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Planners unveil vision for former Jeffboat shipyard along Jeffersonville’s riverfront

A rendering of plans for the Jeffboat property.
Planners have released a framework for redevelopment of the former Jeffboat shipyard in Jeffersonville.

The team behind redevelopment of the former Jeffboat property in Southern Indiana has released framework plans for what’s expected at the riverfront site over the next two decades.

Just as with the two previous public meetings earlier this year, community members packed the Howard Steamboat Museum’s Carriage House on Thursday for a glimpse of what’s to come at the roughly 80-acre riverfront site.

Jeffboat closed in 2018. American Commercial Barge Line, which has owned the property for nearly a century, is partnering with the City of Jeffersonville, The Wheatley Group and OHM Advisors on plans for its future.

What they’ve put together — after extensive market analysis and months of gathering community input — is a vision that planners say will draw residents and visitors to the historically industrial site and grant public access to that part of the riverfront for the first time in years.

John Pacyga with OHM Advisors led the presentation.

“We're holding on to the guiding principles that we set and then you all named for us, which is [that] this needs to be good for the community. It needs to connect with the road network. It needs to be good for people who are walkers, [and] it needs to keep in mind the history of the site,” he said.

John Pacyga with OHM Advisors presented the framework plans for redevelopment of the former Jeffboat shipyard Thursday in Jeffersonville.
Aprile Rickert
John Pacyga with OHM Advisors presented the framework plans for redevelopment of the former Jeffboat shipyard Thursday in Jeffersonville.

Planners say they heard from hundreds of community members, who expressed the need to have publicly accessible areas, as well as pay homage to the site’s history as a shipyard.

The entertainment district, near the Howard Steamboat Museum, will include an amphitheater and hotel. The initial concept shows a crescent-shaped pathway leading to an observation tower and connecting to other amenities, including offices and restaurants.

This first phase — expected to take around 10 years to complete at a cost of around $530 million — also includes green space, residential units and shops.

The plans also call for a full-service marina and the potential for commercial boat tours along the Ohio River.

“I am blown away,” Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said following the presentation Thursday. “[It doesn’t] matter if you’re 3 years old or 83 years old: There’s something for everybody in there.”

Moore added he thinks it will bring new excitement to the area, while complementing the surrounding historic neighborhoods.

“I think that's our appeal,” he said. “I think Jeffersonville is a city where you can still have that small-town charm, but have all the amenities of something really nice here on the riverfront.”

The project is estimated to cost around $930 million. Plans include 440 new residential units which would bring in new tax revenue. The team estimates an overall economic impact tax revenue of more than $170 million for the city and state over the first decade.

Mike Ellis, CEO of property owner ACBL, noted that Jeffboat “has been an integral part of our community for over 100 years, and we're very excited about this opportunity to revitalize this property.”

Ellis added it was important to partner with the community on its outcome, and he was glad to see another full house for Thursday’s meeting.

“So that means that not only we get valuable feedback from everybody here, but we also know that it's not just a company that wants to see this succeed, or a city,” he said. “It's the entire community, all the stakeholders.”

Carl Poff is a longtime resident of the neighborhood, who also has ties to the former shipyard.

“[I’m] very excited,” Poff said. “I worked at Jeffboat when I was younger, and we've lived here all of our lives in Jeffersonville. And to see the property being used and converted is just … it’s exciting.”

James and Kimberly Newbolt also attended the meeting. James worked at Jeffboat. They said they’re excited to see something new at the site, especially with regard to recreation. But they hope it doesn’t change the neighborhood or make it too crowded.

They also hope to see accessible amenities and parks for differently abled children.

Residents Kimberly and James Newbolt discuss framework plans for the former Jeffboat site in Jeffersonville at a public meeting Thursday.
Aprile Rickert
Residents Kimberly and James Newbolt discuss framework plans for the former Jeffboat site in Jeffersonville at a public meeting Thursday.

The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission took action this week toward creating a Tax Increment Financing district, or TIF, at the site. It still has to be approved by the Jeffersonville City Council.

“You're going to see the redevelopment commission be able to capture the revenue that's being created by new growth here, and it's going to put it right back into parks, a greenway, a marina, a playground for kids, a boardwalk along the river,” Mayor Moore said. “All of that is needed to make this successful.”

There are still additional steps needed before the plans are final, including hiring a master developer. The team expects to select one in the coming months. Moore said the project has drawn national interest.

“That shows you this isn't just a hot spot in Southern Indiana, this is a hot spot in the United States of America,” he said. “So I'm tickled to death to see this plan. I'm confident everybody is going to work together, including the governor. We've reached out and had those conversations. Everybody is excited about this project.”

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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