Purdue Takes on $1B Innovation District

The university is teaming up with Browning Investments to develop a massive mixed-use project in West Lafayette, Ind.

By Gail Kalinoski

Purdue Innovation District - Aerial view

Purdue Innovation District – Aerial view

West Lafayette, Ind.Purdue Research Foundation and Browning Investments LLC are teaming up on a $1.2 billion mixed-use project at the west end of the Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Ind., that will take 15 to 20 years to build.

The Purdue Innovation District will encompass 450 acres and total several million feet of building space including housing for students, faculty and city residents; a hotel with conference center; restaurants; office and business space; parks; research facilities and industrial space. The development will complement other initiatives already taking place on the west side of the Purdue campus, including the Purdue Research Park Aerospace District and the $120 million State Street Redevelopment project, a collaboration between the university and city of West Lafayette to make traffic improvements and encourage economic development.

Browning, an Indianapolis-based development company, will create a master plan over the next several months that will design streets, land use, infrastructure and open spaces to guide the project throughout the build-out. Construction could start later this year or early in 2017.

“This is a tremendous long-term opportunity to develop several million square feet across a full spectrum of property types,” Adam Chavers, Browning senior vice president, said in a prepared statement. “The vision is large enough that Browning and other developers will be executing vertical development over the next 15 to 20 years.”

Brian Edelman, COO of the Purdue Research Foundation, told the Lafayette Journal & Courier that the first three projects pursued would likely be privately developed university housing, a hotel and convention center and an innovation hub that would combine some of Purdue’s commercial programs in the same space as venture capital firms.

John Hirschman, Browning president & CEO, said the development “is unique in its scale and potential impact as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurism. Academic and private industry research and discovery will be purposefully integrated with commercial activity and residential options in a transformative development for Purdue University and West Lafayette.”

Mitch Daniels, Purdue president, also pointed to the cooperation between the university and city.

“We don’t know of comparable town-gown collaboration like ours along State Street, which we hope with the adjoining innovation district will provide the next era of growth and prominence for Purdue,” he said in prepared remarks.

Daniels noted the importance of providing “attractive settings for living, recreation and successful business neighbors” to maintain appeal to the best faculty and students.

West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said the opening of U.S. 231 around the city’s west side and the State Street improvements have helped the west side become an “important entry to Purdue and the city of West Lafayette.”

He said the innovation district “stands to offer the world what Town and Gown can truly mean: a social gathering place for entertainment, living and commerce that spans generations, occupation and orientation.”

The Purdue project is an example of a growing number of town-gown economic developments in the United States. In April, Harvard University announced it was moving ahead with a $1 billion Science and Engineering Complex in Allston, Mass., which would be the centerpiece of an ambitious 10-year master plan for numerous construction projects in the neighborhood.

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