Whitestown officials announced plans Friday for a $135 million real estate project that would turn a former automotive junkyard into a mixed-use development that revolves around youth sports. The town might consider a new food and beverage tax to help fund the massive redevelopment.
Indianapolis-based Milhaus and Kansas City, Kansas-based Homefield are partnering to redevelop roughly 100 acres west of Interstate 65 and south of Exit 130 with a fieldhouse, water park, hotel, apartments, offices, commercial space and more.
The proposed redevelopment is the realization of several years of work to turn the former 135-acre Wrecks Inc. junkyard property on Whitestown’s west side into a mixed-use district called Maurer Commons. Little League International’s commitment to build a central region headquarters kicked off the area’s redevelopment, but the town had a hard time finding someone willing and able to serve as a master developer for the 100 acres west of Indianapolis Road.
Conceptual designs show Milhaus and Homefield plan to build an approximately 200,000-square-foot fieldhouse with an outdoor sports area, about 250 market rate apartments, a nationally branded hotel with at least 105 rooms, an outdoor water sports and entertainment venue, at least 50,000 square feet of medical office space, another 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and a potential 75 for-sale residential units.
“We’ve been close on a couple of deals, but I think COVID really made it tough,” Nathan Messer, Whitestown’s operations and economic development director, said. “(Milhaus and Homefield) came forward, and what they’re looking at doing is impressive. It’s everything we wanted, and they’re willing to do it at-scale.”
This won’t be the first partnership between Milhaus and Homefield. Most recently, the Kansas City Business Journal reported Milhaus is slated to build a 270-unit luxury apartment community as part of Homefield’s $435.5 million sports-anchored redevelopment of a former water park in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Whitestown is a promising location for Homefield because of its vibrant and growing community,” Homefield CEO Robb Heineman said in a written statement. “We’re excited to bring the joy of youth sports to the athletes, families and fans in this area. We think Whitestown can be a role model for the future of youth sports in this country.”
Milhaus was also recently approved to build a $41.5 million apartment complex at 7279 S. Indianapolis Road, with nine separate three-story buildings containing 240 market-rate apartments next the Little League headquarters, which is slated to open this summer.
“Whitestown deserves applause for its vision to turn an underutilized area into a place-based community of sports, recreation and entertainment,” Milhaus Vice President of Development Brad Vogelsmeier said in a written statement. “Milhaus is proud to bring our trusted partner Homefield from Kansas City to the Indianapolis area to execute and turn this vision into a unique community anchor.”
Representatives from the joint venture are scheduled to present their plans and a memorandum of understanding at the Feb. 10 Whitestown Town Council meeting.
From there, Messer said the town will consider supporting the project with bonds backed by the project’s increase in assessed value. Whitestown Town Council President Clinton Bohm said the funding plan might also include a new 1% food and beverage tax.
Bohm said there will always be opposition to the creation of a tax, but he’s confident the council will be able to come up with a fair incentives package.
“As we’re able to tell the story of what this means for the future of the town, you’ll see many individuals will understand and be appreciative of how we decided to move forward,” he said. “They’re going to be the ones providing the lion’s share of that revenue, and we’re going to be able to use that on improvements across town. That’s where, from my perspective, it is a positive move forward.”
Messer said developers are “hungry to move forward,” and he expects they could break ground as soon as this winter to complete the project by the end of 2023.
Whitestown Town Manager Jason Lawson said the project would be the first of its kind in Boone County and serve as a regional attraction.
“There’s nothing else like it,” Lawson said. “I know how important these facilities are in helping the youth. Its jut a great thing for Whitestown and the surrounding county.”
Lawson said he’s excited to find developers that could move quickly, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everybody thought things were going to slow down, but Whitestown hasn’t slowed down,” he said. “We’ve stayed steady.”
Wrecks Inc. was founded in 1949 by brothers Michael B. “Mickey” Maurer and Julius Maurer and moved from Indianapolis to Whitestown in the early 1950s.
Julius was the father of Michael S. Maurer, also known as Mickey, who is a shareholder in IBJ Corp., which owns the Indianapolis Business Journal.
The business was well-known for its three-line neon sign along I-65 that says, “Wrecks Inc. We meet by accident. Drive carefully.”
The land has been vacant since the early 2000s and required environmental remediation to put in developable condition.