President Andy Saner opened the Nov. 22 Batesville Economic Development Commission meeting by welcoming two consultants who will help explore whether a shell building project is feasible for the city, owner Greg Martz of GM Development, New Castle, and Scott Smith, Bruns-Gutzwiller, Batesville chief financial officer. Those two firms are partnering with Axis Architecture, Indianapolis, on the project.
Of Martz, Saner said, “I believe he’s already started the ball rolling on trying to get some financing options back to us.” The president observed that Bruns-Gutzwiller will aid with construction management and planning and infrastructure studies. “We feel very fortunate one of the premier groups in the area will help us with this project. It’s great to have a partnership with a local team.”
The timeline could be swift. “If we can get financing options in place by the end of the year, … it seems like we could break ground in early spring” if the building is approved. Bruns-Gutzwiller leaders estimated it would take from seven to nine months to complete the structure. “By this time next year, there’s the possibility we could have a shell building in place.” Saner said one piece of the puzzle is “how we want to market that location.” Mayor Rick Fledderman is renewing relationships with site selectors and Martz will suggest a potential broker to market the property.
Community development director Sarah Lamping will serve as the liaison between city officials and consultants, the mayor announced.
“Merkel Road is one aspect of the project that is being discussed” as it leads to both the old and new industrial parks and needs to be improved for truck traffic, according to Saner.
According to Fledderman, “We’ve submitted a grant application” to the Lawrenceburg Regional Economic Development Grant Program. “I feel cautiously optimistic we may be able to get some help from Lawrenceburg,” which has pledged to distribute the city’s portion of Hollywood Casino gaming revenue to projects in a 10-county area.
With the application, Batesville officials submitted letters of support from Ripley County Commissioner Robert Reiners, District 42 Sen. Jean Leising and “many at this table. I think we’re presenting a pretty good case for assistance, how important this road is … for any new (industrial) development” there.
Saner emphasized the commission’s intent is to keep the Merkel Road and shell building projects “somewhat separated.” He feels the road upgrade must happen whether or not the shell structure is built.
BEDC member Lori Feldbauer asked about the road project’s timing. The president admitted the roadwork and building construction may not coincide. “It may be somewhat staggered.”
Batesville Industrial Park Commission President Dale Meyer asked if BEDC is still considering locating the building on Lot 31. The 13-acre parcel is within Batesville Commerce Center off of Lammers Pike at the end of Commerce Drive, highly visible along I-74. Saner answered that Lot 31 and a lot within the new and vacant 73-acre industrial park on the east side of Merkel Road and south of I-74 will be assessed.
If the shell building ends up in the new industrial park, he wants the broker to try to sell Lot 31 as well.
Switching topics, Lamping reported, “I’ve been very excited about the enthusiasm people have expressed to me about revitalizing the downtown … People are approaching me and asking what’s available (to lease or buy).” She has received positive feedback about better facades thanks to a grant and the two-way East Pearl Street section at Batesville Shopping Village.
Fledderman said, “The facade (improvements) are in the final stages. For the most part, I think people are happy. We have had some hiccups and concerns expressed and we’re working through those.”
The president detailed projects on a status tracker. Having a grocery store downtown, probably in the former Save-U-Mor site, “has been top of the list for this group.” He said, “There is renewed interest. One of the challenges continues to be the pricing.” He wants to have a meeting with MainSource Bank officials, who own the largest section, and Willard Knueven, who owns an adjoining smaller section.
Construction is underway at RomWeber Flats, a downtown apartment complex for those 55 and up. Saner said, “We’re hoping phase 2 (which will offer assisted living services) is equally as successful as phase 1.”
Some businesses have changed locations or sizes. Cook Performance is now located where Crafts and Occasions used to be. Joan’s T-shirts has expanded into the former Cook Performance space.
Once the Voegele façade is completed at Main and Boehringer streets, Miss Shannon’s Music Studio will expand into half of the first floor. The Turquoise Hen, a small women’s boutique shop now located in the back of Christian’s Kinder Laden, may have its own spot in the future.
Closer to the interstate, Batesville Dental and Pizza Hut are open and Steak ‘n Shake’s grand opening is set for Jan. 23.
On the status tracker, eight empty buildings and one lot for sale were listed as “stalled.”
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
Will Batesville become a food hub? • The mayor said, "We're just looking for some creative things we can do in the downtown area" to make it a destination for area shoppers. One idea came from a Hancock County Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service educator. Roy Ballard suggested to city leaders that Batesville could become a virtual food hub. "Hancock did it. The university is looking for other communities," according to Lamping. • She explained a hub "brings together the local food growers and creates an opportunity for them to sell their wares online." A consumer places an order, then picks it up at a Hancock County location. The business was established with grant money, but is working at being self-sufficient. "It really has to have community buy-in." Hancock County farmers told Batesville leaders their produce travels as far as Carmel and Noblesville. • At hoosierharvestmarket.com, persons can buy everything from chocolates and blue popcorn to cheese and beef, but the hub doesn't have a commercial kitchen yet where producers can package and sell commercial items, such as salsa. Some farmers are making goods such as cherry amaretto preserves and persimmon pulp elsewhere.