Discover more from Based in Lafayette, Indiana
12-year pursuit puts land across from SIA in play
Plus, House District 41 race getting crowded. What’s next for Lafayette Theater? Lincoln Neighborhood next up in city’s plans.
Today’s edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project is sponsored by Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series, featuring President Mitch Daniels’ Feb. 1 conversation with Kenneth R. Feinberg, who oversaw the historic 9/11 victim compensation fund. For more details, scroll to the end of today’s edition.
LAFAYETTE, COUNTY NAIL DOWN LAND ACROSS FROM SIA
For a dozen years, Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski estimated, the city has eyed the farmland directly across Indiana 38 from the Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. plant and made overtures to broker a deal for it as the next prime, industrial spot in Tippecanoe County.
“At least 12 years,” Roswarski said Thursday. “Things just never came together. But it finally happened.”
An $8.6 million sale of 339 acres between Interstate 65 and Newcastle Road, finalized the week before Christmas, came to light Thursday during a monthly Lafayette Redevelopment Commission meeting. T.M. Crowley & Associates, a firm in Carmel, bought the land – a combination of four parcels just west of I-65 – from the Steele Land Trust, according to property records filed in Tippecanoe County. (Attempts to reach the Steele family were not immediately successful Thursday.)
On Thursday, the redevelopment commission agreed to engineering work ahead of the extension of city water and sewer services to the land. Christopher Burke Engineering, an Indianapolis firm, will do that work for $160,000 – a price Dennis Carson, Lafayette’s economic development director, said would be split with Tippecanoe County.
“This is the next frontier for us,” Carson said.
Roswarski said the utility work was the first step to prepping the land to recruit new industry in Lafayette.
“This is a fantastic site,” Roswarski said Thursday. “It’s right next to I-65. It’s served by rail. We’ve already had inquiries about it. It’s why we worked so long to make it happen.”
For comparison’s sake, the 339 acres is a little over 40% the size of SIA’s 820-acre property.
Carson said the Steele property was the last one with an established rail spur in Greater Lafayette.
“Which really matters, we know,” Carson said. “We’ve had inquiries that specifically asked about rail access, and we haven’t been able to offer. Now, we can.”
Carson said the city and county will need to work on ways in and out of the property, which now is served by an extended driveway.
“It’s the future for us in industrial development,” Roswarski told redevelopment commission members.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR LAFAYETTE THEATER?
The Lafayette Theater, in city hands since 2019, is within weeks of reopening for events at the corner of Sixth and Main streets, Roswarski said Thursday. That follows work in recent years to replace the roof, install new heating and cooling systems, fix the drains and do drywall work at the theater with an art deco design and iconic marquee.
Perhaps bigger, city staff is expected to present three options to Roswarski and the redevelopment commission in February or March that will look at a larger redevelopment of the corner. Roswarski said Thursday he expected the options to consider whether it made sense to work within the current footprint or look to buy a next-door property to expand.
Lafayette agreed to buy the Lafayette Theater, built in 1938 as a movie theater, from New York LLC. That group of local investors saved the building from possible demolition in 2002 and then spent years working with the Wabash Valley Trust for Historic Preservation to get it back in shape to host concerts and other events. The city bought the property for $290,000 – the theater site had been appraised for $500,000 – with hopes of making it one of downtown’s centerpieces, along with the Long Center for the Performing Arts a half-block away on Sixth Street.
NEXT UP IN LAFAYETTE’S NEIGHBORHOODS: LINCOLN
After extensive studies and community building efforts in Wabash Avenue, Historic Jefferson and the Five Points collection of neighborhoods in the past five years, Lafayette says its Lincoln Neighborhood’s turn.
The city’s redevelopment commission agreed to a $65,000 community enhancement plan for the neighborhood north of downtown, bound by Greenbush Street, 15th Street, Union Street and Fourth Street/Canal Road.
Eric Lucas of MKSK, the firm at the center of the other projects, said the six-month project would start in May and follow similar structure in the other Lafayette neighborhoods. MKSK plans community meetings and work with residents, business and others to look at ways to improve quality of life, housing and development.
Lincoln Neighborhood includes the Franciscan Health Central campus, the Hartford Hub community center developed by Faith Community Development Corp. From the proposal: “While this neighborhood is perceived as stable, there are crime issues, problem rentals/landlords, and a lack of community advocacy and organization.”
Mayor Tony Roswarski said the neighborhood projects had helped solidify and spur neighborhood activity and organization.
“We’re not talking pie in the sky,” Roswarski said. “We’re talking about getting to concrete, common sense, practical approaches that have high rates of success possibilities.”
ONE MORE CANDIDATE IN INDIANA HOUSE DISTRICT 41
Mark Genda, owner of Genda Funeral Home in Frankfort, this week made it a three-candidate primary for the Republican Party in a redrawn Indiana House District 41. Genda, who served two terms in the late-‘90s/early-2000s on the Community Schools of Frankfort board, joins Tippecanoe County Republicans Shane Weist and Richard Bagsby in the race, with a week left before the filing deadline.
No Democratic candidates had filed or indicated they would, as of Thursday, in a district that covers the southeastern portion of Tippecanoe County, along with parts of Clinton, Montgomery and Boone counties, including Frankfort and Lebanon. No incumbent will be on the ballot, after state Rep. Tim Brown’s home was drawn out of the district. (Brown said he told House members leading redistricting plans in 2021 that he had planned to retire at the end of this term.)
Genda is Frankfort native who said he wasn’t coming into the campaign with a bullet point list of priorities – “like everyone says you should,” he said – or what he called “a burning agenda.” He said that approach would mimic what he had to do in the funeral home business when the COVID pandemic turned personal, live gatherings upside down.
“There were no ‘here’s how we always do it’ scenarios in 2020 for funeral services,” Genda said. “We had to reinvent things every time. At that point, it was a lot more listening. This (campaign) has just segued perfectly into all I’ve done my entire career, which is working with people. I’ve listened to them. And then from what I listened to, we formulate a plan. My biggest goal of being a representative in (District) 41 is that I think everybody wants somebody to listen to them and not come with their own drum beat.”
The primary will be May 3. The deadline to get on the primary ballot is noon Feb. 4.
FOR MORE FILINGS: Here’s a look at the rest of the filings in races affecting Tippecanoe County, as reported Thursday afternoon by the county elections office.
STICKING WITH THE ELECTION THEME …
Looks like a move to line up school board candidates in Indiana public districts by political party isn’t going anywhere, for now. House Bill 1182 would have put a major party or independent designation on ballots in school board races that now show no affiliation. The blowback was substantial during a recent committee hearing. And the bill was never called for a vote. For more, here’s a look at how it played out, by Arika Herron of the Indianapolis Star.
Thanks to Purdue University’s Presidential Lecture Series for sponsoring today’s edition. For details about Purdue President Mitch Daniels’ Feb. 1 conversation with Kenneth R. Feinberg, whose work includes compensation funds from 9/11 to the Sandy Hook Elementary killings to the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 2011, click the graphic below.
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