JEFFERSONVILLE — With long-awaited road improvements to 10th Street wrapped up, many in Jeffersonville are wondering what the future holds for the once bustling corridor.
In years past, 10th Street was Jeffersonville's go-to spot for business, retail and recreation. Over time, that reputation faded as other sections of the city sprouted up with new amenities.
Now, city officials are envisioning new life for 10th Street. Its role, however, won't be rooted in commercial offerings like it once was. Instead, Moore and his team want to transform it into a residential area.
"Back in the 1960s and 1970s, that was the main commercial district in the city of Jeff," Mayor Mike Moore said. "Over the course of the last 40 years, we've seen a lot of strong businesses that built that area move on. With the growth of the city moving more eastward and the revitalization of our downtown and obviously the shopping district around Veterans Parkway, those have become our commercial hubs."
A TALE OF TWO CITIES
According to the 10th Street Strategic Investment Plan commissioned by the city, the stretch that includes Youngstown Plaza, Gateway Plaza and Jeff Plaza are being eyed for major projects. Jeff Plaza is being eyed for improvements, including the potential installation of greenways connections to Highland Dog Park and the Jeffersonville Aquatic Center. Youngstown and Gateway Plazas are to become a "Midtown" district, with retail and entertainment mixed in with new housing.
"With all of those businesses that have come, the one thing you have to have is customers," Moore said. "Clarksville is a town that's pretty much all commercial based. For all of the commercial growth they've had, they don't have strong residential numbers. That's why I'm encouraging a good mix and turning that end into a more residential area. We need customers, and those will be the residents that live around the city."
Echoing that sentiment was at-large city council member Matt Owen. According to Owen, as different sections of the city have blossomed, 10th Street has been all but forgotten. Now it's time, he said, to make sure that space is used properly.
“For a long time, it felt like we almost had two cities," Owen said. "Doing some work in the middle to try to connect those is very important. I think the mayor's intentions to fill in that gap with some residential is a great idea, since we do have some housing needs. I like the idea of looking for some affordable single-family dwellings. There are just pockets of space that would be great. I think Jeffersonville is firing on all cylinders, and I think we would be doing right to opening up more housing."
Glenda Gasparine, president and CEO of the Southern Indiana Realtors Association, said that there is indeed a great need for housing in Jeffersonville, as well as the area as a whole. With more jobs and attractions comes more people. The problem is, not enough housing is being developed to match that growth.
"One of the issues that we have is that we don't have enough active listings," Gasparine said. "River Ridge just added 850 jobs. We need housing. Those people need somewhere to live. I think it's a positive, encouraging thing to see some of these areas that need revitalized become open to more residential units."
LOW MAINTENANCE LOTS
The term used for the new housing developments in the strategic plan is "pocket neighborhood." These pocket neighborhoods would utilize former commercial sites by transforming those into entrances that would open up into subdivisions. The homes themselves would not line 10th Street.
In these pocket neighborhoods, there would be a focus on developing housing for a variety of potential residents, particularly millennials and seniors.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is the fact that right now that young professionals and millennials don't want to live in rural areas," Gasparine said. "They want walkability to parks and shopping and a positive things. Right now, the millennials want accessibility to entertainment and theaters. They want to walk or the ability to ride a bike and things like that."
Moore added millennials and seniors are also interested in housing that requires less maintenance. With that in mind, he hopes to build complexes that offer several amenities so that residents can focus less on yardwork and house upkeep and more on getting out into the revitalized city.
"I was lucky enough to grow up in Oak Park in the 1960s where everybody had a 1-acre lot," Moore said. "Those times are gone. Not many people are looking for that. If they are, they go out to the county. People in the city are looking for less maintenance. That's why we're seeing more planned complexes where somebody can use a pool or a picnic area."
In the years to come, Moore said residents can expect to see more single family homes with small yards and planned communities where homeowners have little to no maintenance — whether those come in the form of apartments or patio homes.
"Millennials and seniors aren't looking for large yards," Moore said. "Jeffersonville has changed with the times, and that's why we've seen this new growth. We have become a community that's ready for the next 20 to 30 years. The days of Oak Park type neighborhoods in the city are over. Our free time isn't spent mowing the lawn anymore."
The road to these redevelopment projects, however, has not been without speed bumps. In order to build on the land, the city must first acquire it. But some business owners aren't quite ready to sell.
"It's going to take some convincing for current owners who have been there for several years," Moore said. "We need to convince them that that is no longer going to be a commercial site and get them to sell their property. The old Clark County Auto Auction sits on the front of 10th, and I am trying to encourage them to sell. I've talked to multiple developers, and there is some potential for residential growth there."
Paul Fetter, sales manager at Clark County Auto Auction and cousin of owner Matt Fetter, said the business needs that land to store vehicles, as anything with a smaller capacity would not suffice. Because of that, he said his family is currently not interested in selling the property.
"Number one, nobody's asked," Fetter said. "The city's not tried to buy it. Nobody's made any movement to do so. We're not in the market to sell it. We have no interest in selling it. However, if there was a similar piece of land that was similarly constructed and that was as easy to travel to as, we may consider trading.”
Though he said the city is interested in acquiring lots along the strip, Moore said that a commercial presence wouldn't be entirely eliminated. Some current businesses, like Maxwell's House of Music and Davis Nursery, would be used as "value drivers" for the new and improved plazas.
"For the business owners that are along that stretch of 10th Street, what we're concentrating on is going to benefit them," Moore said. "We're trying to get more customers for them. We've got some open land around 10th Street with some strong, stable businesses that are there. We spent $20 million to provide them with a better opportunity to bring customers in. It was an investment I was happy to make.
"Hopefully in the years to come, families will come in and the businesses will see that we are keeping them in mind."