A new painted pathway leads pedestrians and visitors to the entrance of the Vintage Fire Museum.  Staff photo by Tyler Stewart
A new painted pathway leads pedestrians and visitors to the entrance of the Vintage Fire Museum. Staff photo by Tyler Stewart
SOUTHERN INDIANA — SoIN Tourism aims to provide a helping hand to local organizations and municipalities as they develop new destinations in Southern Indiana. And as new projects are envisioned or launched in the area, the tourism bureau is giving them a major boost.

The tourism bureau announced Friday that its board of managers approved $1.4 million in funding for community projects in Clark and Floyd counties. The funding comes from SoIN's Tourism Capital Development Fund (TCDF), which supports a variety of community related projects in Southern Indiana.

Luanne Mattson, assistant director of SoIN Tourism, said the funding was awarded to projects that will be "transformational" for Southern Indiana.

"It’s our goal to make people's lives richer by having these great experiences, and people can bring family and friends and create these memories that could last a lifetime by visiting great destinations," she said. "I hope that all these small projects will provide a destination that is bigger than the sum of its parts and will just be something people will have to go visit."

According to Indiana Code, a quarter of SoIN Tourism’s revenues go toward the TCDF, and the fund helps pay off bonds issued by municipal partners following approval by the tourism board.

Jeffersonville's NoCo Arts & Cultural District is among the projects receiving support from SoIN Tourism. The City of Jeffersonville is receiving $500,000 for the development of The Depot, an artist village that will be located in the lot between Michigan and Court avenues and Spring Street. Repurposed shipping containers would be repurposed into art studios, restaurants and shops, and the space would feature a stage for open-air performances.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said work on The Depot should begin this fall, and he expects it will be completed within a year. He said the performance venue will provide an intimate setting that differs from the experience at RiverStage, and he looks forward to the expansion of the arts and cultural district.

"We’ve had so much success and positive comments with all of the art projects around the city," he said. "I love the idea of local artists being able to have a home base. The Depot will give several venues for artist to show their wares."

Moore said The Depot will help attract more people to Jeffersonville, and he is glad that the tourism bureau sees the Jeffersonville's arts district as a smart investment. He expects people to be "astounded" at the district's creative reuse of the shipping containers.

"I think that’s what the whole art concept is about — thinking outside the box," he said. "Using different forms [of buildings] fits right in to asking people be creative and asking for imagination. What we're trying to do with the arts village is something different — something cool and unusual."

The Town of Clarksville is receiving $500,000 for two projects related to its South Clarksville redevelopment plan. The funding will support the creation of a master plan for a South Clarksville Arts and Cultural District, as well as development of four downtown "parklets," or small parks, along Woerner Avenue.

Dylan Fisher, development director for the Town of Clarksville, said the arts district would build upon performing arts facilities already present in South Clarksville, including Derby Dinner Playhouse and the Clarksville Little Theater. The plan would include a number of additional spaces for activities — some possibilities include a sports park with public art and an amphitheater.

The funding will help the town hire an expert or firm to guide the development of the master plan, which should be completed within a year, he said. The town plans to provide a self-guided walking trail within the district, in addition to pedestrian and cycling pathways to connect the arts districts in Clarksville and Jeffersonville.

"I'm thankful that the tourism bureau is providing funding to support the project," Fisher said. "I see an opportunity for the two arts districts become complementary and to increase arts and cultural tourism within Clarksville and Southern Indiana in general."

The four parklets will be part of the Woerner Avenue reconstruction project. The small public spaces will be about 350 to 400 square feet, and each will have a unique design. They will serve as gathering spots to "activate" future retail and commercial developments, and they will "amplify the pedestrian environment," he said.

SoIN Tourism is also providing $200,000 for The Whistle Stop Public Market, an upcoming development in Floyd County. The market will be built at the historic Beams Homestead at 6621 State Road 64, and it will be located within Floyd County's planned innovation and technology park in Georgetown. Don Lopp, director of operations for the county, said the project would include a farmers and artisan market, along with event space.

The 40-acre homestead was established around 1850, and it includes a house and several barns. The house, once known as the Whistle Stop Inn, used to be popular with train travelers who stopped nearby, he said.

The idea is "adaptively reuse" of the historic property, he said. The concept for the space includes co-working spaces for artists within the house, a makerspace in the former dairy barn and outdoor market space in the former cattle barn.

The Whistle Stop Public Market would fit with the development along the Georgetown and Edwardsville corridor, according to Lopp.

"It's an opportunity to provide a public venue for events, concerts and markets that is not currently not there," he said. "It lends itself really well to the overall development along corridor."

SoIN is providing $125,000 for the development of a "Learning and Inspiration Center" for the Vintage Fire Museum. Curt Peters, president of the museum board, said the museum is planning to use another building at 104 E. 7th St. in Jeffersonville to create a new educational center. The space would include programming on topics like fire safety, a memorial dedicated to fallen firefighters and 9/11 heroes and additional space for museum collections.

The tourism bureau is also providing $75,000 to support River Heritage Conservancy's plans for a 400-acre riverfront park in Southern Indiana. According to Mattson, the funding will help in the planning process for recreational amenities for the sprawling park.
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