Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

November 6, 2012

Downtown development to be a focus

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

— “I’m focused on downtown,” Mayor Rick Fledderman told Batesville Economic Development Commission members Nov. 1. He wants to create  incentives for downtown development, especially for restaurants and retail businesses. “It’s not a common thing to do tax abatements.” Fledderman and Jacob Hurt of Urban Initiatives, Crawfordsville, who specializes in  incentives, recently discussed graduated rent subsidies, waiving or reducing city fees and the city’s upcoming facade improvement program. Hurt will make some Batesville-specific recommendations.

Batesville’s wayfinding signs are to be installed Nov. 8 and the East Pearl Street reconstruction at Batesville Shopping Village should be substantially completed by Nov. 9.

Greenspace plantings will be done next spring. Once that area is more presentable, the mayor said he will search for a grocery store to fill the former Save U Mor  building.

Member Gene Lambert said, “Everybody in the community wants job creation, but no one is stepping forward” to supply empty buildings for fresh companies. “In our economy, we hear and see layoffs. What do we do? How do we create jobs?”

The mayor suggested, “I think we need to re-open our discussion on (constructing) a spec building,” more specifically a shell building, at the new industrial park. “The leads that are coming in, they all want existing buildings.” Fledderman pointed out that even if a shell building turns out not to be ideal, company leaders have still gotten a peek at the community.

Lambert said perhaps the building’s three sides could be constructed. “Don’t put the back side on. If we build a 35,000-square-foot facility” and it’s too small, “they could bump it up very quickly.” The mayor said companies in search of space want taller ceilings and thicker concrete floors than many existing buildings have.

According to Lambert, “We should probably create our own destiny  ...  I think our niche should be targeting that 35,000- to 50,000-square-foot startup.” President Andy Saner agreed, “I think there’s a readiness to move in that direction.”

The mayor will explore how to fund a shell building, including a public-private partnership. The goal is to have as little risk to the city as possible. “We’re serious about going down this direction.”

Upgrading Merkel Road and making it wider would provide “better access to our new land in the industrial park and better access to our existing park,” he said. Consultant Steve Moore, VS Engineering, Indianapolis, will make recommendations. Fledderman wants the Ripley County Commissioners to participate financially as it’s considered a county road.

Of land at the 73-acre vacant park on the east side of Merkel Road and south of I-74, Saner urged a “big push to make it as enticing as possible” to attract companies.

Vicki Kellerman, Batesville’s community development director, and Trevor Lane, Indiana Economic Development Corp. Southeast Region director, visited Cincinnati commercial real estate agents to discuss listing all or part of the property with a commercial site selector firm.