BY KEN THOMPSON
Decades after his parents lived in Married Student Housing while attending Purdue University, Rich Michal is playing a role in a “once in a century” project that will turn the complex into a memory.
Michal, vice president of the Purdue Research Foundation, is excited to talk about Provenance, part of the $1.2 billion, long-term Discovery Park District project that will transform the west side of campus with the creation of a walkable urban neighborhood.
Provenance is the latest offshoot of the State Street Project, a combined effort of Purdue and the city of West Lafayette. The $120 million project has, during the past four years, changed traffic patterns from the Wabash River, through downtown West Lafayette and Purdue University out to U.S. 231. Purdue President Mitch Daniels saw an opportunity for the Discovery Park District to take advantage of the State Street work to find industry that would be a good fit with the university’s strengths and then
build housing and amenities for those workers.
“The original genesis was to help finance and help pay for that State Street investment but the bigger picture is this is an opportunity to attract the best student minds and faculty and to retain some of those,” Michal says. ”We’ve got 40,000 students a year, and the majority of those are gradually moving elsewhere. We want to give them a reason to stay in West Lafayette. It’s about providing that live, work, learn, play opportunity.
“Saab and Schweitzer (Engineering Laboratory) love the fact we’re going to have those homes right there where folks can ride their bikes to work in addition to all the educational, cultural and athletic opportunities the university provides.”
Old Town Design Group of Carmel has come up with a plan that will feature a combination of 500 single-family detached homes, townhomes and apartments. Justin Moffett, a partner of Old Town, says the design will hearken back to early 1900s homes with the majority of home lots having garage access through alleys. That eliminates front driveways and enhances the walkability of the neighborhood.
“They’ve done similar projects in midtown Carmel and we loved their product,” Michal says. “They are more of a traditional looking craftsman-style home. They do the front porches and the alley-loaded garages. We felt like their semi-custom product was more appealing and more original.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Old Town’s construction plans remain on schedule to begin this summer according to Erin Easter, director of development for the city of West Lafayette. Old Town hopes to have a model home ready by February and begin selling lots this fall.
“This is the first new neighborhood in the city limits in quite some time,” Easter says. “PRF, the city and the university worked closely on the design aesthetic for the neighborhood.”
Provenance is targeting an upscale clientele with single-family homes starting in the low $400,000 range, and townhomes starting at $350,000. By spring 2021, the first families will be able to move into two- and three-story townhomes that will have a private outdoor living area and a two-car garage.
Single family detached homes will be available this spring as well, ranging in size from 1,600 to 3,536 square feet. These semi-custom homes will have the option of master bedrooms upstairs and downstairs, as well as ranch design.
By summer 2021, Old Town anticipates the completion of 142 apartments spread out over four buildings. The following year, 108 more units will be available over five buildings. Studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be available.
That won’t be all of the change coming to the west side of campus.
“Between the Aerospace District and Discovery Park District, we anticipate a lot of growth in the southwest side of the city,” Easter says. “Businesses typically follow residents, so once we have a residential base, you will start to see other amenities popping up in the area,” Easter says.
Michal hopes those amenities include health care and a large grocery store, which could lead to the end of another long-standing complex.
“What I’m hoping is two things: one, work with the university to put in a micro-hospital or health care facility,” he says. “The other thing … we’d love to get a 20-30,000-square-foot grocery right there off the corner of State and McCormick. With Purdue and access to students, plus 500 rooftops, we think our chances of landing a grocery will increase substantially.
“Purdue West has been a great facility. It was a great complex and it’s helped us generate a lot of revenue over its lifetime. But it’s old, tired and there may be a better use of the land there. We’d love to have a health care facility there and right across the street, just south of Hort Park, have a grocery and some retail. And all of that will help us attract more students, staff, faculty and corporations.”
Saab, which will be manufacturing military training aircraft, is the latest corporation to buy into the long-term vision. It won’t be the last in Purdue’s effort to retain its best and brightest.
“There are folks working right now with the PRF and the university to try to attract similar businesses to Saab, aerospace and aviation companies,” Michal says. “We’ve got a great partnership with Rolls Royce. We’re also trying to re-establish a commercial service with the airport. We’re hopeful on that.
“We’re trying to help promote and support the university as it changes the world through its faculty, students and technology. We’re attracting corporations here to help them in recruiting our students and tapping into our research institutions. We want them to come here, establish roots and plant a flag on campus.”
Years from now, Michal envisions Provenance being a desirable place to live like another West Lafayette neighborhood.
“Look at Hills and Dales and how beautiful a neighborhood that is,” Michal says. “Something like that.”