Moving Forward

Madison, Ind., Stellar group reports
on projects’ status

Developer breaks ground
on Riverside Tower Lofts complex

• On Feb. 19, Denton Floyd Real Estate Group and city officials broke ground at the former Tower Tack Factory property at the corner of Cragmont and First Street in Madison, Ind. The project is a partnership made possible through the City of Madison's Stellar Designation and Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority. Riverside Loft Apartments will provide 50 affordable senior apartments in downtown Madison.

(March 2019) – The announcement in January that the former Eagle Cotton Mill building on the Madison, Ind., riverfront had been sold to a developer who plans to convert it into a hotel and conference center was met with much excitement in the community. The news helped illustrate just how significant the impacts will continue to be going forward from the city’s receiving a Stellar Designation in 2017 as part of a state-sponsored economic development program.
But it is just one project among several that are either under way or are being planned. Madison’s Stellar Executive Committee and its Advisory Committee meet quarterly to review its quarterly report sent to the state agencies that administer the program. They met Feb. 14 to review the first such report of 2019 and to discuss the status of various projects they have identified for Stellar funding or are considered non-Stellar funded complementary projects.
Madison was one of two Indiana cities to receive Stellar designations in 2017. Each city stands to receive up to $6 million in investment over four years in matching funds to support various community and infrastructure improvement projects.
Launched in 2011, the Stellar Designation program is a multi-agency partnership designed to recognize Indiana’s smaller communities that have identified comprehensive community and economic development projects and activities. The initiative is operated by the Indiana Lieutenant Governor’s office and funded by three state agencies: the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Indiana Department of Transportation. There are two divisions of the program – one for cities with 6,000-50,000 residents and another for cities under 6,000 residents. The city of Madison beat out two other finalists – Greensburg and Vincennes – in the Division I category for cities above 6,000 residents. Culver, Ind., won Division II. 
As a Stellar community designee, Madison will indeed receive grant money from the state program, but the projects will also be funded with local funds and corporate donors. Since the announcement, the money has been rolling in from various sources including local businesses, corporate entities and the Community Foundation of Madison-Jefferson County. Stellar projects will result in a total of $65 million in investments over the next four years, officials say. Investments will be made up of donations to the Stellar fund, state grants, tax credits, city’s contributions and private investments.

Photo provided

Pictured from left are Brandon Denton of Denton Floyd Real Estate; Ryan Mallett of IHCDA; Paul Wheatley of The Wheatley Group; Mayor Damon Welch, Carmen Lethig of IHCDA; Andrew Forrester and Nicole Schell, both of the City of Madison.

Since there are three separate state departments participating in the Stellar program, the $6 million in potential investment has been divided among those areas, with up to $2 million to be spent in each category – those essentially being transportation (motorist or pedestrian), community development and housing-oriented revitalization. The amounts can also be counted from such things as tax credits to help a project move forward. 
Several local companies and individuals have pledged donations to the program. The donations are held by the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County. The donations are to be split 65/35, with 65 percent of pledged funds going immediately to projects and 35 percent being placed into an endowment.
As of late February, nearly $485,000 had been pledged. During the February meeting, Bill Barnes, executive director of the Community Foundation, reported that $64,000 had been pledged since Jan. 1, 2019. The actual amount of money received to date totaled $18,642 in pass-through, or immediate use, funds and  $42,388 into the long-term endowment. The pledged are multi-year commitments.
The Community Foundation also has pledged $19,000 to the program.
At the quarterly meeting, held at Madison City Hall, Andrew Forrester, the city’s Community Relations Manager, and Nicole Schell, the city’s Planner and Preservation Coordinator, presented an update on the various projects.
• The Eagle Cotton Mill was sold to Riverton LLC real estate development company. Owner Ron Bateman plans to work with a Marriott brand company to invest $21 million to rehab the four-story, 104,000-square-foot building into a Fairfield Inn 85-room boutique hotel and conference center. The project is a collaboration with Riverton LLC, the city of Madison and the Indiana Economic Development Corp.
Cleanup activities at the site began in late February. Completion is projected by summer of 2020, according to a press release issued in January by the IEDC. The building was built in 1884 and it was a fabric and twine factory. It closed in 1937.
At one point the building was purchased by Meese Inc. and was there until the ‘80s but it has remained vacant since then. The site is in the Madison National Historic Landmark District. The IEDC offered Riverton up to $4.75 million in conditional tax credits from the Industrial Recovery Tax Credit (DINO) program, which provides an incentive to invest in former industrial sites and improve quality of place in Indiana communities. This is the first DINO project in Madison and the oldest building to be redeveloped under the program. The city of Madison will consider additional incentives in support of the project over the coming weeks.
• The former Tower Tack Factory on West Second Street was recently sold to a developer who is converting it into a senior housing complex with 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments. A chamber of commerce-sponsored groundbreaking ceremony was held Feb. 19 to launch the project, which will be named Riverside Tower Lofts. Denton Floyd Real Estate Group is developing the site, which will also include residential amenities like bike racks, golf carts, a gazebo with an outdoor gathering area, an exercise room, a community room/common space area and on-site laundry facilities.
The Riverside Tower Lofts represents a proposed investment in excess of $9 million in the city of Madison. The site, which was originally constructed in 1884, is known locally as the Tack Factory. In its heyday the factory was a beacon of local industry, manufacturing tacks, nails, brads, pins, rivets, cotter pins, electric fence wire, guy wire, hooks, picture hangers and plate hangers. The facility was shuddered in 2007 and has been vacant ever since.
In order to make this investment possible, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority awarded the development $1,021,652 in Rental Housing Tax Credits. In conjunction with this credit award, the City of Madison has awarded a real property tax abatement and agreed to assist with ancillary public improvements to support the project.
“They have already started to clean out the building and construction will begin soon. They hope to open by spring 2020,” Schell said.
• The project to extend the Madison Riverfront Sidewalk from its current end in front of Riverboat Inn east to the City Campground will begin in spring “as soon as the weather breaks,” Forrester reported. The project is not being funded through Stellar but is considered a complementary project. The $187,000 cost is being shared by the Madison Riverfront Development Corp., the city of Madison and the Redevelopment Commission.
• The Stellar Committee plans to assist the Walnut Street Initiative, a volunteer group that plans to establish Georgetown Memorial Park in the Walnut Street area known as the “Georgetown Neighborhood.” Plans have already been made for the .02-acre park that include seating and gathering areas, a mural and a monument to abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor George DeBaptiste.
The area was a thriving community of African Americans who lived in the Georgetown Neighborhood during the tumultuous decades (1830-1860) leading up to the Civil War. The neighborhood runs along North Walnut Street, extending from Main Street to where Jefferson Street (U.S. 421) now intersects Walnut and East Fifth streets. The new park will highlight Madison’s rich Underground Railroad history from the 1840s – much of which was centered in Georgetown.
Forrester suggested that perhaps a public forum should be held to collect input on the Georgetown Memorial Park project before proceeding.
• Plans to refurbish the main building at the city-owned Crystal Beach public swimming complex will be delayed into next year, Forrester said. A public forum was held late last year to collect public input and conceptual plans are still being designed. “We plan to start with the pool house. See how much that is. And then do the rest of the work in phases,” Forrester said.
Schell added, “The point of the open house was to get people talking about the project so we can develop a vision for it.”
•  The Friends of the Ohio Theatre are still recovering from a fire last fall that damaged the roof of the building, according to Elizabeth Auxier, president of Friends of Ohio Theatre, which owns the building. The roof is leaking and the building has suffered water damage, she said. An insurance investigation of the fire is still ongoing. Grant funding sources are being sought. The Stellar Committee plans to assist the Friends of Ohio Theatre in rehabbing the historic theatre by restoring the façade and bringing the building up to ADA guidelines. A feasibility study and renovation plan have been completed, according to the report.
• The plan to finish the Connector Trail system has received funding for the next phase, which Forrester said would be to connect the foot of Hatcher Hill downtown to the riverfront and Heritage Trail. The committee is considering ways to collect public input on the best route to take. Meantime discussions are still under way on the best method of connecting Johnson Lake on the hilltop across State. Rd. 7 onto North Gate Road entering the Madison State Hospital property. A new playground is to be constructed near the current skate park on North Gate Road. Officials are also mulling the safest route through the subdivisions from the top of Hatcher Hill over to Johnson Lake, located on Cragmont Street.
• The committee is still in the exploratory phase of how best to preserve and redevelop 23,000 square feet of historic buildings in what is called the Scott Block of downtown. This project includes adding an art gallery space and adding residential units on the second floor and third floors that can be marketed to local artists and young adults. Committee members are meeting with the Madison Area Arts Alliance and building owners.
• The committee also is exploring ways to enhance the “gateways” into town by showcasing its arts and cultural district. Working with the Indiana Department of Transportation, the city hopes to establish a new gateway sign at the Indiana approach to the Milton-Madison Bridge once the new highway approach is completed. Work on the approach is expected to begin in April, Forrester said.
It will include a new sidewalk allowing pedestrians to access the bridge walkway from Harrison Street. Discussions on redesign of the other three gateways, located west of town, at State Road 7 and on Hwy. 421 entering north of town, are ongoing in an effort to provide consistency.
• Consultants are working on preliminary plans to redesign Clifty Drive on the hilltop. The plan includes adding a sidewalk on Clifty Drive. A public forum may be organized to gather public input on the plan, Schell said. “There are some developers who are interested in developing the Madison Plaza and are talking with the current owners,” she said.
As these projects continue to take shape, “Stellar Project” yard signs and banners will soon be appearing in the yards of these sites, Forrester said, even if they don’t receive Stellar funding but are considered complementary projects.

These include the Cotton Mill and the riverfront walkway extension. “Stellar Project” banners will be created and hung at program-funded sites, such as the Riverside Tower Lofts and in the future Georgetown Memorial Park.

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