By BRADEN LAMMERS
JEFFERSONVILLE — A call for plans to develop downtown Jeffersonville was launched Tuesday night.
The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission held a workshop Tuesday to begin hammering out the details of what will become of 84 properties acquired as part of a proposed canal project.
Discussions of what to do with the properties came to the redevelopment commission in the wake of a proposal that would turn several downtown properties into an arts and cultural district. Included in the potential properties were two pieces of land that may be leased to the Clark County Museum on Michigan Ave. Two additional properties — the former Gray & Wells Collision Center and the former Bales Auto lot near Spring Street — were identified as potential sites for an artists’ incubator and a location for the Vintage Fire Museum.
Along with the arts and cultural district discussed, a plan to relocate several historic homes identified in a settlement agreement with the Ohio River Bridges Project to Maple Street, the redevelopment commission agreed, would be put on hold until a proposal of how all of the property that had been acquired by the city would be developed.
Redevelopment Attorney Les Merkley at the outset of the meeting said the intent was first, to determine which properties would be included in the request for proposal, then once the properties are identified, what details would be included in a request for proposal.
According to the draft request for proposal, “the commission is seeking proposals for the best use and development of the property to include commercial, retail, residential with an arts and cultural component. The objective of the Falls Landing mixed-use development project is to transform underutilized land into a vital, urban fabric of the city with a diverse range of residential, retail and other commercial uses.”
The redevelopment commission had already agreed to approve a lease with the museum, but a provision to amend the bond plan that purchased the property required approval to go through the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council before heading back to the redevelopment commission.
Redevelopment Commission President R. Monty Snelling said that he would like to retain that property.
“The only area that I would like to see us keep is ... where the museum is wanting to go through,” he said. “You’re talking about a small area. I could see it being an asset to the community.”
But Redevelopment Commissioner James Lake disagreed and said he would like to see all of the properties included in a potential plan before deciding on what to do with the property.
“That entity can be relocated somewhere else,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to preclude that property as having already been given a use. That’s a substantial amount of property and it’s great corridor. I don’t think I would exclude any of it.”
Merkley added that the city would like to amend the lease with the museum to allow an out clause if a developer would want to purchase the property.
Questions persisted about other nearby properties that could potentially be developed, including Colston Park.
“I think it’s hugely important,” said Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore of Colston Park. “But it’s really not under the control of this board.”
The Parks Authority owns the property and requests have been made to deed the land over to the redevelopment commission. However, no movement has been made to transfer the property. In addition, questions about the location of a cemetery on part of the property would further complicate potential development of the park.
While the discussions about how to develop the land continued, Moore made one request of the redevelopment commission.
“I don’t want to waste time,” he said. “I really don’t want to extend this, for the sake of the city beyond ... 45-60 days max.”
Lake suggested that the redevelopment commission draft its plan and submit it to Ben Wauford, an architect with New York-based Cooper Carry. Lake explained Wauford helped draft the canal plans and did much of the legwork for a request for proposal.
“Even though that was around the focus of the canal, that’s irrelevant,” Lake said. “I think the data that he has is essential to the success of this.”
And the idea of a canal was not resoundingly dismissed.
“I’m personally open to any idea,” Snelling said. “If somebody comes up and says, ‘this canal will be the greatest thing,’ if they’ll pay for it, I have no problem with it,” he said later in the meeting. “What I’m saying is I don’t want anybody to be limited on their imagination.”
“I wouldn’t limit anything for any political reason,” he said. “When the canal was the catalyst, it brought money to the table.”
Lake added that there needs to be a driving force behind development to be determined by the companies putting together a plan.
“Who knows what they might bring,” he said.
A more detailed request for proposals is expected to be presented at the redevelopment commission’s next meeting.
PLANNING AND ZONING MEETING
While the redevelopment commission held its workshop, the city’s planning and zoning commission heard requests to approve the museum lease and a list of 25 projects to be included in the economic development plan as amendments to bond resolutions for the Falls Landing and Inner City Roads tax-increment financing districts.
No recommendation was given for the lease with the Clark County Museum as the vote was 3-3. The amended economic development plan, which included 25 potential projects, passed with a favorable recommendation, 4-2. Both recommendations will now go before the city council before being returned to the redevelopment commission for final approval.