The exquisite planning of the live-work-play Discovery Park District at Purdue community

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., June 09, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Creating a community means more than planning roads and water lines, constructing buildings and placing an "Open for Business" sign on a window. Creating a community doesn't happen overnight, least of all when standards for the quality of life in the community are as high as the standards of its neighboring, internationally renowned research university.

Developing the Discovery Park District at Purdue in West Lafayette, Indiana, has required vision and discipline from the start. The vision to create a live-work-play campus for the next generation of students, families and companies. The discipline to form a strong foundation by recruiting key corporate partners. The Discovery Park District is an example of the remarkable things can be created when academia, industry and government work together on a common goal.

What is the Discovery Park District?

The Discovery Park District is a 400-acre, mixed-use development adjacent to Purdue University's West Lafayette, Indiana, campus. It includes laboratories and other resources for academic research; manufacturing facilities for companies that offer high-tech, high-paying jobs; and multiple housing options like townhomes, single-family homes and apartments. It is in the midst of a $1.2 billion, 20-year development that began with re-routing U.S. Route 231 around West Lafayette and continued when the city annexed the university in 2016.

Rich Michal is senior vice president of capital projects and facilities at Purdue Research Foundation, a private, nonprofit foundation that manages the Discovery Park District. He said the district is more than its individual parts.

"It's enhancing the university's ability to attract and retain talent," Michal said. "It's an economic development vehicle for Purdue University, the Greater Lafayette community and state of Indiana."

The beginning

Jeremy Slater is vice president of capital projects and facilities at Purdue Research Foundation. He said a key milestone to developing the Discovery Park District came when West Lafayette annexed the Purdue campus.

"Purdue officially became part of the city; all of the university's land is now within city limits," Slater said. "This enabled the establishment of new TIF, or Tax Increment Financing, districts. They established a growing tax base that supports Purdue Research Foundation's commitment to the Discovery Park District project and Purdue."

Community through connectivity

Slater said connecting people with one another is an important aspect of creating a sense of community anywhere, including the Discovery Park District.

 "The district is being developed as a walkable, dense, urban environment where people are going to interact with one another. Provenance, which anchors the residential part of the district, follows new urbanism principles: it is built for people, not cars. All homes have porches and thoughtful designs in their master plans to get people connected," Slater said.

"That connectivity extends to commercial buildings like the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration, which has an outdoor plaza where people can congregate and interact. This master plan intentionally creates a sense of place."

Strategy behind development and expansion      

Michal said PRF is attracting private industry to build the buildings on a specific timeline.

"From a timing standpoint, we built student housing first since it serves Purdue University. Next was the Convergence Center for Innovation and Collaboration, a central location that provides outward-facing connections for the foundation and Purdue academic departments; it allows businesses to access the university and the foundation."

Slater said all development is market-driven and strategic. He said the 20-year plan needs time to be successful.

"Ultimately you need people in the community, and housing is in high demand in West Lafayette," Slater said. "Now that we have people living in the residential housing, we can engage with the commercial side of the district, and they'll show up."

Quality design and sustainability

Michal said the Purdue Research Foundation has advantages over traditional real estate developers, including a strong relationship with the city and high standards for quality design work.

"We try to make every building and project sustainable, and we push our corporate partners to do the same," Michal said. "The Convergence Center, for example, was LEED-Silver certified after it was completed in 2020. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a group of rating systems for the creation, development and oversight of green structures. Certification ranges from silver to gold to platinum."

Sustainability also includes reducing the Discovery Park District community's dependence on single-passenger vehicles.

"We are focusing on new urbanism components to make the community a pedestrian center, more walkable and with multiuse buildings," Michal said. "We're blessed with close proximity to the university and the culture and entertainment offerings it provides. We want to take advantage of and encourage pedestrian and bike connectivity with those resources."

Establishing a national focus

Michal said the Discovery Park District is looking to make a national impact.

"Our community isn't competing with the Greater Lafayette or Tippecanoe County market. We are competing against MIT in Boston, Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and Silicon Valley in California," Michal said. "We're attracting people and companies that want to be connected to Purdue University."

Committing to Discovery Park District - residential

Slater has been astonished at the public's response to the residential housing.

"Aspire, the student apartment complex, is full," Slater said. "Sales at Continuum, a deluxe apartment complex with luxury amenities, are going very well, too."

Then there's Provenance. Its intergenerational design features single-family detached homes, townhomes, cottages, condominiums and market-rate apartments. It also includes plans for features such as a community center, a fitness center, restaurants and retail, a day care facility and preschool, a centralized green space and community gardens.

"Provenance is 100% preleased; it was full before it even opened," Slater said.

As demand for housing in the live-work-play community is met, market demand for amenities such as restaurants, retail and medical grows. Ascension St. Vincent will construct an eight-bed microhospital in the Discovery Park District, making emergency care in West Lafayette possible for the first time.

Committing to Discovery Park District - industrial

High-tech manufacturing companies Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Rolls-Royce and Saab have brought many millions of investment dollars and, more importantly, hundreds of jobs to the district. They also have buoyed Purdue University expertise by authorizing several research agreements with the College of Engineering. Through those efforts, the local workforce has expanded, and there is increased market need for residential and commercial entities to join the community.

"These three companies locating new facilities in the district have had such a positive impact: industry wants to be part of and grow in West Lafayette," Slater said. "They're moving their employees and their families here."

Beyond the initial development plan

The Discovery Park District will continue to grow and evolve as corporate partners locate jobs and workers to the area and as those workers need options for housing, entertainment, health care, education and lifestyle amenities — outcomes of a community-building approach marked by vision and careful planning.

"Is there an end point to creating the district? I hope not," Slater said. "There's continual improvement and discovery and rediscovery. We are touting this as an innovative place and there will be changing technologies. The district will evolve, and we'll continue to do that as well."


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