A Comprehensive Plan Versus Reality in a growing city.

I work in a small market and spend the majority of my time studying every square inch that I can find to hopefully bring value to my current and future clients.  One of the steps is watching City Council and Planning Commission meetings as well as being a part of committee’s that work to reimagine how Westfield may look in the future.  I try to visit as many other successful cities and also study their processes, planning and use meetings.  Recently there has been a growing disconnect between what is known as the Westfield Washington Comprehensive Plan and what the market really wants, causing some strife between the development community and these commissions.  I want to break down a couple of the examples and look at what might be the disconnect or explanation to an ongoing scenario. 

 

One of the difficulties I see played out is the constant battle of the hard working plan commission vs the interest of developers to do projects.  The plan commission has committed itself to using the comprehensive plan as their bible for development yet in my eyes, those developments are not coming.  For instance the Grand Park Family Sports addendum.  It calls for sports related commercial and retail as well as services that support the large scale tournaments all inside what is known as the Grand Park PUD.   Unfortunately those users are not seeing this location as ideal and are quickly choosing other places to setup shop.  This leaves these large parcels of ground with ready and willing sellers to figure out a different development that can pass the APC vote and onto council.  In my mind it’s almost as if we need to re-envision what might instead go in these areas and give the APC a new plan to enforce as apposed to just hoping these original users will change their mind.  The Shoppes at Grand Park are a perfect example.  Its a small, very small piece of ground that was designated for retail and office to serve visitors and the Grand Park in general.  It would be beautiful and set on a neat lake next to a hotel and other planned commercial users.  The problem is none of those users want to be there and continue to line up along SR 32 similar to Avon and leaving the land in Grand Park sort of unmarketable.   There are also very large pieces of farm ground that could support sports related headquarters, medical users and cool ancillary businesses.  In the 6 or so years since Grand Park opened we still only have a few of those installed and an excess amount of ready to go ground.   Is it missing the mark and a better spot for high end residential or light industrial?  I don’t know 

Another is the US 31 corridor that was pegged as a big corporate corridor similar to how Carmel’s Keystone avenue and Meridian st are lined with headquarters and larger office users.  Its beautiful and has served Carmel very well but again, that user has changed.  Do we adjust and encourage other development types or do we hold our ground and hope the big office players see this as the next location?  There is talks that in some of the markets with heavy large office users, they are looking for ways to mix in high density residential and high end apartments as many of those employers are shrinking their footprint but want to provide a live/work option for their recruits.   Is this becoming an upscale apartment corridor that drives people into our downtown and supports the smaller more technical employers?  I don’t know.

Lastly, the identification of what the downtown consists of is changing daily and its hard to figure out the transition from rural to a central business district where everyone wants to gravitate towards.  Sometimes I use the GIS map and measure out from the center of Fishers or Greenville, SC and how far out their downtown really extends.  In Westfield sometimes we are still just looking at 3 to 4 blocks.  In a couple of years those 3 to 4 blocks will be out a mile or more and it needs to be understood that those are the areas that the market is chasing and bringing ideas for density, high end residential and cool places for young employees to settle in.   Are we really seeing the Midland Trace potential or what might be a walkable distance?  I don’t know. 

I don’t think there is a quick answer to any of this and I sure know I don’t know a way to ease the pressure.  But, there seems to be a major disconnect between what Westfield thought it was and what its growing into.  I think commissions like the APC have worked tirelessly to preserve what so many before them considered and the councilors are charged with representing their voters in what they see as worthy.  What I wonder is when does the market start to matter and at what pace.  There can be a complete reversal and free-for-all or there can be an absolute stop of progress.  I am sure there are advocates for both but the middle is usually where we succeed as a larger community.  It’s a balance between a city that has many generations and time to progress and a city that misses the opportunities of today.  I wouldn’t want anyones job that has to take all of that into consideration and am grateful that we have really smart people that spend dozens of hours a week trying to do the right thing.  Hopefully we continue to evolve as a one of a kind amazing City and build what tens of thousands of people moved here for.  #bestfield

Curt has been in the Indianapolis Real Estate business for over 15 years and spent his first years learning all aspects of commercial management and brokerage.  He has had great success in managing existing commercial projects and new retail and office developments.  Curt specializes in building owner and land representation and purchases in the Westfield Indiana market as well throughout the Indianapolis Metro area.  Curt is passionate about growing the local Westfield community and in his free time  volunteers with Student Impact and raising 2 children with his wife Jennifer.