Schellinger was in the city for a luncheon with business and community leaders, the people directly involved in the various projects and members of Jasper’s America’s Best Communities team. Prior to the luncheon, Schellinger and members of his staff were led by Mayor Terry Seitz on a tour of sites in the works for redevelopment.
The group visited the site of the proposed Jasper Cultural Center at Third and Mill streets. Dean Vonderheide showed Schellinger the building, which was the former Hoosier Desk factory. He saw the plans for forming the site into a shared facility used as a library, space for the arts and housing.
“I think it’s ingenious,” he said of the center.
Schellinger said the collaborative effort for the center is the reason the IEDC approved state tax credits totaling nearly $3.5 million dollars for the proposal.
“It is to inspire people to take buildings that have good bones and make something of it,” he said, “to take that as an asset and appreciate it in the community, in terms of value.”
Those involved with the project have not decided for sure if the building will be used, if it will be torn down and the site used, or if part of the building will be salvaged.
The entourage also visited the Riverwalk and went to the former Jasper Cabinet site. Jane Hendrickson of Boxer Girl, LLC in Indianapolis, developer of the project, and project consultant Ed Curtin of Columbus-based CWC Latitudes showed Schellinger the plans for River Centre, a multi-use site that will have housing and commercial space in one building as well as a hotel.
They also toured the Square and listened to Seitz explain the upgrades being proposed for the downtown area, including the potential reopening of the Astra Theatre.
The group ended the tour on Vine Street at the former Jofco and Jasper Wood Products buildings.
Pete Schwiegeraht of Cincinnati, Ohio, developer Miller-Valentine Group told Schellinger about Jasper Lofts, which is planned workforce housing for the Jofco building, and Vine Street Lofts, which is planned senior housing for the Jasper Wood Products building.
“What you’re doing here is exactly what we need to do throughout the entire state,” Schellinger said after Thursday’s luncheon, “to have communities that are really cool places to live and play.”
The state is encouraging public-private partnerships across the state as part of a Regional Cities Initiative, which encourages communities to work together to develop regional visions. The Indiana Economic Development Corp. is providing some funding to help with the initiative. The program is for areas with a population of at least 200,000.
Schellinger said he was impressed that the community is pursuing such efforts without the encouragement of Regional Cities.
“You are to be commended,” he said, “Because you’re doing it. You’re doing what we are pushing for in the Regional Cities Initiative.”
State Rep. Mike Braun, R-Jasper, told Schellinger the state should make changes in the Regional Cities Initiative so that smaller communities like Jasper can participate. Schellinger said he will encourage that change.