By BRADEN LAMMERS
About 50 local business owners, community leaders and professionals gathered at the Sheraton Riverside Louisville for Jeffersonville’s economic development breakfast Friday morning.
There the attendees were presented with a list of ongoing Jeffersonville projects and an expectation of what those plans will do for the economic growth for the city.
But before the city’s future plans were presented, Economic Development Director Rob Waiz pointed to the impact that businesses expansion has already had on the city. Growth that Waiz cited included 400 jobs that were added at Advanced Metal Technologies, 300 jobs added at Connextions and the estimated 1,200 to 1,600 jobs at Amazon.com Inc.’s new distribution center.
“These are big, significant job openings that have been created,” said Mayor Mike Moore. “They don’t come to a community that’s dying.”
City officials also cited the potential for growth still available at the 6,000-acre River Ridge Commerce Center and said the center is garnering national and international attention from a variety of companies.
Building quality of life
To encourage that future growth and draw more people to Jeffersonville, Moore offered plans for several parks and quality-of-life projects in the works for the city.
“That stuff’s important to me,” he said. “And I think that stuff is important — not only the big companies in town — but to lure families to our city.”
One project is the Falls Landing Park that will serve as a retention lake for rainwater and as a public park for the city at the intersection of 10th and Spring streets. Moore said he expects the project to begin in spring.
Another project in Moore’s plan is to improve and reconstruct the marina along Riverside Drive.
“Our biggest asset in the city of Jeffersonville is the Ohio River,” he said.
Moore added it has been a project that has been talked about over the years, but never acted upon. He said the city plans to construct new boat docks, a new road leading to the docks, as well as walkways, railings and landscaping, which is expected to break ground in 2014.
“It’s not a pie-in-the-sky I hope to do; it’s something I will do,” Moore said.
The third quality-of-life project he offered was eventually constructing a 23-mile biking/hiking trail that will encircle the city.
But the project that may have the most significant impact to the city is already under way.
Big Four used to spur growth
Big Four Station will sit at the foot of the Big Four pedestrian and bicycle bridge that connects Louisville’s Waterfront Park to Jeffersonville.
“I think you’re going to see this Big Four Bridge lure people back to downtown Jeff,” Moore said.
He said the ramp is still on track to be finished by April 1. Following the April completion of the ramp, it will take another eight to 12 months to finish Big Four Station, he said.
“I think when we complete this Big Four ramp, I think all of the sudden you’re going to create a whole new customer base,” Moore said referencing customers coming over the bridge from Louisville.
Those people crossing the walkway over the Ohio River will land in a two-acre park, to which the city did offer some changes in its design.
An early peek at the modifications include changes to a modern obelisk at the foot of the ramp and changes to a pavilion that will house a farmers market, concerts and art exhibitions. The changes will be presented at an upcoming public meeting, but no specific date for the public meeting was given.
Moore said the completion of the Big Four Bridge and Big Four Station “is really going to shake some things up downtown.”
Part of that “shakeup” was directed at the businesses in the city’s historic district along Spring Street as Moore said he would like to change the dynamic of the shops that close at 5 p.m.
Waiz cited the importance of a state grant that will help direct pedestrians to the historic district as it pays for the revitalization of Chestnut Street to Spring Street, creating a corridor for traffic crossing the Big Four Bridge.
“What we want to do is make that a very nice welcome way to bring people to come to our downtown,” he said. “Our downtown is very important. With the Big Four Bridge we can really see a lot of exciting things happening with our downtown.”
Waiz said the vision of Jeffersonville’s downtown historic district is to turn it into the next Bardstown Road or Frankfort Avenue — both walkable main thoroughfares in Louisville lined with shops and restaurants. With the city’s access to both sides of the river, it will improve the walkability of the community.
He added the city will begin offering a restaurant grant program that will give up to $50,000 to restaurants that move into an existing building in Jeffersonville. Another potential change in store for Jeffersonville when the pedestrian bridge opens will be in the housing market.
“I think you’re going to see a huge turnaround in the housing market in downtown Jeff because people want to be able to walk or ride their bike,” Moore said.
To pay for all of the projects the city has planned, Moore has previously stated, and reiterated Friday, that he does not plan to seek loans. Instead, the plan is to use Tax Increment Finance money and state and federal grant funds to pay for the projects.
Moore offered up a six-year plan to fund 10 projects using the TIF funds at a city council meeting earlier this year. The total expense for the 10 projects was $38 million.
Although he insists the city will be able to cover the project expenses with TIF funds, Moore added “you don’t do it unless you have it.”
Among the projects slated for work in the next two years are Big Four Station at $3 million, Vissing Park at $3.5 million, Falls Landing Park at $2.5 million and the downtown marina project at $1.5 million.
“All of the projects, except for the bike and hike [trail] are one-time things,” he said.
Reconstruction of 10th Street in Jeffersonville — estimated at $12 million — was another project that Moore listed as a priority, but the project is not set to break ground until 2015.
Money previously dedicated from the Parks Department to the Vissing Park project may be moved to a road project near Veterans Parkway. Moore said he talked to six city council members that were in agreement to shift the money to Veterans Parkway, because if the city builds an additional access road it may land another “large company” along the corridor.
“There is a large company that has shown some strong interest and one of the issues they have is they would like to see another road access between Veterans and Charlestown-New Albany Road,” he said. “If it takes us building that road for them, we’re going to build that road.”
Moore did not offer what company may be interested in locating at the site.