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October 22, 2013

Mega plans, mega potential at River Ridge

Work sets stage for automotive manufacturer use

JEFFERSONVILLE — Opening up its commerce center for a potential megasite was a considered a major move for River Ridge.

Plans have been underway to certify a large portion of land within the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant as a site that could be developed for a potential major user since this spring. Paul Wheatley, River Ridge’s director of marketing and finance, said the site could be developed for a steel manufacturer, chemical manufacturer or automotive manufacturer. But the standard the commerce center will use — which was announced Monday — will be to develop the land for an automotive manufacturer.

“The certification process that we go through is of an automotive standard, because the automotive industry has the most rigorous standard,” Wheatley said during a meeting of the center’s authority board. “There’s a lot of different uses that we can use the megasite for, but we’re going through the automotive process because it’s the most stringent.”

The potential megasite includes about 1,700 acres — 1,200 of which is considered usable space, Wheatley said. River Ridge encompasses about 6,000 acres.

He added it would take about a year to complete the certification process and if a manufacturer was interested in the site, the potential is that it could be developed simultaneously so that it could open along with the heavy haul road planned between River Ridge and the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville and the east-end bridge. The tentative completion date on the east-end bridge is October 2016.

McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a company specializing in site evaluation and certification, conducted an evaluation of a potential site and found no major flaws in the proposed area, often referred to as the igloo field.

In order to move forward with certification plans the River Ridge Development Authority Board entered into a contract with McCallum Sweeney to complete the site certification for the megasite. The contract included a $54,500 consulting fee.

But the benefit for the commerce center could be much greater.

“The advantage as I understand it, once they certify it, that puts us on a radar screen for companies that would be interested in a megasite?” asked Board Member Kim Matthews.

Wheatley said that would be the impact of the certification as it would shorten the timeline for an interested company to move forward with developing the site as it moves much of the process through its due diligence phase.

A shovel-ready site would be marketable to a variety of potential tenants with a secondary goal being — if River Ridge can attract a large manufacturer — to construct a supplier park around the site.

The resolution to enter into the contract with McCallum Sweeney was approved 4-0, with Board Member David W. Evanzcyk absent from the meeting.

A second resolution was also unanimously approved that will help prepare the megasite.

River Ridge Planning and Development Manager Tom Vittitow presented a resolution that would allow River Ridge to move two graves located in the igloo field.

He explained the two graves are in the middle of the igloo field and the potential megasite, and with the board’s approval the graves would be moved to a cemetery that borders the River Ridge property.

“It’s a real impediment to the development of this entire parcel out here,” Vittitow said. “We have gone through SHIPO [State Historic Preservation Office], we have done all the proper paperwork, we have looked for descendants — we have found none — and we have been given the go ahead to relocate those gravesites.”

The relocation is expected to take place next week with the approval granted by the River Ridge Development Authority Board.

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