By LEANN BURKE at Dubois County Herald
JASPER — It’s been quiet on Jasper’s Patoka Riverfront, despite two major redevelopment projects in the works near the Jasper Train Depot.
The Hoosier Desk factory at the corner of Fourth and Mill streets and the old Jasper Cabinet Factory behind the Jasper Train Depot will be redeveloped over the next few years.
The Jasper Public Library and the Jasper Community Arts Commission plan to unite to build the Jasper Cultural Center where the Hoosier Desk building currently stands, and Indianapolis developer Boxer Girl LLC plans to develop Jasper Cabinet into a mixed use complex dubbed River Centre.
The last action the public saw came in February when Boxer Girl demolished part of Jasper Cabinet as a kickoff to construction. Since then, not much has happened at either site. The quiet does not mean idleness, however.
Behind-the-scenes work on both the Jasper Cultural Center and River Centre has been trucking along.
In April, Indianapolis-based General Hotels — the company building and managing the hotel at River Centre— announced that the hotel will be an 80-room Fairfield Inn & Suites. The hotel will be constructed in the former block kiln building and will be an $8-million investment in Jasper. Before construction on the hotel can begin, Marriott International, Inc., Fairfield’s parent company, must sign off on the plans for the building. Jane Hendrickson of Boxer Girl said she expects everything to be in place for construction of the hotel to begin in September.
Hendrickson has been working on obtaining Industrial Recovery Tax Credits for River Centre. Those were awarded to the project in June, clearing the way for work to begin. Hendrickson said she expects construction to begin on the rest of the development — 75 apartments, 36,000 square feet of retail space, a 200-space parking lot and several beautification projects in the area — in early 2018.
She is working to fill the retail space, but cannot comment on what businesses or what kind of businesses may fill it. She is looking for a mix of retail and restaurant businesses, and she plans to have new signage up at the site in time for Strassenfest that will include leasing information and a phone number.
Across Third Street from the River Centre will be the Jasper Cultural Center.
No construction work has begun at that site, but Jasper Public Library Director Christine Golden hopes deconstruction can begin this year. Right now, though, the city, library and Louisville-based private developer, City Properties Group, are finalizing contracts that will govern the collaboration.
In the set up, the City of Jasper will hold the contract with City Properties, and an interlocal agreement between the city and the library will ensure the library gets a fair say in discussions with City Properties and that the cost of the project is shared equally. For the project to move forward, the library board must approve the interlocal agreement.
The library board discussed both contracts at its meeting last week and decided to table their decision. Board members only had about a day to review the lengthy documents and felt they needed more time. Board members will meet in a special meeting in the coming weeks to further discuss and vote on the contracts. The date and time of the meeting are to be decided.
Once the library board approves the contract, City Properties will begin work on final designs and construction documents for the Cultural Center. Golden expects the project to go to bid by the end of the year, with construction beginning in the spring of next year.
Once completed, the Jasper Cultural Center will house the Jasper Public Library and the gallery spaces and offices for the Jasper Community Arts Commission. There are also plans for a snack kiosk and gift shop of some kind, and the commission plans to have studio spaces.
The groups are currently looking for a private entity interested in developing the boiler room at the site. In the original concept drawings, the boiler room was marked for a restaurant, but could instead be made into a retail space. If no one shows interest, the boiler room will be demolished when the rest of the building comes down. Anyone interested in the boiler room should contact Golden at 812-482-2712.