City approves additions to economic development plan

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
These sites are targeted in Jasper's economic development plan, a document penned in 2014 that has guided the completion of projects in the city's tax increment financing district. Clockwise from top left: the Patoka River sediment reserve beneath the Jasper Riverwalk bridge, the old Ditto Sales building along U.S. 231, Ruxer Golf Course and Tenth Street Elementary School.


JASPER — Purchasing the old Ditto Sales building and lifting the appearance of the Y intersection. Developing an indoor sports facility. Redeveloping non-functioning properties around Jasper, and partnering with organizations to enhance the image of others.

These topics and more were discussed at last week’s Jasper Plan Commission meeting, shortly before the entity moved to adopt them as supplements to the city’s central area economic development plan.

That document has served as a guide for new developments in Jasper’s tax increment finance district since it was penned in 2014. And though many projects that comprise the official plan don’t have timelines and aren’t guaranteed to come to fruition, the list is significant because it illustrates what local leadership is actively looking at addressing.

Its contents represent “things we would like to see and things we’re planning for for the future,” explained Paul Lorey, president of the Jasper Plan Commission.

Other additions that were part of the plan commission’s recent supplemental motion include redeveloping the recently closed Ruxer Golf Course property as well as the site of the former power plant and a city-owned residence near the grounds.

Maximizing the presence of higher education in the city and collaborating with public agencies to rehabilitate and maximize the value of former school properties is also part of the plan, as is potentially collaborating with public agencies to modernize the Jasper post office.

If the Mid-States Corridor project moves ahead, developing connections to that proposed roadway would also be an objective.

The city’s central area tax increment finance district spans Jasper in patches, with parts stretching as far north as 36th Street and south of the Patoka River. Lorey explained that the district “grabs tax revenue from new development that’s put into an area,” and the money that is captured is then put back into the district to make improvements.

To date, the city has not used any of the $341,099 in funds caught by the central area TIF district. Though those dollars are lying in wait now, they will one day be used for future projects, Lorey explained.

“Slowly but surely, we are building a reserve of tax dollars that we’re gathering in here to go back into these areas to help do some of these [projects],” Lorey said while discussing the potential for future partnerships with non-city organizations. “So, it’s not like it’s coming out of our day-to-day city budget.”

He noted that the amount of money the city receives from the TIF district will increase substantially when tax abatements end in a few years. That district is set to expire in 2034.

Notable completed projects that were part of the original economic development plan include the redevelopment of old factory buildings — which became the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center, Jasper River Centre, Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, Vine Street Lofts and Jasper Lofts — as well as establishing the Parklands of Jasper, facilitating a fiber internet buildout to city buildings and improving the northern portion of Mill Street and adding and extending multi-use trails.

Ideas that were part of the original plan that have not yet been addressed — and are still part of the document — include removing and fixing issues that lead to the sediment reserve in the Patoka River near the Third Avenue bridge, building a new aquatic center and updating the infrastructure and design of the Courthouse Square. Further extending multi-use trails is also part of the plan, as is constructing a downtown parking facility and making Main Street walkable in the direction of the Riverwalk — and also adding a pedestrian bridge along that stretch that connects to the popular walking path.

Items the plan originally honed in on came from the 2010 Downtown and Riverfront Master Plan and other public input. The new additions come from the 2019 Impact Jasper Comprehensive Plan, outreach groups and surveys, as well as input from residents.

“With input from the residents of the city of Jasper, that’s where we were able to pick and choose projects and figure out what we wanted to complete,” Lorey explained. “And which ones were priorities and not.”

More on