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Developer seeks to forge downtown Jeffersonville's identity

Jeffersonville native and arc founder Alan Muncy has invested nearly $20 million in the Spring Street core

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Alan Muncy

Alan Muncy seeks to make downtown Jeffersonville a place where people want to live, work and play, which includes plans to move the headquarters of his company, arc, to the Horner Novelty building on Spring Street, with a goal of opening in July.

JEFFERSONVILLE — Alan Muncy oozes Jeffersonville.

He was born there. He was raised there. And he can give you nearly 20 million reasons why he thinks downtown Jeffersonville is the next big thing.

Almost $20 million — that's how much money Muncy has invested in downtown projects over the past several months, which include the upcoming relocation of his "creative company," arc, to the Muncy-owned Horner Novelty building on Spring Street. From residential to retail, Muncy is in the midst of a personal mission to put the polish on the core of his hometown.

The only thing that's missing is a clear portrait of the city's future.

"I don't believe Jeffersonville, or downtown, has a defined identity yet," said Muncy, a Jeffersonville High School graduate and self-made success story who started arc in 2001. "I think we're finding it. I would love to see the city of Jeffersonville get an identity downtown as a place where you want to live, you want to work and you want to play. An area where you don't have to leave."

Muncy's portfolio of development projects spanning retail and residential has those three bases — live, work and play — covered, but he notes the city is merely in its infancy in developing its downtown.

But Muncy, according to Jay Ellis, executive director of Jeffersonville Main Street, Inc., offers an entirely new perspective.

"Jeffersonville Main Street's goal is to see downtown Jeffersonville revitalized and Alan is really adding to that vision with his projects," Ellis stated in an email. "His investments in downtown Jeffersonville are wonderful. The dollars invested, the scale of the buildings, the addition to the residential base are all the epitome of what a Main Street organization wants to see to make downtown grow."

GOING ALL IN

Muncy sees the transformation of places like NuLu, Louisville's flourishing neighborhood on the eastern edge of the city's downtown, and asks, why not Jeffersonville? The pieces are in place: Big Four Bridge and Big Four Station Park, Court Avenue improvements, the nearly $3 million in proposed enhancements to Spring Street's downtown artery. Throw in tax incentive opportunities and a cooperative city administration, and all of it is a giant carrot on a stick luring potential developers.

"A lot of cities, you don't get administrations that are willing to let you come in and be different," Muncy said. "Jeffersonville didn't always have that reputation. I think Jeffersonville had to grow up, just like everybody around it. That's why I say let's have a clear understanding of who we are and define it, because when you can define it you give people clarity. And when you give people clarity it's a lot easier for them to make a decision whether or not to invest in it."

Muncy is going all in, especially with creating a centerpiece downtown with his company's headquarters at the Horner Novelty building, with construction starting next month and an estimated opening sometime in July. Details are under wraps, but Muncy, true to form, promises a game-changer.

Horner Novelty is relocating to the former Save-A-Lot building on Allison Lane, which is expected to open in March, according to manager Veronica Mattingly.

"It's a much better location, and more convenient for everyone in Jeffersonville and the surrounding counties," Mattingly said. "I think it will help out all of our customers."

arc's other developments — Muncy also built and owns the TownePlace Suites Marriott hotel on Mulberry Street downtown — include Colston Park, a 30-unit condominium project, also on Mulberry, expected to be complete in July, and a combined retail/apartment development in the empty parking lot at Spring and Market streets, which could potentially be under construction by mid-summer. That project includes 20 residential units for rent and about 9,000 square feet of retail space, with room for a restaurant and two other smaller retail spaces.

Muncy sees both projects as solutions to spurring development.

"I think that any time we can bring people living downtown, it brings people with discretionary income. And that discretionary income needs to be spent," he said. "The more people we can get living downtown the more businesses are going to be drawn to that."

PAINTING THE FUTURE

Muncy's vision has been a "huge contribution" to Jeffersonville's revitalization effort, according to Ellis.

"Years ago we started incentivizing developers to preserve historic buildings, then we had large public investments like Big Four Bridge, and now Alan is adding the strength of his business to that work with investments in hotels, housing and more," Ellis stated. "We're so fortunate to have him and we applaud his interest and investment in his hometown."

Incentives are key, according to Muncy, most notably tax and monetary advantages that make investing in downtown Jeffersonville a no-brainer. The area falls into an urban enterprise zone, which offers tax deductions to developers and qualified workers, as well as infrastructure improvements, among other incentive-rich programs.

"I want to make sure people are aware of that," Muncy said. "I want to educate them of the benefits of being in Jeffersonville long-term."

Muncy also seeks to bring Jeffersonville's public art initiative to the forefront, even going so far as suggesting that the city make public art a requirement for any redevelopment or development project. Muncy can speak from experience. He built a $13.5 million hospital in Phoenix, with the city stipulating the incorporation of $25,000 in public art. A new park was born.

"There's a million different ways you can incorporate public art in a project, and I think with downtown having such a significant arts district, I think we should be promoting that with every project," Muncy said, praising the city's Public Art Commission. "I want people talking about downtown, and how you get people talking downtown is to do really cool things."

Downtown Jeffersonville's potential is coming into focus — 20 million different ways, and counting.

"I just think the timing is right for Jeffersonville," Muncy said. "And I'd love to be one of those people that help to define it."

Jason Thomas is an assistant editor at the News and Tribune. Contact him via email at jason.thomas@newsandtribune.com or by phone at 812-206-2127. Follow him on Twitter: @ScoopThomas.

Assistant Editor | Editor of SoIn, a weekly entertainment, culture and lifestyle section that publishes every Thursday | Editor of Southern Indiana Fitness Source magazine, a monthly glossy focusing on fitness, health, nutrition and wellness

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