The concept was to create a center for public art in downtown Jeffersonville. The project had to clear a few hurdles to become reality, but an arts group leading the effort and the city of Jeffersonville agreed to move forward with the plan.
But since it was conceptualized, the plan to turn a former Greater Clark County Schools building into a community arts center and museum has endured a host of changes in who was making the decisions, definitive plans for the space have not been cemented, no one seems to know if the project will move forward and it has effectively stopped.
Pilot House beginnings
Near the end of 2011, the Greater Clark County Schools Board of Trustees and the city of Jeffersonville approved an interlocal agreement to purchase the old Jeffersonville High School cafeteria, known as Franklin Square.
Jeffersonville’s Redevelopment Commission agreed to purchase the building — near the corner of Court and Meigs avenues — for $45,000, to be paid in three installments, and turn it into a home for the arts and for the Clark County History Museum.
The purchase of the building, which became known as the Pilot House, included several contingencies. Among them was a six-month timeline to get the project off the ground, and if a plan had not moved forward, the city could sell the land back to the school corporation.
That six-month timeline has passed.
However, Jeffersonville City Attorney Les Merkley said at a recent redevelopment commission meeting that even though the six-month run time began the date the interlocal agreement was signed, it would still be up to the city whether or not they would want to return the building to the school corporation. He added that he does not believe the city owns the building until the final payment is made.
Becca Christensen, member of the board of directors for the Pilot House and Greater Clark board member, disagreed and said the school corporation and the Pilot House were operating as if the redevelopment commission owned the building, citing that the city has an insurance policy on the structure.
“I think that’s where we have a breakdown in communication,” she said.
Another unresolved issue is whether or not a financial plan has been submitted to the city by the Pilot House.
Christensen said a business plan has been put together.
Dawn Struck, a Jeffersonville High School art teacher who is a leader of the arts organization, said the group has a business plan and the nonprofit paperwork ready to go, but they felt they could not move forward without additional commitments from the city.
According to the interlocal agreement, the Pilot House board of directors was required to formulate a business plan, establish or make significant progress to establish a 501(c)3, create a conceptual design for the building and execute a lease or working agreement between the redevelopment commission and the Pilot House organization.
However, concerns were raised by the redevelopment commission about the estimated renovation costs for the building, which have been placed at about $2.7 million. A portion of the renovation costs — not to exceed $145,000 —- are set to go toward roof repairs, which were approved on the contingencies that the redevelopment commission see a business plan and received the nonprofit paperwork.
“That was part of the deal ... come up with a business plan, come up with the 501(c)3 paperwork, which we did, but we couldn’t submit because there is a key component that asks you for monies .... we had to know how much they [the city] were going to contribute to this building so we could appropriately put that cost in,” Struck said. “We just haven’t gotten that answer.”
Redevelopment Director Rob Waiz said the city has still not received that business plan and has also not moved forward on replacing a roof on the building.
“That was part of the agreement, is to have a business plan,” he said. “Nothing has changed in the agreement.”