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Town moves forward with Keller project

While the Harrison County Council’s decision last month to rescind its financial contribution for the project that will develop the old Keller Manufacturing Co. property may have come as a surprise, it isn’t stopping the Town of Corydon from proceeding.
‘I understand where (the council) is coming from,’ Eva Bates North, president of the Corydon Town Council, said. ‘I’m just looking out for the town. … From the town’s perspective, we feel very strongly that the property needs to be developed.’
She has confidence in what she calls a ‘great successful team’ that worked hard to land the town the Stellar designation for communities with a population of 5,999 or less in August.
The Stellar award, which creates a multi-agency partnership with about a dozen state agencies, will allow the town to complete about 10 projects that are designed to preserve the town’s history while helping to improve its quality of place. The designation also comes with about $34 million during a four-year period.
‘The process is still going forward,’ North said of the Keller project. ‘The investors are still interested in investing.’
The county council, which passed a resolution amendment by a 6-1 vote (Council Sam Day voted nay), decided to take back its $4 million commitment ($1 million each during the next four years) mainly because of the railroad line, owned by Forrest Lucas, that runs through the property.
Lucas has not indicated he supports the Keller project which calls for a mixed-use redevelopment on the east side of the tracks and a park to the west of the tracks.
North said there are public crossings over the railroad on the Keller property.
According to the strategic investment plan the town submitted last year in its application to become a Stellar community, the redevelopment project would be completed in three phases: a 500- to 1,000-person event center, a 200- to 600-space parking garage, a 36- to 48-unit apartment building, a model brownstone home and space for town homes and minor commercial units in phase one; 12 brownstone homes and 20 mixed-use units (town homes and minor commercial) plus an addition to the parking garage are planned for phase two; and phase three calls for 40 mixed-use units and six additional brownstones.
North said she has reached out to Horseshoe Southern Indiana to see how an event center in Corydon can compliment what the casino venue in Bridgeport offers.
‘We’re coordinating with everybody possible,’ she said. ‘We want to be partners.’
That also includes reaching out for further discussion with the county council.
‘There’s been a long-time relationship between the town and county government that’s very important to all of us,’ North said.
The park is planned to be developed during phase one of the redevelopment project.
Withdrawal of the county money came less than two weeks after the public was invited to give input about what to include in Keller Park.
North said the input sessions provided ‘a really good sample’ of the community, with 476 participants, which allows the town to now move into the design phase.
‘I was pleased and surprised by the input of all ages,’ she said. ‘The No. 1 thing they want the park to be is a gathering place, where they can meet with others and play and exercise.’
Amenities the participants expressed interest in having at the park included rest rooms, a playground, a multi-use trail, a bridge connecting the park to the Indian Creek Trail, a shelter or pavilion, a splash park, a drinking fountain, a dog park and a skate park.
And while the park hasn’t officially been named, those attending the input sessions indicated they liked the name Keller Park. Other suggestions were Indian Creek Park and Corydon Park.
Another positive for having the Keller property developed, North said, is it ‘creates a tax base instead of having it belong to a non-profit organization.’
Other Stellar projects underway include the renovation of the J.J. Bulleit and Stonecipher buildings and the continuation of the facade improvement program. Work is set to begin soon on the downtown enhancement and the Urban Trail projects.
Also, the town was notified last week it would be receiving funding for the Corydon School Senior Lofts project (see related story, page A1).
‘Some of this never would have occurred without Stellar,’ North said. ‘They want us to succeed.’