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August 4, 2013

MOVING ON UP?: Four homes donated by the city with hopes of moving them

JEFFERSONVILLE — One hundred and twenty-five year old homes rolled across the streets of Jeffersonville earlier this summer.

And another set of homes may soon be aboard trucks to move to a new location blocks away.

Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street, Inc. and Greg Sekula, director of the Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Office, asked the city to hand over four homes. Three of the houses, owned by the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission, are in the 200 block of West Market Street and a single home is on the 200 block of Pearl Street, directly adjacent to the foot of the ramp for the Big Four Bridge.

Sekula and Ellis asked the redevelopment commission to give the organizations the homes, which would be relocated to a parking lot at the corner of Maple and Pearl streets, which has been vacant and overgrown with weeds for years. The intention is to have the front of the homes facing Pearl Street.

“The essence of this project really transforms a dilapidated parking lot at Pearl and Maple streets into something vibrant that the community can be proud of,” Ellis said. “We want to accomplish this by moving four houses that are currently located in the Big Four Station park area.”

Five historic Jeffersonville homes have already been moved by the Indiana Department of Transportation to different downtown locations to make way for the Ohio River Bridges Project.

Instead of making way for the bridges project, the proposed relocations will be making way for a park. The Big Four Station plan will create a two-block park between Market to Maple streets and Pearl and Mulberry streets. And the pending construction of that park created some concern for city officials in being able to have the homes moved before it begins.

“The bigger question is how quickly do you think you’re going to get the money from the state?” asked Jeffersonville corporation attorney Les Merkley. “We’re going to be breaking ground on the Big Four Station here in the next few weeks,” he said.

Sekula said the state is aware of the city’s desire to move forward on construction for Big Four Station.

“The state is aware of the fact that the city wants the houses out of there, so there is pressure on their part to facilitate getting the money available to move these as quickly as we can,” he said.

Money to move the homes will be pulled from a pool of $500,000 earmarked for preservation projects in Indiana as part of a settlement agreement reached between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, conservancy group River Fields Inc., the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation that dedicated $1.7 million to a historic preservation and enhancement fund. Indiana Finance Authority and the Department of Historic Preservation and Archeology are overseeing the funds and plan to meet with Jeffersonville Main Street and Indiana Landmarks Tuesday.

Indiana Finance Authority Director Kendra York said the five homes previously moved by INDOT was under a separate contract with state and federal funding —part of the 106 Memorandum of Agreement commitments.

Once the homes are relocated, one would become the permanent home for Jeffersonville Main Street and the other houses would be made available for office, retail or residential space. But if everything cannot be done quickly, the plan to save the homes may be scrapped.

“If we can’t move in an expedient fashion, there’s no deal there, we don’t have a project,” Ellis said.

The plan for Big Four Station is to complete the project in two phases, starting on the northern portion of the planned park. Once the ramp to the Big Four pedestrian and bicycle bridge is completed, then the city will shift its construction to the southern portion of the project. The completion date for the Big Four Bridge ramp, which is running about six months behind schedule, is in November.

Sekula and Ellis believe it would give them enough time to relocate the homes.

Ellis said Jeffersonville Main Street has a tentative purchase agreement on the site where the homes would be located. The lot’s property owner, Jeffersonville Holdings Inc., which lists a Chicago mailing address, agreed to only sell the lot to Jeffersonville Main Street.

In addition to a request to have the redevelopment commission grant the houses to the organizations, Sekula also asked the redevelopment commission to cover the cost to remove the foundations where the homes will be removed and also to assist with the site preparation work for the lot.

The redevelopment commission agreed to gift the homes to Jeffersonville Main Street and Historic Preservation, but did not take action on the other requests.

“We’ve been trying to be cognizant about keeping these buildings in the Rose Hill neighborhood,” Sekula said. “This is really kind of the first step in helping us move forward.”

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