Gateway district looks to include large hotel, possible office building
By Navar Watson
Decades ago, Indiana residents would visit the self-proclaimed “world’s largest” Dairy Queen off U.S. 31 and Ind. 32 in Westfield.
Though the Dairy Queen’s long gone, this historic piece of ground might once again draw in tourists coming off the recently elevated U.S. 31 freeway.
The Gateway Southwest project, introduced in March, plans to see a new hotel and up to four restaurants or other one-story buildings the 7.1-acre property, previously occupied by Waitt Elevator Co., Inc.
“These kinds of developments are exactly what the city had in mind some six or eight years ago when we found that (U.S.) 31 was going to be a freeway,” Mayor Andy Cook said at the Westfield City Council Meeting July 13.
At this meeting, the council approved various amendments to the Gateway district – mainly the relocation of the hotel from the south side of the property to the east side and an established minimum of 10,000 square feet. This way, drivers can see the hotel from the raised U.S. 31 freeway.
The project is approved for a minimum four-story, 100-key hotel, but project manager Birch Dalton and other city officials have bigger hopes.
Rather than a limited-service, express-type of hotel, Dalton wants to see a larger, boutique hotel that, for the residing hotel group, could serve as an “anchor for the northern part of Hamilton County.
There is only one hotel in Westfield, though it has a Carmel address – the 75-room Holiday Inn Express & Suites off Thacher Lane and E. 151st Street.
The proposed “boutique” hotel has the potential for conference space and a restaurant, Dalton said, but these ideas are dependent on the city’s vision and developments in the surrounding Grand Park area.
The upcoming, 300-room Drury Plaza Hotel in Carmel also causes some competition.
“That’s the risk that [we]take,” Dalton said about building the large hotel. “If you build it, they will come.”
According to industry standards, a hotel costs around $100,000-125,000 per key. A 100-room hotel, then, could cost between $10 and $12 million.
The other buildings in the Gateway Southwest project at, at minimum, one-story, 7,000-square-foot businesses. The ordinance has approved fast casual restaurants – restaurants that make food to order. Fast food restaurants, religious institutions and clubs, among other establishments, are prohibited.
In the past week, however, a surprise, “high-quality” tenant approached Dalton, requesting a proposal for a 30,000-square-foot office building, which could radically change the project.
The office building would stand by the hotel on the east side of the property. Dalton submitted a proposal to the tenant and is now waiting on a response.
“I’ve got to keep it flexible for the next couple of weeks to see if that takes hold,” Dalton said. “To land a hotel and an office on that side would be a major accomplishment for Westfield.”
For now, the backup plan is the express-style hotel and surrounding restaurants, which Dalton said would also benefit the community. Unless the office deal comes through, the hotel will be phase one of the project.
Erin Murphy, communications director for the City of Westfield, said overall, this project and surrounding Grand Park developments are an effort to “diversify the tax base” for the community and focus on tourism and the service industry.
“With the influx of visitors and tourists that we get, we need places for them to stay so they’re staying in our community and spending their money in our community,” Murphy said. “This is just one step closer to that.”