Plans for the former Keller Manufacturing Co. property mixed-use redevelopment site have been modified with the reduction in funding from county government and the Harrison County Community Foundation, Stellar Communities officials explained Wednesday, March 8, at a quarterly update on all things Stellar.
The hotel and convention center aspects of the plan have been scratched, but Keller park (west of the railroad tracks near Big Indian Creek) and the residential portion (east of the tracks) remain in the works.
The Harrison County Council pulled its funding commitment of $4 million, and the Harrison County Community Foundation followed suit with its $2.75 million.
Both the county and HCCF have stated the money is still on the table if another site/project should arise.
The council rescinded the funding because "the project had significantly changed" since it was approved last summer and because of the lack of support from Lucas Oil Products owner Forrest Lucas. Lucas owns the railroad that splits the property, which is owned by Main Street Corydon.
The condensed plan will move forward with the backing of developer Luckett & Farley and the Town of Corydon.
Catherine Turcotte, executive director of Main Street Corydon, said Timothy Pitcher, Luckett & Farley development president, was not detracted by the fact there will be no event center on the property.
The Keller park will require an environmental study, which is standard procedure. A small area has been deemed contaminated from gas/diesel and furniture finish from the old Keller Manufacturing plant. The area will either be paved over or the contaminated dirt (which amounts to about 15 truck loads, according to officials) will be hauled off site.
"It's a common thing," Turcotte said. "We want everyone to understand the (environmental) process."
The east side of the tracks will include brownstone homes and apartments, which may have to be built up several feet so the views from the homes will be above the idle rail cars sitting on the tracks, officials said.
"It will be designed so you will have a great view of the ridge line and creek, high above the rail cars," Eva Bates North, town council president, said.
Committee member Nathan Broom said instead of paying to raise the structures above the rail cars, they should approach Lucas about buying the small stretch of railroad that passes through the Keller site. He also cited a 2009 agreement between the county and the railroad that said rail cars could be moved from the property if need be, when the county agreed to give Lucas Rail Lines $500,000 to help purchase the railroad line throughout the county.
Darrell Voelker, economic development director, said it's Lucas' belief that nothing will ever be built or developed at the property.
"Someone has given him info to suggest that nothing is going to happen," he said.
Voelker also spoke about problems North Vernon had dealing with Cathy Hale, of Lucas Rail Lines Inc., when they were awarded the Stellar designation and had a plan involving land near a railroad.
He said it's likely Hale has told Lucas things that aren't true.
The county council's representative to the committee, Holli Castetter, said Lucas (through Corydon plant manager Matt Conrad) has offered to buy the Keller property.
"He's never talked to the property owner," Turcotte said.
Castetter agreed to set up a meeting between Conrad and Turcotte.
Amy Williams, of Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group, added context to previous statements to the county council regarding state Stellar officials' thoughts in dealing with the railroad.
Though difficult and challenging, she said, officials thought it could be worked through.
"North Vernon had issues, but they got through it and got it done," she said.
Another committee person and member of the Luckett & Farley team, Steven Greseth, said the state folks he's talked to are "shocked" as to why Harrison County is having a problem with the railroad.
Officials also updated the group about the many other Stellar projects.
The Stonecipher and J.J. Bulleit historic preservation projects have received OCRA grants and are progressing nicely, they said.
The Stonecipher building, located in downtown Corydon on the south side of Chestnut Street, will have a commercial first floor and residential second floor; and the J.J. Bulleit building, which is across the street, also will have second-floor residential units and a destination restaurant on the first floor.
The Corydon School Senior Lofts project at the Gerdon Youth Center has received funding in the amount of $810,000 in residential housing tax credits for 10 years and $900,000 in additional grant money. Developers hope to start on the senior lofts project at the end of this year, once the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harrison-Crawford Counties, which now uses the Gerdon Youth Center, relocates to its new facility being constructed next to the YMCA of Harrison County.
Right-of-way acquisition is nearing completion for the next phase of the Indian Creek Trail project.
The facade improvements continue in town, and the Capitol Avenue Gateway and Urban Trail projects also are in the works.
The Harrison Center, located at the corner of North Capitol Avenue and Walnut Street, will soon begin a rehabilitation project creating apartments for disabled residents.
And, finally, downtown enhancement projects such as lighting, sidewalks, lane changes, etc. are in the initial design phase.
"Spring is going to bring a lot of new movement and activities to these things," North said.
North encouraged Stellar committee members to "do a lot of talking" out in public and to be sure to get the facts out because there has been misinformation regarding the Keller site and Stellar in general.
"We need to keep the message consistent to everyone," she said.
The five main goals the Stellar plan hopes to attain include increased assessed value, population, resident income, educational attainment and school enrollment.
"All our projects are feeding into that to be successful," she said. "We need to stay focused on what our goals are."