As assistant vice president of real Estate and facilities at Purdue Research Foundation, Jeremy Slater spends a lot of time thinking about how to create a community that meets the needs of global businesses and their employees, Purdue’s researchers, innovators, entrepreneurs and their families.
When attracting companies like Saab or Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories to Discovery Park, an interdisciplinary research consortium, Purdue offers access to world-class talent and research. But Slater knows there is one more piece to the puzzle.
“You have to think about their spouses and their families,” says Slater. “Where are these people going to live, where are they going to hang out with their friends, and where are they going to be a part of our community?”
To answer these questions, Purdue Research Foundation partnered with Old Town Design Group to develop Provenance, a 500-home, mixed-use development spanning townhomes, apartment units, and single-family homes. As one of the premier custom-home builders in Indiana, Old Town Design Group had the right blend of experience, expertise and openness to innovation and new ideas to design an intentional community that meets a diversity of needs.
“We went out to the market to try to find the best and brightest residential developers we could,” Slater said. “Old Town Design Group shares a lot of the same visions that we had. They aren’t a mass produced housing developer that would just come in and build 500 homes and walk away. They’re more of a niche builder that has a focus on sustainability and New Urbanism that is really what we were aiming toward.
“New Urbanism is a neighborhood built for people instead of for cars. There’s a lot of walkability and rear-faced garages with porches and stoops to bring people outside to engage with one another. Old Town Design Group shared a lot of those visions.”
Old Town was drawn to the project due to Discovery Park’s spirit of innovation.
“We knew that if we were part of this it would really force us into paying attention to innovation. New ideas would come at us, and they already have,” said Justin Moffett, Old Town Design Group CEO. “Different Purdue entities have approached us about participating in energy studies and construction materials testing – it’s provided us a way to really push ourselves.”
When creating a community, Old Town Design Group takes a community-centered, collaborative approach. Over the course of a year-long planning and study period, Old Town engaged the Purdue community in a visioning process and deep conversation about the needs of the Discovery Park District. Visiting other intentional communities helped solidify plans for the look and feel of Provenance, while conversations with Slater and his team focused on the specific needs of West Lafayette and the Purdue community.
In its 2016 planning, PRF had identified a market need for residential housing to complement existing commercial and research developments, as well as to attract businesses and their employees.
“If you layer in all the industry, the research and development coming to the campus from Rolls Royce and SAAB and Schweitzer Labs, they’re bringing people who’ve lived all over the world in urbanized settings,” Moffett said. “How do we make this an attractive community that’s a walkable urban environment for people who are weighing, ’Do I want to come work at SAAB and live in West Lafayette?’ This makes it a greater sales tool for the Discovery Park mission.”
In addition to a diverse housing stock, the development will include space for recreation, access to nature, and a walkable community with retail, restaurants and more nearby.
“What we’re striving to build is a work, live, play community,” Slater said. “The existing Purdue Discovery Park had the making of an Innovation District but it lacked some of the live, work, play components. There was nowhere for you to live, there was nowhere for you to recreate, there was nowhere for you socialize with colleagues after hours, it was just purely focused on academics and research. So we’re bringing a lot of those components and Provenance is just a piece of that live and play component of the whole Discovery Park District.”
Increasing the supply of quality housing and creating a new urban community has value beyond Discovery Park’s resident companies.
“There are a few existing neighborhoods within the community where houses sell even before they hit the market,” Slater said. “So we knew that there was an immense opportunity to create more housing and a desire to be adjacent to campus’ edge, to be able to walk to campus, to be able to walk to your work.”
Jake and Emily Gray
When Jake and Emily Gray started thinking about their next home, they knew West Lafayette’s housing crunch would pose a challenge.
“There’s definitely inventory shortage in the county for sure, at all different price points from starter homes to everywhere in between,” Jake said. “The prices are so high.”
Born and raised in West Lafayette, the Grays wanted to stay local – both are lifelong Purdue fans, Jake attended the university for both his bachelor’s and MBA degrees, and the couple’s love story began at Harry’s, a bar and restaurant adjacent to campus. Emily hoped to buy an older home with character, but when Jake heard about Provenance and the opportunity to design and build their own home, Emily was easily won over by the options offered by Old Town and the location.
“I’ve always lived near or close to a walking area,” Emily said. “I wanted to be able to be connected to trails and other amenities. So that was a big appeal with the location by Purdue. We grew up being Purdue fans and tailgating, we’re really involved in going to the sporting events and the games at Purdue so that’s also a big draw that we liked about it.”
Being part of the Discovery Park Community also drew the couple to the project.
“With all the new businesses going up on 231, you’ve got Saab and Rolls Royce – just a bunch of big-time companies,” Jake said. “I think this project will really draw employees and talent into the area.
“I think one of the biggest draws is that we’ll be near campus and near those companies and we’ll be around people that are high achievers. People that want to better themselves and it’s always nice to surround yourself with people like that, just being around people who are trying to make an impact on the world.”