Chelsea Schneider, Aim Municipal Innovations Specialist
Transforming former industrial space in and near Downtown Jasper into catalysts for community development is the focus of several projects underway.
River Centre, a new riverfront project, will refurbish a large portion of an old factory once housing a cabinet company.
Housing developments, including one to attract manufacturing workers, will locate in two other refurbished industrial spaces.
And a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the Jasper Arts Department and the Jasper Public Library will tear down a former factory to make way for the Jasper Cultural Center. Plans call for reclaiming bricks, beams and other salvageable items to use in the new building.
Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz said the city identified just shy of 1 million square feet of factory space in and near downtown that was underused or unused. Projects, either on the site or within the structure, are now occurring in nearly three-quarters of the space.
One of those projects, Jasper Lofts, will open this year. The project exemplifies Jasper’s vision to reuse its vacant buildings to reactivate the properties, Seitz said.
Private developer Miller-Valentine Group partnered with the city to turn a furniture builder’s former warehouse space into a 67-unit apartment building. The development, which benefited from tax credits from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, will offer affordable housing. City leaders hope the new apartments will attract entry-level manufacturing employees who would live closer to work if given the opportunity.
“We want people to live here. We know we are gaining employees from seven other counties every day at a minimum,” Seitz said as the city looks to diversify its housing options. “We hope this gives them a chance to live where they work and allow them to establish residency in Jasper.”
The same developer also is working on a 60-unit senior housing complex called Vine Street Lofts with both projects constituting an overall $30 million investment.
The city is home to several buildings that were built with great integrity and structure, said John Bell, a city councilman and president of the Jasper Redevelopment Commission.
“So if you can find the right use and application, it’s a win-win to reuse what we already have,” Bell said. “We’re proud of our traditions. We’re proud of how we grew up. In the past, we had a lot of great entrepreneurs that made us what we are.”
Among other projects:
- The city is partnering with real estate developer Boxer Girl LLC to transform the former Jasper Cabinet site into River Centre. The project is a mixed-use development featuring a hotel, apartments and corporate and office space.
- The Jasper Cultural Center will locate to the former Hoosier Desk site. The development will combine the city’s new library with arts and community space.
- The city is partnering with Smithville Communications and Smithville Telecom to conduct a $7 million city-wide gigabit fiber buildout at no cost to Jasper taxpayers.