Novaparke in Floyd County includes the renovation of buildings such as the historic Whistle Stop Inn and two barns. 
News and Tribune file
Novaparke in Floyd County includes the renovation of buildings such as the historic Whistle Stop Inn and two barns. News and Tribune file
SOUTHERN INDIANA — Projects in Clark and Floyd counties make up the majority of nearly $50 million in funding that will support a five-county region in Southern Indiana.

Our Southern Indiana Regional Development Authority released the details Friday of projects that will receive funding from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI) funding.

At its Friday meeting, the RDA approved a revised methodology for the READI funding and provided updates on what projects will be funded and how much will be allocated for individual projects.

The region consisting of Clark, Floyd, Scott, Jefferson and Washington counties received $50 million in READI funding, which includes $47 million that will go directly toward projects in the region. The remaining money goes toward the RDA and Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) to oversee the funding process.

About $37 million will go toward projects relating to Clark or Floyd counties. The funding will support projects in areas such as destinations, natural assets, economic development, infrastructure and housing.

Last year, the IEDC allocated $500 million in READI funding to regions across the state using federal funding from the American Rescue Plan. The RDA submitted $85 million worth of projects for its READI application, although it was awarded the maximum amount of $50 million.

Dana Huber, chair of Our Southern Indiana RDA, said determining the allocations for a set of “great projects” was “not an easy task” for the board.

“We’ve just got to be able to show momentum moving forward and use of those dollars that really transform our community,” she said at Friday’s meeting.

The meeting involved the revision of funding allocations previously approved last month in order to “ensure maximum regional impact,” according to a Friday news release from the RDA.

Huber said some projects submitted in the RDA’s 2021 regional plan are no longer seeking READI funding, and other project leads expressed concerns with the funding amounts listed in the methodology approved in June.

“Our intent has always been to help regionally impactful projects move forward with READI funding,” Huber said in the news release. “When the RDA discovered that several projects were not likely to progress to completion by the 2026 deadline, it allowed us to revisit the funding amounts and provide more funds to projects that are making progress.”

Cory Cochran, executive director of River Hills Economic Development District, is working with Our Southern Indiana RDA in the implementation of READI funding. He emphasizes that this is only the first round of the READI program, and Gov. Eric Holcomb has expressed his intent to pursue a second round of funding.

“This time next year, we’re talking about having more dollars for projects that were either cut or were decreased, so those will be somewhat of a priority for the RDA,” he said.

SOUTHERN INDIANA PROJECTS


Origin Park, a project under development by River Heritage Conservancy, was allocated the highest amount of READI funding at $8.3 million. This is a significantly lower amount than the $17.2 million recommended for the Origin Park project in the READI plan submitted last year by the RDA.

Vern Eswine, a spokesperson for River Heritage Conservancy, said “we’re appreciative to the RDA as far as receiving funding.” However, he is also disappointed to see that the project is receiving much less funding than initially outlined in the RDA’s plan. He noted that Origin Park was ranked as a top regional project by the RDA.

“We’re disappointed, but at the same time, that doesn’t make us less excited to have $8.3 million to work with,” Eswine said.

The READI funding will assist River Heritage Conservancy in creating the planned 600-acre park along the Ohio River. The 2021 RDA plan calls for activating more than 100 acres of a blighted riverfront area in the initial phase.

Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges was excited to see the city will receive a combined $7.4 million in READI funding, including $5 million allocated for the building of the city’s new wastewater treatment facility and $2.4 for the Market Street Commons affordable housing development.

“I think it shows that Charlestown is poised to be a regional player,” she said.

Hodges said the READI funding of the sewer infrastructure will minimize the burden on ratepayers for the building of the treatment plant. Construction on the $42 million wastewater treatment plant is expected to begin early next year.

The RDA’s methodology approved in June originally called for $3 million to go toward the wastewater project, and she was pleased to see the allocation restored to the $5 million recommended in the 2021 RDA plan.

“Putting back the $5 million is a game-changer for us,” Hodges said. “It makes the project more palatable for ratepayers and less of a burden.”

The RDA is also planning to fund $5 million for Jeffersonville’s North Wastewater Treatment Plant in River Ridge. Like Hodges, Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore was also happy to see the RDA reevaluate its allocation after calling for only $3 million last month — $5 million was the amount recommended in the 2021 RDA plan.

The city will open bids for the wastewater treatment plant next Tuesday, according to Moore.

“Jeffersonville and River Ridge continue to grow, and that $5 million will be put to a good use,” he said.

The $5 million will go toward increasing the plant’s capacity from 3 million gallons a day to 6 million gallons a day, which is estimated by engineers to cost about $38 million. Moore would like to see the plant expanded even more to accommodate 9 million gallons a day, and he is seeking an additional $15 million in funding from the state for that expansion.

In Floyd County, the support for the Novaparke Innovation Corridor is welcome news to Shawn Carruthers, president of the Floyd County Commissioners. He is glad to see Novaparke recognized as a “regional project,” he said.

Over the past month, the RDA changed the READI allocation for the project from $2 million to $4.2 million, according to Carruthers. The 2021 RDA plan recommended $5.5 million for the project.

The Novaparke Innovation and Technology Campus is under development along Ind. 64 in Edwardsville. The READI funding will support projects such as the building of entrepreneurial and laboratory space at the park.

“Every project seemed to be a pretty good project, and we’re excited ours was able to rise to the top to be selected for the first round of READI funding,” Carruthers said.

Nic Langford, redevelopment director for the Town of Clarksville, said the $4 million in READI funding for the South Clarksville project will help Clarksville develop a downtown corridor, including building a street grid.

“I’m pleased,” he said. “It wasn’t easy, and they knuckled down and made those decisions. Frankly, I think they picked the projects that have the best chances of moving forward and getting funding.”

The Town of Clarksville originally asked for $6.8 million in the RDA plan submitted last year. The town is already in the first phase of building out streets, Langford said.

“It’s very rare that you get to build a downtown from scratch on a riverfront in a major metro area,” he said. “This is going to help us create what will be a vibrant regional attraction for our area.”

The development of a Veterinary Teaching Center for Hanover College and Ivy Tech Madison is receiving the second-highest amount of the READI allocation at $5.9 million. The project seeks to address the widespread shortage of veterinary professionals and support workforce development.

The South Monon Freedom Trail is another regional project receiving several million dollars in READI funding. The City of New Albany will be receiving $4.07 million, which is the full amount outlined in the RDA’s 2021 plan.

The funding will help the city move forward in its Rails to Trails project as it seeks to acquire the CSX rail corridor from New Albany to Bedford for conversion into a 68-mile trail that would ultimately connect with the Ohio River Greenway.

NEXT STEPS


In the upcoming weeks, the RDA and River Hills will work with project leads to formally submit projects to the IEDC for formal approval. The individual projects will then come back to the RDA for a vote.

Once grant agreements are signed, “that’s when shovels can hit the dirt and dollars can be divvied up,” Cochran said.

Projects are expected to receive funding as early as August or September if they have received formal approval from the IEDC, according to Cochran.

Funding can be re-obligated if a deadline passes or a project doesn’t move forward. The READI funds can be awarded through the end of 2024, and they must be spent by 2026.

“We are ready to get these regional and generational projects started,” Huber said. “We have been working on this process for over a year and feel that our project leads are as eager as we are. We are thankful for the opportunity that the state and governor have given us, and we are ready.”

The RDA’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 5 at the Clark County Government Center, located at 300 Corporate Drive in Jeffersonville.
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