Purdue, Private Developer Aim to Build $1.2B “Innovation District”

Under a new proposal, about 450 acres on the west end of Purdue University’s West Lafayette, IN, campus are set to be transformed into the “Purdue Innovation District,” a potentially $1.2 billion hub of academic and economic activity.

Project partners Purdue Research Foundation and Indianapolis-based Browning Investments unveiled plans for the mixed-use project on Monday. Full buildout could take 15 to 20 years.

“This opportunity is unique in its scale and potential impact as a catalyst for innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurialism,” Browning CEO John Hirschman said in a written statement. “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.”

A portion of the Innovation District (pictured above) will be located within a state-certified technology park, which also includes a designated area for companies to collaborate with Purdue on aerospace or aviation research. Also nearby: Purdue’s Discovery Park, a complex of facilities dedicated to interdisciplinary and sponsored research.

The partners’ vision is to create a welcoming environment that will meet the housing, recreational, and commercial needs of the university and surrounding community. Preliminary plans call for as much as 7 million square feet of interior space for a variety of uses, including a hotel and conference center. The exact mix of spaces will be driven by demand.

“We are working to support Purdue’s mission, including the support of research, innovation, economic development, and community development by linking faculty, staff, students, visitors, and area residents,” said Brian Edelman, Purdue Research Foundation chief operating officer.

Browning is putting together a comprehensive master plan that will serve as a road map for future development. Construction could begin late this year or in early 2017.

Purdue and the city of West Lafayette already are working on a redevelopment project on State Street, a former state highway that passes through downtown and the campus—including the proposed Innovation District area. They hope to transform it into a pedestrian-friendly destination that draws visitors and businesses alike.

“The Purdue Innovation District stands to offer the world what Town and Gown truly can mean: a social gathering place for entertainment, living, and commerce that spans generations, occupation, and orientation,” West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis said in a prepared statement.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels said he hopes the projects establish a firm foundation for future growth at the university.

“If residential higher ed is going to retain its appeal to the best faculty and students, it will have to offer attractive settings for living, recreation, and successful business neighbors,” said Daniels, a former Indiana governor.

Andrea Muirragui Davis is a freelance writer and editor based in Fishers, Indiana. Follow @

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