JEFFERSONVILLE — From elementary school, to low-income apartment units, and now a three-story hotel.
The property at Mulberry and Maple streets, a downtown site within walking distance of the busy Big Four Bridge, will soon be home to Jeffersonville’s first Marriott TownePlace Suites.
Developers and city officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning as construction of the site is officially underway.
ARC along with Dora Hotel Co. are aiming for construction to be complete and doors to be open April 1, 2017, in time for Thunder Over Louisville and the Kentucky Derby.
“I just challenge you to watch Trip Adviser and see who’s the No. 1 ranked hotel in the area,” Dora Hotels owner Tim Dora said. “I think you’re going to find us 99 percent of the time.”
The 56,000 square-foot hotel occupying about 1.3 acres of land is a $15 million private investment into downtown Jeffersonville. Nightly room rates will average in the $120-range, according to Dora Hotels vice president of operations Ashley Dora.
Though first-floor retail facing the streets was a part of the original plan, Ashley Dora said that will no longer be the case. Developers wanted enough common space inside for guests, which will include an indoor swimming pool.
“It’s just such a tight space,” she said.
The sidewalks along Maple and Mulberry will be torn up and replaced with brand new ones that will wrap around parking spots, ARC development manager Jason Sams said.
Developers have already received an investment deduction from the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Association. The deduction will credit half the tax revenue back to the property owner, while the other 49 percent goes to the enterprise association and the remaining one percent to the Indiana Economic Development Council.
ARC purchased the property, which held the old Rose Hill Elementary School building, about three years ago. At the time, the company planned to renovate the building into a mixed use condominium complex.
After the city’s redevelopment commission decided to develop a neighboring property for residential use, ARC developers took a step back and reassessed the area’s needs.
“We identified that there was a gap and a need for extended stay in downtown Louisville,” ARC president and CEO Alan Muncy said, mentioning conventions that have pulled out of Louisville because of a lack of hotel rooms.
So, developers got to work finding a design that fit well into the historic Rose Hill neighborhood and a hotel franchise that met their visions.
Mayor Mike Moore praised the growth that’s picked up downtown in recent years. Before ARC bought the land, the elementary school was an apartment complex that charged weekly rent for low-income men, many on the brink of homelessness.
The 40 or so tenants were evicted when the property was sold.
Moore told a crowd of a few dozen people that five years ago, the street corner “was not a spot.”
“This was a bad area in the city of Jeff. This was sleeping rooms for men,” he said. “The next step was the Clark County jail. Here is how partnering with the city and developers pays off. We’ve improved the quality of life.”
Jeffersonville City Councilman Dustin White, District 1, attended Rose Hill Elementary School. Nevertheless, he believes the hotel will be a “wonderful addition to downtown Jeffersonville.”
“I’m kind of sad, but I’m extremely happy all at the same time,” White said. “I drove by, watched it being torn down little by little, reminisced a bit. But I’m really happy that this is happening.”
Moore touted the project as a good example of what happens when public and private entities work together.
“This is what it’s all about,” Moore said. “A partnership between the community, the city and developers.”
ARC representatives worked closely with the members of Rose Hill’s neighborhood association, inviting about 10 or 12 members to their office for a presentation and meeting.
“They really worked with us to make sure that the facade fit into the look and the appeal of downtown,” neighborhood association president Brandy Brewer said.
The final plans for the look of the building changed from the original plans, Brewer said. ARC hopes to use stonework and brickwork that will mimic other downtown historical buildings. The company also plans to cover its trash bins.
On the whole, the neighborhood is mostly supportive of the project. What’s important for the growing area, Brewer said, is that there’s consideration for the community members and not just businesses.
“I’m certain that there are those who initially were hesitant. I, myself, was one of them,” she said. “But I think that there has to be advocates to make sure that the development that does happen is done responsibly.”