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Former Jeffersonville shipyard could become mixed-use ‘village’ in coming years

Jeffersonville leaders hope developers can transform the former Jeffboat shipyard into a mixed-used development with housing, shopping and greenspace.

Jeffersonville officials are looking to future progress on redeveloping the former Jeffboat site now that the first project on the property has been announced.

Jeffboat was one of the largest shipbuilders in the country for nearly two centuries before shutting down in 2018. Its 65-acre site along the Ohio River hasn’t seen much activity in the years since.

But that will soon change after the Jeffersonville City Council rezoned a parking lot on the site earlier this month to make way for a new residential development.

“With the new homes coming to the old Jeffboat parking lot, that's one more step in completing what we wanted to see through,” Mayor Mike Moore said. “So I’m just tickled to death to put the pieces into the puzzle and see everything come together.”

The new neighborhood, named Howard Yard after Jeffboat founder James Howard, will bring 12 single-family houses to the parking lot at the corner of Main and Market streets.

After the shipyard shut down, Moore said the city was unable to make any progress in negotiations with its former owners. That changed about a year ago when a new company acquired the property.

“We are in talks with the new owners, and I think they share the same thoughts that we do,” Moore said. “And that is to do a mixed-use development with greenspace, some residential, some commercial. I can picture that old shipyard becoming kind of like a little village.”

Moore said Howard Yard is a good first step in that transformation, but it’s just a small example of what he hopes the Jeffboat property can become.

Along with the housing and shopping possibilities, Moore wants to connect the Ohio River Greenway trail to the abandoned railroad at Jeffboat’s eastern edge and build a new marina on the waterfront.

The redevelopment is expected to be a years-long effort that will involve at least four or five private developers.

“If they're looking for some incentives to build something nice, we're going to be right there to help them,” Moore said. “In return, that's going to help everybody in Jeff. I want to make sure it's going to be something we all want, not just something that a few people may like.”

Before any major construction can happen on the main portion of Jeffboat, which sits across Market Street from the new residential development, the site will need an environmental cleanup and infrastructure repairs to help with drainage. Moore said that could take “a couple of years.”

Jeffersonville City Council member Scott Hawkins, who’s also president of the Redevelopment Commission, said the city is working on a master plan that could include more zoning changes at Jeffboat to prepare for future development.

“That is going to definitely change that kind of industrial center that Jeff’s had for over 100 years,” Hawkins said. “We don't know what it's going to change to, but it's definitely not going to be industrial again. So big changes are coming.”

John Boyle is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. John's coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec, Inc.

John, News Editor for LPM, is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Email John at jboyle@lpm.org.