Construction and Grand Park are big components of the city’s future in 2013
Construction crews and dump trucks will be a common sight in Westfield this year. Mayor Andy Cook explained that the neon vests and hardhats would not strictly be on U.S. 31 as several projects throughout the city were slated to begin.
“We’ve been planning for several years, and the next three years are years of implementation and the reality of all of these projects we talked about,” he said.
What projects should residents keep an eye on?
Lighting, artificial turf, seeding and sodding will be the next major steps in preparing Grand Park to become inhabited by sporting teams.
“By the end of summer, the 15 artificial turf fields should all be installed,” Cook said. “By the fall, they can be played on if the surrounding natural grass area is well enough along.”
Of the project’s 30 soccer fields, Cook said 18 would be Bermuda grass and 12 would be Kentucky bluegrass. The major difference between the two is the time it takes to properly grow. Cook said the Kentucky bluegrass required more than a year to mature while the Bermuda grass needed just months.
“There should be some field play in the fall,” he said.
While some of the fields will be ready, the official Grand Park opening will take place in mid-spring of 2014. Cook said work would be ongoing this year at the complex to fields, the stadium and indoor facilities.
“It’s very exciting. There is a possibility of a YMCA coming there,” he said.
The city will begin marketing of naming rights and sponsorships of the complex in March, Cook said.
Although not a city project, the Day family and Henke Development Group will begin work on Grand Park Village this year. Located just south of Grand Park, the 220-acre project will include a 20-acre lake, boardwalk, trails, restaurants, retail stores, offices, medical buildings, multi-family housing, hotels and entertainment options.
This type of private-sector investment is exactly why the city is building Grand Park and Grand Junction, Cook said.
“The private sector attracts businesses that would not otherwise be here in Westfield,” he said. “If the city builds an amenity, the private sector will build around it.”
Cook said the city needed $200 million of commercial investment in the next 10 years to make Grand Park pay off.
“The estimated investment in Grand Park Village is $230 million in that project alone,” he said.
In February, the plaza plan will be 50 percent developed, which means the city can begin to acquire all the necessary, and numerous, permits. Cook said the development was purposely planned for the floodplain to use creeks. For the past year, the city has been completing the regional storm water plan for downtown.
“It’s pretty expensive,” he said.
Cook explained that the city had the option of storing storm water under parking lots or building retention ponds downtown, but he explained that retention ponds were less desirable because they took away from taxable land.
Instead, the city will be creating ponds west of downtown that will be built when INDOT construction crews need dirt to build the overpasses – thus lowering the overall cost of the project.
“They know where to get very cheap dirt,” he joked. “These will be inexpensive ponds.”
Starting this month, the Grand Junction Task Force Group will begin the final design of the plaza with engineers and designers.
“They’ll battle over the final specifications and plans for the project,” Cook said. “Then we can move on to construction in the next couple of years.”
Before the Grand Junction project can begin, Cook said the city must buy 27 individual parcels of land.
“We’ve purchased four or five pieces and demolished the first piece of downtown,” he said.
The construction planned for U.S. 31 in 2013 is 146th Street north to 169th Street. The next phase of construction went out to bid last week – “below engineer estimates,” Cook said. The other two phases of this year’s project will be bid in March and August. This year’s plans call for an overpass at 161st Street and interchanges at 151st and 161st streets.
“Construction begins this summer,” he said. “They’ll be tearing down homes all winter.”
U.S. 31 construction has not been a topic of controversy from residents or the business community.
“146th Street and Greyhound Pass went much smoother to businesses that what they anticipated,” Cook said. “We have not had complaints on traffic – nothing like I thought we might have. It’s going to get a little messier.”
Cook said the U.S. 31-Ind. 32 interchange will occur next year and the major moves construction will be finished in Westfield in mid-2015.
Currently, the pending transfer of Westfield’s water and wastewater assets to Citizens Energy Group for $91 million is in the hands of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for its approval.
“We’re totally at their will,” Cook said, adding that the lengthy process could take nine to 12 months.
The city is consulting with financial people to determine how the funds can best be used by the city. The city will use half ($45 million) to pay off its water utility debt. The remaining amount will be used to assist Westfield’s transition into a growing city with roundabouts, trails and other needs, Cook said.
“We’re working with the council on infrastructure projects,” he said.
Public Safety Training
Westfield owns 80 acres along River Road in Noblesville. Cook said the area, which includes city wells, is being developed into a public safety training site where police and fire crews from across the county can train together. It also includes a state-of-the-art firing range, and the first building there has a couple private sector businesses as paying customers, including the Department of Defense.