By BRADEN LAMMERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — Calls to have a list of ongoing and potential projects presented to Jeffersonville’s Redevelopment Commission came to fruition Tuesday.
A list of 17 projects, some of which are under way, was presented to the commission by Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz.
“The objective of the workshop today is to create a long-term strategic [plan] that will promote economic development opportunities by maximizing existing redevelopment resources with a focus on quality of life projects,” he said.
The presentation outlined the potential costs of many of the projects, and proposed dates of commencement and completion. However, no action was requested at the meeting as Waiz said it was merely a presentation to start a dialogue about the projects.
Several previously mentioned projects were again brought before the commission, including the city’s plan to reconstruct a marina along the riverfront between Spring Street and Jeffboat. In addition, the nearby Big Four Station project was presented, but separately listed projects such as the floodwall opening, Chestnut Street reconstruction and the relocation of historic homes.
Two other projects presented during the meeting were cited by commission members as being plans that should be pursued by another city agency. The projects included Allison Brook Park and the Preserve.
But several plans stood out as the focus points for the redevelopment commission during the next few years.
The first project that was presented as one of the priority plans for Jeffersonville has been in the works for several years.
A plan to widen 10th Street in Jeffersonville from Penn Street and Reeds Lane and add a center turning lane is still in the planning stage, with construction set to begin in 2015. And before work begins on the project, some changes may already be necessary.
Mayor Mike Moore said the plan to bury power lines along the corridor may be scrapped due to the cost. He said the price tag for right-of-way acquisition and the amount of land that would be needed to bury the power lines makes the proposal less and less likely.
“Quite a few locations along 10th Street would be affected by that,” he said.
Moore said the city will receive about $2.5 million in funding for the project.
“That was for construction and we will be given that money, I think, in June 2015,” he said.
Several commission members had discussed pursuing a full 80-20 percent split for funding, with 80 percent of funds coming from state or federal transportation dollars, while a 20-percent match would be paid by Jeffersonville.
But Moore said if the city waited for the 80-20 match on the project, it would push the plan back 10 years, which would affect other projects on the list.
“My idea was, TIF [Tax Increment Finance] dollars are there for a reason — infrastructure improvements,” he said. “Tenth street is vital to the success of Jeffersonville. We have the dollars to make this project happen.”
Redevelopment Commissioner James Lake said he would like to exhaust the possibility of securing additional funding for the project through the Kentuckiana Regional Planning and Development Agency before using TIF money.
But Moore said KIPDA was the agency that gave him the information of the project’s delay if the city waited for the funding match.
KIPDA Director of Transportation Larry Chaney said the local planning agency does have several phases of the project in the current Transportation Improvement Plan, including $2 million in 2014 for right-of-way purchases, and funding for construction of about $2.3 million. However, he confirmed that if the city were to wait for the full funding match for the project, the plan would be delayed.
He said funding wouldn’t be available in 2017 and it would be another four to five years for the project to receive additional dollars.
Despite the questions about how to fund the widening project, there was consensus that the plan is a pressing need for Jeffersonville.
“If there is one thing we should be doing, it’s improving our main corridor through downtown,” Lake said. “It’s going to become more and more vital as [bridges are added], as RiverRidge continues to grow. It’s an incredible artery through town.”
Another ongoing plan that the administration has been attempting to move forward on is the Falls Landing project. The plan is to construct a retention pond near Ninth Street and Ohio Avenue to mitigate flooding downtown, with a plan to eventually have economic development and a park surround the area.
“This park is a little bit more than just a park itself,” Waiz said.
He explained that the city is in the process of securing a $500,000 Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant to pay for the retention pond. A walking path is planned for around the pond with the expectation that it will spur economic development nearby at 10th and Spring streets.
The goal is to have a hotel and restaurant potentially locate near the park, Waiz said. However, the $1 million price tag — half of which would come from the grant — for the project does not include future development and is only for the retention basin and area immediately adjacent.
City Grant Administrator Delynn Rutherford said part of the flood buyout requires a portion of the area to remain greenspace, where development could not occur.
Again, hesitations were offered on whether or not to seek funding from different sources for the plan.
“As the economy begins to turn around this just seems like this might be a perfect opportunity to revisit this and see what happens,” Redevelopment Commissioner Rob Stevens said, referring to seeking private development of the site.
Lake agreed and called retention pond an “amenity.” He added that the potential for the site makes it attractive, especially with the new bridges planned along the corridor, but that there are still some limitations of what could be developed near the proposed park.
The project is slated to begin in 2013, with construction estimated to be completed in 2014.
Incubators and cultural district
Waiz also presented several concepts for future development in Jeffersonville.
Two plans offered would construct incubators in the city. One concept would be to construct a technology incubator, to be developed at North Port. He explained that there is no definitive cost in place, or location, as it’s just in the concept phase.
“I could just see where this would be a huge asset bringing in new start-up businesses that could really grow,” Waiz said.
Another plan that may come to fruition sooner is a plan to develop an artists’ incubator and cultural district in downtown Jeffersonville. The artists’ incubator is planned for the former Gray & Wells Collision Center off Michigan Avenue in downtown Jeffersonville. In addition to the former Gray & Wells building, a potential tenant has also been identified for the former Bales Used Car structure on Spring Street.
Along with the lease recently signed by the Clark County Museum to locate on Michigan Avenue, the potential is to turn the corridor into a cultural district.
“I think it’s a huge step forward [for] our city to have an arts and cultural center,” Lake said.
But he also questioned why there would be support for the plan near Spring Street when the concept failed near the Clark County Government Building off Court Avenue.
Waiz explained that the buildings slated for development now were on a demolition list for the city and the properties did not carry the renovation costs of the former Greater Clark County Schools buildings originally being pursued.
“I think it’s very important for us to pursue this because there’s grant dollars available to help us along with our endeavor,” Waiz said.