WESTFIELD, Ind. – A $35 million project in Westfield could transform downtown. While many are on board, some aren’t so sure about the price tag. Both sides are speaking out ahead of a big vote next week.
There’s a big pile of dirt now sitting off State Road 32 and Union Street. But soon, it will look a lot different.
“It’s really not so beautiful, but we’re going to make it that way,” said Mayor Andy Cook when talking about Westfield’s downtown area.
It’s a grand plan, years in the making for what will be known as the Grand Junction Park and Plaza.
The six-acre park would have a performance space, trails, pavilions and gathering spaces, an ice-skating rink, and plenty of playgrounds. Another part of the project would be restoring the Grassy Branch Creek.
“It’s a lot more than just a swing set and a jungle gym,” added Mayor Cook.
“We’re all taxpayers, we want what’s best,” said Troy Patton, who’s been a resident of Westfield for almost 20 years.
A group of residents like Patton say they have more questions before this becomes a reality.
“I think the bigger question is, is the cost worth it?” asked Patton. “Any vision is only a vision without the financial success behind it. We’re all taxpayers, we want what’s best, it doesn’t mean the city of Westfield is doing really well so we should spend the money that we have.”
Mayor Cook is asking the City Council on Monday to begin the process of issuing $35 million that will eventually be TIF bonds. He says he’s convinced it’s the correct financial move.
“Even with the addition of this $35 million debt, Westfield will continue to have the lowest debt per capita in Hamilton county of all four cities and our county government,” said Cook.
Mayor Cook says he has full confidence that the project at Grand Junction Park will be a great addition due to the continued success four miles away at the Grand Park Sports Complex.
“I went through the same thing with grand park, oh my gosh, that mayor is a nut, are you kidding me? We’re going to put $85 million into a four-acre sports park? It is over producing a commercial tax base, which is what it was supposed to do. I’m pretty confident we know what we’re doing here,” said Cook.
Mayor Cook says the growth of the city and growth of tax assessed value cover the costs, but Patton is still not convinced. Although he is for development, he thinks there’s a better way to pay for it.
“Nobody is really against it, but it’s a race to the top or bottom with Noblesville, Fishers and Carmel and frankly who’s ever at the top and bottom is going to be a loser,” said Patton.
But according to Mayor Andy Cook, he says, “I’m thoroughly convinced we can now afford it and one of the reasons is, we cannot afford not to do it.”