Holes and grass cutouts dot the softball field formerly located in Colston Park, holes that will eventually determine if anything can be built there.
Anne Bader, owner of Corn Island Archeology LLC, said work began on a long-delayed study to determine whether or not construction can proceed along Mulberry Street in downtown Jeffersonville.
The city of Jeffersonville has been interested in developing the Colston Park site for some time, but it has been held up partially because of a former cemetery that was discovered on the property. In June, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore unveiled his vision to develop the property into Rose Hill Commons by creating a mixed-use development with retail space and brownstones that line the street.
Development on the site stalled because requests by the city’s Redevelopment Commission to acquire the deed from the Parks Authority were denied. The parks authority — which is comprised of city council members — has said that before it hands over the land, a more developed proposal needs to be in place and further study needs to be conducted on a Civil War-era gravesite in the park.
At the redevelopment commission meeting in August, a contract was approved to allow Corn Island Archeology to move forward with a phase II, and possibly a phase III study on the site. The cost of the phase II study is $33,000, according to the contract in place with the city.
“The investigation is required in anticipation of the proposed construction of brownstone residences along the west side of Mulberry Street,” according to the contract.
WHAT THE STUDY WILL DO
A small crew began investigating Colston Park on Monday.
Bader explained work will take place in phases — stripping the soil in the park to get below the fill dirt to see what features are in the backyards of the houses that lined the street in the 1860s.
According to the contract with the city, the testing will take place on 1.67 acres, 10 percent of which must be hand-excavated to examine the site. The purpose of the phase II study is to determine if the remains at site are eligible for listing to the National Register of Historic Places.
“Based on previous investigations, it appears likely that the site will meet eligibility criteria, but the phase II investigation may reveal that considerable disturbances are present at the site,” according to the contract.
Once phase II is completed, it will be determined if a phase III study is required. If the additional study is performed, findings would be accepted in a single report, which would allow potential construction to move forward more quickly.
“If we start finding stuff, it will go longer,” Bader said.
Within a month, the field work is expected to be complete, but it may take a bit longer for a report to be turned over to the city — about two to four months, Bader said. The excavation will not extend farther than 120 feet from the road, because the development that has been discussed by Moore sits only along the frontage of Mulberry Street. Bader said that beyond 120 feet, the crews believe that an alley existed, and beyond the alley was the Old Jeffersonville City Cemetery.
“We do not want to go into the cemetery,” she said.
But she added that regardless of what the company finds, it will not stop their progress. Even if remains are found in the area being investigated, Bader said the excavation of the site would stop until it was determined whether or not crews would stop excavating in that area and go around the spot in question, or if the remains or artifacts would be removed following Indiana state law and allow the work to proceed.
While excavation is underway, Bader said the city has agreed to increase the police presence in the area to protect the site from anyone coming on the property in search of artifacts.