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New Albany City Council approves partial funding for Elsby hotel project

A rendering shows The Elsby, a future boutique hotel in downtown New Albany.
Resch Property Group and The Sprigler Company
A rendering of The Elsby, a boutique hotel planned in downtown New Albany.

The New Albany City Council has given the green light to help fund rehabilitation of the historic Elsby building into a boutique hotel.

With a 6-3 vote, the council approved on third reading this week an ordinance to issue up to $3.35 million in bonds toward redevelopment of the more than 100-year-old building.

The bonds would generate $2 million in revenue for the overall roughly $29 million project, which is being undertaken by Resch Property Group and The Sprigler Company.

Plans include an 82-room hotel with an adjacent events center and parking lot. Funding comprises developer investment, a loan and state and federal tax credits.

The council has been divided on the issue in recent weeks, with some members saying they wanted more information on things like funding and the potential success of the hotel.

Those who have voted against the project also said they have felt rushed to make a decision.

Planners have said the project moving forward depends on the council’s buy-in, and that they’re quickly approaching deadlines for getting some of the other funding sources.

At the regular council meeting earlier this month, members approved the first two readings of the bond ordinance. They also passed a resolution creating a Tax Increment Financing district, or TIF, for the Elsby property.

Between that and this week’s meeting, they held a work session to get more information.

Council Member Josh Turner said after the work session last week he supported the project itself but wasn’t sure the city should take on the risk. He also still had more questions.

There was still doubt Thursday when Council Member Stefanie Griffith first moved to table the ordinance and appoint a committee to give Council Member Scott Blair, a banker, the chance to look more deeply into the financial information.

“If we got his approval, I would feel much better about that,” she said. Griffith was joined in the vote by Blair and Turner.

“We have a well-respected commercial banker on the council,” Turner said. “I think it would be a real miss to not have him look at everything.”

Council Member Adam Dickey, who presented the measure, said they have been given a lot of information and opportunities to ask questions of those leading the project.

“I can’t help but feel at some point, you have to be able to make a judgment call,” he said. “And I realize we all want the absolute safest best scenario for the city.

“I think that to bog it down farther risks killing the project and if that's what we want to do I think we just make an up or down vote about whether we want to kill the project. I don't think we dance around the issue any further.”

Blair said the constituents he’s talked to say the government should not be funneling money to a private business. He and others say they need to be able to see the terms and structure of the loan agreement between the developers and lender.

“We do not know the details; we're making assumptions here,” he said. “We're seeing pretty pictures, we're hearing stories, but we don't have the details or the information we need.”

Dickey said the information provided ahead of the vote was sufficient. He this level of historic preservation doesn’t happen without government support, and that it is an investment in the city itself.

“We are working to provide incentives that creates jobs for our community, that works to uplift this community, that works to reinvest in this community,” he said.

The council approved the ordinance along the same lines as the vote to table. Blair, Griffith and Turner voted against the ordinance and Dickey, Greg Phipps, Deanna McLaughlin, Davis Aebersold, Jennie Collier and Jason Applegate voted in favor.

“We’ve attempted everything to say ‘yes’ to this,” Turner said with his vote. “And unfortunately we need more time and information.”

The project is expected to be finished in 2025.

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.