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March 22, 2014

Four historic homes in Jeffersonville to be transplanted to downtown

JEFFERSONVILLE — A small piece of history that otherwise would have been lost is instead making its home in downtown Jeffersonville.

Four historic homes — three on West Market Street and one on Pearl Street — will be moved and renovated into an empty lot at the corner of Pearl and Maple streets in about a month, said Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street Inc.

The homes otherwise would have been demolished to make room for Big Four Station and the Ohio River Bridges Project.

“It’s a great project on so many levels,” Ellis said. “Not only are we transforming a vacant, ugly lot into a vibrant part of the neighborhood, we’re also saving all this material from going to the landfill.”

Main Street acquired the lot in February after a year of negotiations with a majority owning group based out of Chicago called Jeffersonville Holdings, Ellis said.

“That was nonstop negotiations with various attorneys and financial institutions that had their hands on this lot over the years who had a piece of it,” he said. “So that was quite an accomplishment.”

The project is made possible through a grant just shy of $500,000 that came from mitigation from a lawsuit filed in 2012 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation that opposed the Ohio River Bridges Project. The grant includes acquisition of the lot, moving the four houses and exterior renovation.

“This is a national registered historic district and we want to maintain as much of that district as we can,” Ellis said. “This is great opportunity to rebuild a part of this neighborhood on this vacant lot that had been a hole in the streetscape there on Pearl for such a long time.”

Ellis said that Jeffersonville Main Street Inc. has partnered with the state, National Trust, Southern Indiana Landmarks and the redevelopment commission, of which Mayor Mike Moore is a member, to make the move possible.

Moore said the homes are an important part of the city’s historical preservation.

“It’s a charming walk around the area,” Moore said. “You’re looking at homes that are anywhere from 100 to 120 years old. They’ve seen a lot of the history of Jeffersonville.”

Per the grant’s stipulations, Ellis said the houses can’t be sold for 10 years. Until then, three homes will be leased and one used as Main Street’s new office.

The lot is zoned for commercial use but the homes may be rented by residents, shop owners or businesses, he said.

“We’re going to look at all options on the table,” he said. “It could end up being a mix.”

Ellis said Main Street has a good deal going for it no matter what the future holds for the houses.

“I think it’s going to be a significant addition to downtown,” he said. “Aesthetically, it’s going to make that part of the neighborhood whole again. Economically, we’re going to be adding residents and businesses to the downtown area.”

Moore said the project is just one part of revitalization of the city’s downtown, which suffered from the effects of urban sprawl until recent years.

“There’s a buzz in the air and it’s a nice energy walking around downtown seeing so many storefronts that have been closed up for  years ... and now you’ve got night life down here,” he said.

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