ARTS AND CULTURAL DISTRICT
Once again the idea of creating an arts and cultural district around three entities in downtown Jeffersonville was presented to the council.
The plan is for the city to lease buildings to an arts incubator to locate in the former Gray & Wells building along Michigan Avenue; lease the former Bales Auto site on Spring Street to the Vintage Fire Museum and Safety Education Center currently located in New Albany; and to move the Clark County Museum to a site along Michigan Avenue.
A lease for the Clark County Museum has already been signed, with an out clause that was added to allow the city to reclaim the property with 90 days notice.
The out clause was added to relieve concerns for some redevelopment commissioners as the city issued a request-for-proposal, or RFP, to develop 38 properties in downtown. If a developer had a plan that would encompass those properties, then the city could reclaim the land and relocate the entity housed there.
In the meantime, Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz said the property could be turned into something beneficial.
“I felt like these were good pieces of property that we could save and do something with,” he said. “We have a very unique opportunity to get three great attractions to come into our downtown.”
Leaders of each of the organizations that would become a part of the arts and cultural district spoke in support of the plan.
Curt Peters, president of the Friends of the New Albany Fire Museum Board of Directors, made a presentation on the Vintage Fire Museum and Safety Education Center.
The fire museum, located in the former Coyle Chevrolet building up for sale in New Albany, is only open one day per week. Peters said the hope is that if the museum is able to relocate to Jeffersonville, it would open six days a week.
To support the idea that the museum would spur economic development, he told those in attendance that a four-day convention in November 2014 has already been booked for the fire museum. He also pointed to other cities that have located museums into depressed areas of town and how it eventually increased property values.
“I think it would be a great boon to the area, it would help increase the property value in that particular area and it would be nice to also link together ... with other attractions you have.” Peters said.
The other two pieces of the district were formerly part of one planned project.
An art incubator and the Clark County Museum were slated to be part of the Pilot House program, with an estimated cost at $2.3 million, to locate in a building in the former Cordon Porter school complex, according to Waiz.
Jeanne Burke, director of the Clark County Museum, said all the museum needs is a place to stay. And Dawn Struck, Jeffersonville High School Art teacher and member of the Jeffersonville Arts Alliance, along with the Arts Council of Southern Indiana, said the group would like to build on its art programs that are growing in the city. She pointed to the Jeffersonville Art Movement — JAM — sessions that are art projects open to the public each month.
The art incubator would use one building that used to be park of the Gray & Wells Auto Body shop site on Michigan Avenue.
Waiz said the price tag previously cited as the amount the previous administration had paid for the properties, about $2.4 million, included three Gray & Wells buildings. He said the cost for the three properties that would actually be included in the arts and cultural district totals about $1.5 million.
“I think this is a perfect example of why you have redevelopment,” Waiz said. “I think we’re really going to miss the boat big time if we don’t move forward on this.”
Moore pointed to Mellwood Arts center and Louisville’s NuLu district on Market Street as the desired outcome and model for revitalizing an area by enhancing the cultural district. The other option for the properties, he offered, was grim.
“The alternative is to tear it down,” he said.