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11/8/2017 6:20:00 PM
COMMENTARY: Developers of Purdue's Innovation District get a do-over
This map shows the outline of a project Purdue is dubbing its Innovation District. It will combine space for housing, retail and industry on the western edge of campus. Image provided by Purdue University
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This map shows the outline of a project Purdue is dubbing its Innovation District. It will combine space for housing, retail and industry on the western edge of campus. Image provided by Purdue University

Dave Bangert, Journal and Courier Columnist

WEST LAFAYETTE – It took two tries, but the first piece is in place for the Innovation District, a vast western campus plan Purdue University trumpets could be worth $1.2 billion in private development one day. Zoning for the refigured Innovation Place Apartments – a private, threebuilding complex planned on the site that once was home to some of Purdue’s Married Student Housing units – fairly easily won West Lafayette City Council endorsement Monday night.

The council had done the same in January with the first iteration of the new venture in campus housing, situated along State Street at MacArthur Drive. But Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions, a Malverne, Pennsylvania, developer, and Purdue Research Foundation, which owns the land, asked to redesign the project that will have roughly the same number of beds – 835 now vs. 841 in the original – and about half the retail space, down from 15,000 square feet to 7,852 square feet.

The undercurrent of the conversation Monday, though, was a testament to how easy it’s been lately to take for granted the swift growth on the edges to the West Lafayette campus.

Yeah, but what’s next?

No one said it that way, exactly.

On Monday, it played itself out, instead, in a conversation about parking and the accommodations the city made in the Innovation Place Apartments doover. Instead of new garages or surface lots, the city allowed the developer to temporarily fold parking into dedicated space in existing Purdue garages for the next three years.

The idea, according to Erik Carlson, the city’s development director, was that with hundreds of acres of what he called a master project to fill over the next 20 years, Innovation District developers had promised to come up with shared parking of some sort that would serve more than just the 835 residents of Innovation Place Apartments. Why jam a piecemeal parking solution on the first piece of the puzzle?

What if Browning Investments, the Indianapolis-based firm Purdue Research Foundation hired in 2016 to recruit developers for Innovation District, came up short? Carlson said the city would pull the occupancy permit.

Not that he thought it would come to that.

Larry Leverenz was among the council members who asked in various ways whether the city was setting a precedent that other developers would look to use. Council President Peter Bunder dropped the names of Loren King and Marc Muinzer – developers working on their own plans for three high-profile properties in the West Lafayette Village, including Chauncey Hill Mall – as he anticipated the return of proposals to use remote parking schemes to maximize land close to campus.

Carlson said size and scope – a couple of acres on the high side of the Village developments compared to more than 400 acres in the Innovation District – made all the difference.

The implication: Something’s coming next on west campus. And it won’t be long.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR


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