kalorama – Yeah I am involved in this project but only because I was excited to bring a dead unattractive development back to light in todays market. I was so excited to get some interest in this site by a newer local development company that was already constructing an independent living facility in our downtown. Yes this is our downtown! So to expand that project due to demand was refreshing. Our downtown consists of some pretty cool trails and parks so its a natural fit to have people looking for living options with access to these. Our downtown badly needs density and mixed residential options for people at different stages in life but the negativity towards these risk takers is weird. Sure its not been done in Westfield but its being done in nearly every other successful downtown. Is it large custom homesites? Nope and thats not all that should be built in a walkable district. We go to planning meetings were we hear about wanting to have connectivity and a special way of life but when we see what that really means we take a step back. Do I think the project needs work? Yes but I also think we should be more encouraging to these types of infill demands and look for ways to welcome them. I think back to when Estridge was planning townhomes on Poplar St and we heard so much noise about it not fitting in. They were right it was nice and new and cool unlike anything else on that block and as they begin construction the buzz about these new residential options in the Mid $400’s is far beyond what anyone would have imagined. Had Estridge listened to the commissions we would have 2 $500 per month run down rentals and 2 overgrown lots to be proud of. We have to show some love for new different ideas and in this case a really smart idea.
Woods Robinson Briggs – Maybe its the name that got it off to the wrong start but recent plans submitted were essentially turned away. One of the pieces in that project that I see as being important in 2021 but oddly unattractive to the boards is the single family rental project. I get a call every other week from national developers that want to bring similar projects to our market and with todays workforce being as transient as it is, we may need to be more educated on this product. It is attractive for a well earning professional to not buy a home but they want to live in a nice home. With so many uncertainties and so many not wanting to commit to a 30 year mortgage the ability to lease a really nice house is a great option. This is being done in the fastest growing markets for a couple of reasons. 1 they offset the high cost of ground, development and local design standards so a renter can afford more home for their money. 2 these communities are typically attracting the best new hires and those workers don’t see every place they move as their forever home so they want options. Apartments are cool but being able to rent a nice home is even cooler. We have Grand Park, The Monon Trail and US 31 so we are going to also hopefully be chasing those business users that bring employees and I can bet that this rental option would far outweigh an apartment or buying to a large percentage and to not have it hurts more then having it and accepting change.
I understand its a tough job to plan for a community and so many things are changing but to not be open to what our offerings are going to bring development wise is hard to understand. We have spent so many years creating a place we want everyone to feel welcome and be happy living, with the best schools, low debt and amazing safety standards we also need to understand and adapt to new ways people want to live here. Otherwise we will continue to be passed over for our neighbors. #bestfield