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West Lafayette, Purdue Break Ground On State Street Project...At Least Ceremonially

Sarah Fentem

As he said himself, Purdue President Mitch Daniels isn’t that interested in ground-breaking ceremonies—“the business with the phony shovels and the phony dirt is so stale and so worn out”—but even so, he was on hand for the ceremonial ground-breaking for West Lafayette’s State Street Project. Perhaps the fact he got to use a 25-foot dirt loader instead of the standard-issue spade had spurred a change of heart.

Daniels was joined by West Lafayette mayor John Dennis, who manned a backhoe.

The equipment came courtesy of Reith-Riley, the construction firm tapped to complete State Street’s $120 million revamp from west of the Purdue campus to the Wabash River.

Reith-Riley President Keith Rose says despite Thursday’s festivities there’s still a lot of planning to do before people start seeing actual construction.

"They won’t see an awful lot right away, we’re still in the early stages of design and putting the project together," Rose says.

After that, the pressure’s on. Daniels has made it clear he’d like to see the project completed by Purdue’s 150th birthday, which comes in 2019.

The city and the university are funding the project together, with Purdue hoping the project will make the university’s side more attractive to tenants in the university’s fledgling Innovation District.

Dennis says a joint endeavor on the scale of the massive State Street Project is unprecedented.

To our knowledge this is our first example the university and a city doing a public-private partnership concept,” he says.

The University is fronting the money for the construction and, as such, appears to have more powerful members on the Joint Board overseeing the project, at least in the early stages of the plan.

Dale Bonner, Executive Chairman of Plenary Concessions, the management team assisting the project, says in order to finish the project before the December 2018 deadline, the two sides have to remain cooperative.

“The key is planning and coordination and the communication that takes place among the members of the partnership,” says Bonner.

A website chronicling the project had originally projected an April start date, meaning construction could be seen as already being as much as two months behind schedule.

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