Photographer / Justin Sicking
Back in 2008 when Andy Cook was the newly elected mayor of Westfield, the city’s downtown area needed to be revived. He realized that while it had great potential, there were challenges that needed to be met. After several years of planning, obstacles were turned into assets, resulting in the newly opened Grand Junction Plaza. This one-of-a-kind community gathering place will be the location for many events, showcasing the growing vibrancy of Westfield.
“There were just a few merchants, one old breakfast restaurant, and an auto repair shop that was so little it had to park cars on the street and work on them there,” Cook says. “There were challenges. We don’t have a courthouse. We are not the county seat. We had a lack of parking, and busy State Road 32 goes through the city. It’s not going to go away and there is no bypass. Unlike Carmel and Noblesville, we don’t have a grid. So many streets ‘T’ into each other because of the creek that runs right through Westfield.”
The natural occurrence of creek waters flowing through the area was a main concern for the Grand Junction Task Group, formed in 2008. The goal of the group was to investigate what downtown Westfield could become. The members were instructed to dream big without limits.In the end they found Land Collective, a landscape architecture firm based in Philadelphia, that shared their vision of a unique, multi-use city park located in part at the confluence of waters coming together.
It took 10 years to acquire the land and get the permits needed to rework the drainage issues and put flood control measures into place before construction began on the project. Now in the spot where a neighborhood used to be, quaint businesses in old houses still surround the site. Their eclectic look fits in well with the architecture of the three structures within the park.
The opening of the buildings will be staggered, and the first will be available to the public in mid-December with restrooms a future café. Next winter, visitors will be able to enjoy ice skating with skate rentals. A stage with a sound system is in place, and through the next few years it will evolve into a covered bandshell amphitheater. The third structure will house restrooms and information in the southeast corner at the Midland Trace Trail trailhead.
A soft opening with a ribbon-cutting will be held in January. Additional spring landscaping and planting will ready the park for Lantern Days, which commemorates Westfield’s May 1834 founding. Still in the planning stages, live music and maybe even some soapbox car races are in the works. Throughout the summer, reoccurring programs such as movie nights, concerts and yoga will be held. Cuisine.Connect.Culture., which features food traditions from all over the world, is planned for the Plaza in the fall.
“It’s not the usual downtown park and it’s very different from our Grand Park Sports Campus, yet it’s a perfect addition to Westfield tourism,” Cook says. “Sports visitors can stay a couple more days and visit Grand Junction Plaza. It gives them opportunities to visit what’s local.”
Grand Junction Plaza is located in downtown Westfield and can be accessed by Jersey, Mill or South Union streets.