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Master plan taking shape for former Jeffboat shipyard property in Jeffersonville

A map shows possible development designs for the former Jeffboat shipyard.
American Commercial Barge Line
Planners presented two preliminary design concepts for redevelopment of the former Jeffboat shipyard in Jeffersonville this week.

Five years after the Jeffboat shipyard closed its doors in Jeffersonville, plans are shaping up for what’s next at the roughly mile-long riverfront property.

For nearly 200 years, the site along Market Street just east of downtown Jeffersonville was used for boat-building — originally as the Howard family shipyard, which produced steamboats, and most recently as Jeffboat, which made barges until its closure in 2018.

Now, developers and community members are looking ahead at what’s next for the roughly 80 acres of real estate along the Ohio River.

In fall, the City of Jeffersonville announced it was partnering with property owner American Commercial Barge Line on a master plan for the site. For project plans, they’ve teamed up with the Wheatley Group and OHM Advisors, who in January gathered community input on what residents and other stakeholders want to see at the site.

Residents expressed a need for greenspace and offered ideas for various land uses. Around 20% of comments focused on retaining the history of the property, including keeping some of the original buildings.

On Tuesday, John Pacyga with OHM Advisors presented how planners have used that input and other research to create two preliminary site designs. Those plans took into account what he said was a 10-year low for unemployment for the city, as well as a need to focus on younger generations.

Pacyga said according to 2020 census data, around half of Jeffersonville’s population is under 40.

“That means that we need to start expecting that there needs to be things for new and younger people to be a part of this development,” he said. “We need to make sure that we're embracing that with all the things that we're bringing to the site, because that's our future as a community.”

Pacyga said the developments can also draw in new residents and commercial property, noting around 20,000 people commute to Jeffersonville daily for work. But it can also mean drawing people from outside the region.

“What if someone in another community — Indianapolis, even San Francisco — wants to have a better way of life, raise a good family in a good community?” He said. “This would be a great place to do it.”

The plans include a mix of restaurants, small stores, residential spaces, an 80 -100 room hotel and a full-service marina. Recreational greenspace could take the form of an art sculpture park and a railway converted into a trail.

The designs include the potential for indoor games, ziplining and an observation tower overlooking Jeffersonville and the Louisville skyline.

Following the presentation, attendees talked with planning staff and provided input on this most recent phase of the project.

Staci Flispart is a longtime Jeffersonville resident and has been in real estate in the area for the past seven years.

“I think everything they're saying is great,” she said. “We need more condos, we need townhomes. We need places to live.”

Flispart added that she appreciates the historical aspect.

“I like that they’re using the existing buildings that are there and keeping Jeffboat kind of in the community,” she said.

Jack Lindley is the fourth generation of his family to live near the former shipyard. He said the development has the potential to be the “crown jewel” of positive progress in the area — especially in downtown Jeffersonville — in recent years.

“I'm impressed with how far they've come along in such a short period of time,” he said of the Jeffboat redevelopment project. “And like everybody else, I have a few questions, a few concerns, but all in all, full steam ahead.

“It's great for downtown, great for the city and great for this part of the state.”

The master plan is expected to be finalized in the coming months, followed by review by the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission. Development is targeted to begin in 2025. Project planners will host a third community meeting this summer.

More information on the project including how to sign up for email alerts can be found here.

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.