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Residents pack the house for Jeffboat redevelopment discussion

A crowd of people listen as a speaker discusses guiding principles for the former Jeffboat property redevelopment.
Aprile Rickert
LPM News
More than 100 people attended a meeting this week to offer input on how the former Jeffboat property in Jeffersonville should be redeveloped.

More than 100 people crowded into the Howard Steamboat Museum carriage house Monday night to hear preliminary plans on what’s next for the former Jeffboat property and offer their input on what should go there.

In September, Jeffersonville officials announced the city is partnering with property owner American Commercial Barge Lines on a master plan for developing the former shipyard, which closed in 2018.

The Wheatley Group and OHM Advisors are also part of the planning process.

At Monday’s meeting, John Pacyga with OHM, gave brief presentations on planners’ initial guiding principles. He said the developments will likely be market-driven and reflect what makes the most sense for the area. Planners have already started the market analysis.

“The only way we're able to do that is to ask lots of good questions, talk with lots of people in our community and then be able to determine what actually can work here,” he said.

Pacyga said the developments will likely include a mix of public, semi-private and private development, with access points for pedestrians and cyclists.

“This will be the first time in 189 years that people are going to be able to freely … walk around on the site and enjoy it and see the great views,” he said.

He said planners want to connect residents and visitors to the waterfront once again.

Residents Charlene and Dennis McAndrews were among those at the meeting.

“I liked the idea of the bike trails and walking trails and having access to the river,” Charlene said, adding she felt more optimistic after hearing the presentation.

The couple added they hope there won’t be tall buildings to block the view.

Lauren Bayens said she likes the guiding principles so far, but didn't see anything in the initial plans for transportation or mixed-income properties.

“That's something that's very near and dear to my heart,” Bayens said. “Most of the housing opportunities we've had built here in the last five years are all luxury."

Bill Halter and his wife Pam live on nearby Utica Pike, which Market Street turns into at the Jeffboat site. Halter said he grew up in the area and played with the members of the Howard family, descendants of Jeffboat’s founder. He remembers when everything at the site was painted “battleship gray.”

As a Navy veteran, he said he worries about any leftover pollution at the site. He also wants to see some recognition of the military efforts, because Landing Ship, Tanks or LSTs were built there at one point.

“But there's a lot of questions I've got,” he said. “I just want to make sure that if it is developed, it's done right, and [that] not one group of people get everything.”

Jeffersonville residents and business owners can submit comments online and sign up for meeting notices at this link, which will close Friday.

Officials will present preliminary proposals at the next meeting, which is expected to be in April.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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