Concept art of the first phase of the Hoosier Heartland project is shown. Logansport Mayor Chris Martin said this is one of the projects at the top of his priority list for 2022. Photo provided
Concept art of the first phase of the Hoosier Heartland project is shown. Logansport Mayor Chris Martin said this is one of the projects at the top of his priority list for 2022. Photo provided
With a busy 2021 wrapped up, Cass County looks towards a new year that’s just as busy, if not busier.

The county will start 2022 without any significant social distancing restrictions due to COVID-19, even though new case numbers continue to surge.

In 2021, there was some catching up on or starting projects that were behind schedule due to various delays caused by the pandemic, and some of those will see their endings in the new year.

Mayor Chris Martin continues to plan for the long term and already had a list in mid-December of what the city and his administration would like to do.

“In 2022, the 18th and Heartland will see more progress,” he stated by email. “We are working on an autism center for children and daycare. We will be putting more focus on our rivers with a Riverwalk and a focus on where the two rivers meet. We will be focusing on groundbreakings for multiple housing developments and applying for more grants to continue our progress throughout the city of Logansport.”

The Hoosier Heartland Highway and 18th Street area, near the Ivy Tech campus, is being set up for more development. In October, McClure Oil Corporation received more zoning variances for its planned gas station at the northwest corner of that intersection.

On Dec. 13, the Logansport Plan Commission approved an overlay district for the site, setting standards for buildings that go in.

That overlay still needs to go before the Logansport City Council.

Martin’s administration wants to develop that area with businesses that cater to the Ivy Tech students and with some industry.

The plans include connecting the campus to the downtown by a walking trail that goes north on 18th Street and circles back down Burlington Avenue to the campus area.

In spring, improvements and resurfacing to Erie Avenue between Fifth to 17th streets will begin, the mayor stated.

When planning for upgrading Erie began in 2020, Martin said he wants to see new sidewalks, new lighting, trees and a new road.

The project is expected to last three to four years.

Martin also looks forward to work to start on the new police station with the Logansport Police Department moving in before the end of 2022. In November, the city received the one time juvenile detention center and former Longfellow Elementary School at 729 High St. from the state.

The building has been unused for a while, and Councilman Dave Morris, D-Ward1, suggested it as a place for the police force, now spread out among three buildings.

The police department has shared the City Building at 601 E. Broadway since it was completed in 1925, according to Cass County Historian Thelma Conrad.

Also in the works, Logansport should hear in the next few months about a grant for Phase 2 of the sidewalk project. Along with Phase 1, it could give the city seven miles of new sidewalks, according to Martin.

Some other things Martin’s administration is working on are an autism center for children and daycare.

“The autism center is still in the very early stages and we’ll release more information as we’re able,” Martin stated.

Focus on housing

Some relief from the scarcity of housing in the county will begin this year with Lexington Village construction starting. Lexington Village is a subdivision planned for the empty fields behind Walmart and Mary Max Cinema, northwest of the intersection of High Street and Yorktown Road.

The city has planned to put housing there since about 2014 and recently developed a plan for 52 homes. The homes would be from 900 to 3,000 square feet.

Houses along Yorktown will be between $165,000 and $200,000 and ones along High Street will be in the mid- to high $200,000 range.

Contractor Joe Dicosola, owner of Park Development LLC of Chicago and redeveloper of the former Logansport Mall, is set to build the houses.

Bill Cuppy, executive director of the Logansport-Cass County Chamber of Commerce and president of the Cass Logansport Economic Development Organization President, said that housing will be a big focus for 2022.

Besides Lexington Village, Logansport is looking for other ways to increase available housing.

It is still pursuing the farmland for sale at Chase and Davis roads, waiting to see if the initial bidder gets the land.

The city would annex it for higher end houses, Cuppy said.

“We’re looking at some other areas that would serve the same purpose, looking at some properties,” he said.

That includes having a committee working with Tyson Foods to acquire houses in the $20,000 to $30,000 range that need light rehab.

“We have several Tyson employees looking for homes, as well as some other workers,” Cuppy said.

Improving those houses will also improve neighborhoods, he added.

Downtown development

Downtown Logansport, which saw a number of new businesses open in 2021, will have at least one more opening soon, Martin stated.

Science Project Brewing Company is renovating the former auto detailer at 611 North St., east of the intersection with Sixth Street.

Recreation and quality of life will be big items for the city in 2022.

Martin plans to continue championing an urban park downtown by Melbourne Avenue from the alleyway east of the current Heritage Park going west to the empty lot behind the State Theatre.

The city is looking at permanent recreational structures and courts, such as concrete cornhole platforms, ping pong tables or chess tables.

The mayor acknowledged residents have pushed back on some of the plans, especially the loss of Heritage Park as it’s partially absorbed into the new park and partially used for a planned building going on the Farmers Market parking lot at Fourth and East Market streets.

That development would have commercial space on the first floor and apartments above.

Riverside Park plans

Parks Administrator Jan Fawley said that in 2022, her department will begin looking at the Riverside Park Master Plan in spring and the master plan for all the parks around the end of summer 2022.

Both will be five year plans.

The goal for Riverside is to make it more family friendly, Fawley said.

Fawley has mentioned the possibility of kayak rentals at Riverside with the dams along the Eel River removed, but ideas will come from public meetings and input.

Martin said the Riverwalk will start at Riverside west of the Dentzel Carousel and continue to the west.

Connected to that could be a confluence project where the Eel and Wabash rivers meet that Martin stated is in very early stages but will help showcase Logansport.

The Junction at Logansport

In 2022, the city will complete the bond processes to help in the renovation of the former Logansport Mall, being renovated into The Junction at Logansport, and for the Home2 Suites by Hilton hotel that is being built where J.C. Penney used to be at the mall’s east end.

Park Development, LLC, and DiCosola, bought the mall in February 2020 and have been making alterations to turn it from an indoor mall to a strip mall with a unifying décor.

The hotel will be four stories with 92 rooms, a pool and a general meeting space. It has a Sept. 1 completion date.

For the mall still standing, workers are pouring concrete and putting in studs for the new front, preparing the building for winter.

Dunham’s Sports remains in the mall and Planet Fitness moved into the old Sears store in March.

County pushes forward
Cass County Commissioners President Ryan Browning, R-District 3, shares Cuppy’s mindset.

Cass is going to focus on finishing projects in the works, Browning said.

That includes the new EMS service, any finishing touches on the Waelz Sustainable Products (WSP) plant in the Agri-Business Park and the Cass County Jail expansion, which has gone on for more than two years — longer than anticipated.

The jail addition planning started in 2016.

The original completion date was for spring or early summer of 2021, then moved to Dec. 21, but the date for occupancy is now set at March 21, also due to supply chain issues.

Cass County was required to increase jail size due to overcrowding.

The addition will add 47,000 square feet to the existing 50,000 square feet and add 154 beds to the current 208.

There are also delays for the WSP plant, which won’t make the January start date as announced earlier this year.

That’s due to supply chain problems, said General Manager Mike Englert.

The company, a joint venture between Heritage Environmental Services of Indianapolis and Zinc Nacional of Monterrey, Mexico, plans to have 74 employees by Jan. 10.

The facility will extract zinc oxide and iron from electric arc furnace dust, a byproduct of recycling steel that the EPA designates as a hazardous material.

WSP plans to start pelletizing the dust so it handles better in the week of Feb. 14.

The kiln is now set to start up the week of Feb. 28.

Other projects in the county include the proposed Appleseed Solar LLC solar field that is scheduled to be built around the Walton area on at least 1.200 acres of land.

The Cass County Council approved an economic development agreement with Appleseed on Dec. 10.

NextEra first introduced the idea of a 1,400 to 1,600 acre solar site to residents at a July 28 open house, although it had been reaching leasing agreements with landowners before that.

Some residents have spoken against the scale of the proposed solar field for reasons that include loss of farmland.

The Cass County Commissioners also approved an agreement with Appleseed that will also require the solar company to improve any roads it uses during construction to handle the construction traffic and to repair any damage to public roads caused by its vehicles.

Appleseed will maintain a bond for those potential costs and for decommissioning the solar field.

County residents also got a tease of a coming project for the county at the last Cass County Redevelopment Commission meeting of the year.

On Dec. 20, the commission members voted to table an agenda item listed only as “Project Fusion.”

There wasn’t much discussion about the project, and Redevelopment Commission President Ryan Zeck declined to talk about it.

Zeck said it’s still early in the process and only at the point of a business approaching Cass County with an idea to see what’s available.

“We’re on step one of 237,” he said.

More things to do

In 2021, Cass County saw the return of the Cass County 4-H Fair and of Carousel Days after a year without them because of social distancing concerns.

This year, the Batman convention is scheduled to return, and the Batman Museum being built at 525 E. Market St. will be part of it.

“We’re looking at doing a partial open, if not a full open, around September or October 2022, and the plan is to bring back Batcon at that time,” said Mark Racop, owner of Fiberglass Freaks, which is the only licensed business for making working 1966 Batmobile replicas.

He is leaning towards September but hasn’t set a date yet.

The convention first happened in 2013 and 2018 to celebrate the 10th and 15th anniversaries of Fiberglass Freaks, and Racop decided to make it an annual event with the 2019 convention, which commemorated 80 years since the caped crusader’s creation and 30 years since Michael Keaton stared in the 1989 film.

However, the convention didn’t happen in 2020 or 2021.

“It’ll be great to get Batcon started up again,” Racop said.

The convention will follow any social restrictions that might be in place when the convention starts, and he plans to look beyond Batman for potential guests.

In the past, he’s had Disney animator Philo Barnhart, who’s worked on “The Little Mermaid,” The Secret of NIMH” and other classics.

Overall, Cass County is approaching 2022 with a sense of making things happen and a lot of optimism.

Martin also closed his list of predictions with a quote from author R.J. Intindola: “If you think it cannot be done, please don’t interfere or interrupt the rest of us trying to do it.”

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