By BRADEN LAMMERS
Five people will be able to name their price for a historic home in Jeffersonville, provided they make the best offer.
The Indiana Department of Transportation is accepting bids for five homes relocated in downtown Jeffersonville as a result of the Ohio River Bridges Project. The homes were moved earlier this summer out of the path of the new downtown Interstate 65 bridge and corridor.
INDOT agreed to relocate the five homes, built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, as part of a 106 Memorandum of Agreement commitment. And all but one of the homes was relocated to another spot within Jeffersonville’s historic district, placed on new foundations and are up for sale.
“The work’s pretty much finished,” said Kevin Hetrick, design director and deputy project manager with INDOT.
He added that there were fairly minimal rehabilitation projects completed inside the homes, fixing any damage caused during the move and bringing the electric up to code. The bulk of the rehabilitations included creating the foundations for the homes, new painting and new siding on some of the properties. New water heaters and furnaces were also installed in the homes.
Mike Bosc, Indiana spokesman for the Ohio River Bridges Project, said the state is accepting sealed bids for the properties, for which there is no minimum price.
“There’s no low bid, but the state can refuse an offer,” Bosc said.
Another provision tied to the purchase of the homes is that it must be owner-occupied for five years. If the winning bidder decides to sell the home before the five-year term is up, the provision would be passed on to the new purchaser.
“We want people that are going to fix up those homes and be there for a long time,” Bosc said.
The money collected for the auction of the properties will go back into the state’s general fund coffers and be used to offset some of the expenses to move the homes, Bosc said.
The five homes being auctioned are located at 411 E. Maple St., 626 E. Seventh St., 310 Mechanic St., 309 Pearl St. and 411 W. Market St.
Jeffersonville Main Street and the Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Office have begun the process of relocating four more homes within the historic district.
Greg Sekula, director of the Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Office, said preparations started recently to be able to move the homes. Steel was being placed under the houses in preparation to lift the foundations.
“Over the next two weeks or so, all of the houses will be prepped and ready for the move,” he said.
Three of the homes identified are in the 200 block of West Market Street and another home is on the 200 block of Pearl Street, directly adjacent to the foot of the ramp for the Big Four Bridge. Money to move the homes will total about $500,000 earmarked for preservation projects in Indiana as part of a settlement agreement reached between the National Trust for Historic Preservation, conservancy group River Fields Inc., the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the Indiana Department of Transportation that dedicated $1.7 million to a historic preservation and enhancement fund.
The moving date may depend on when Duke Energy relocates power lines near Big Four Station. Sekula said the city is working with Duke Energy to relocate some of the overhead power lines underground near the two-block park being constructed.
“That is critical for us because it affects, one, our cost; two, the route we were going to use to move the houses,” Sekula said.
The homes are being moved from Market and Pearl streets to a vacant parking lot at the corner of Pearl and Maple streets. The plan is to place the four homes in the former parking lot, facing Pearl Street.
“It’s taking a blighted parking lot and turning it into a functioning part of the neighborhood,” said Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street. “I think it’s going to be a real asset to Rose Hill and downtown.”
There are also restrictions on the homes being moved by Jeffersonville Main Street and Indiana Landmarks. The organizations must hold onto the properties for 10 years.
Whether the organizations rent the homes to businesses or to individuals has yet to be determined.
“Right now, it’s zoned downtown commercial, but we know the neighborhood also desires to see some residential [properties] here,” Sekula said. “Jeffersonville has lost a lot of historic properties over the years. Our aim was to save as many of these contributing historic properties as we could and this allows us to save nine of the houses ... that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill.”
One of the homes is slated to become the office for Jeffersonville Main Street Inc.
Ellis added that keeping the homes in the area helps maintain the historic character of the downtown district, although on their own the properties would not be deemed historic homes.
And it also is filling a hole where a chain-link fence and weeds had been the only thing standing.
“It eliminates vacant lots where there’s been holes in the urban fabric, it sort of weaves the city back together,” Sekula said. “They are representative of what the bulk of old Jeffersonville is,” he said of the homes.