In a close vote at its March 11 meeting, the Westfield City Council approved an ordinance allowing for bonds of up to $39 million to be issued for the long-awaited Grand Junction Park and Plaza project.
The ordinances approving the financing were passed 4-3, with councilors Joe Edwards, Chuck Lehman and Cindy Spoljaric voting nay, all citing the park’s cost as an issue.
More than 10 years in the making, the project will sit on 6 acres in the heart of downtown Westfield, at the southwest corner of Main and Union streets.
City officials at the meeting vowed that residents would not see a tax hike, as the city will use tax-increment financing dollars to pay back the bonds, which will be done once the project is built out. And if money from the TIF districts doesn’t cover that cost, officials said local income tax dollars will be used.
John Rogers, Westfield’s director of enterprise development, said based on current projections, there should be no issue with paying back the bonds with TIF money, because revenues from the TIF districts is expected to grow by nearly $3 million in the next five years. Rogers said an even stronger projection shows more than $20 million in the same amount of time.
Eleven residents spoke against the project during the public hearing and eight were for it. Most speaking against said the overall cost was simply too high, while others pointed to the Grand Park sports complex as an example of an economic development project that didn’t perform as quickly or as well as the city projected. Those speaking in favor of the project were primarily business owners who said they started or moved their business to Westfield with the anticipation of Grand Junction being successful, or were members of the Grand Junction Task Group, a group of residents and stakeholders who originally got the project off the ground several years ago.
City officials said construction of Grand Junction Park and Plaza could start as early as this summer for a projected completion date of summer 2021.