Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)
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Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)
Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal. (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)

Mayor Tom Galligan thinks a storm sewer can be beautiful and spur economic development in Jeffersonville. In one of the most ambitious moves in the entire region, Jeffersonville is proposing to build a canal district from the foot of the Big Four Bridge paralleling its historic downtown and anchored by a convention center and hotel.

Plans for the Canal District stem from a practical engineering need. The area around the canal alignment on Mulberry Street has historically faced problems with flooding and rainwater runoff. The problem has attracted the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency who wants the city to deal with its combined sewer overflow problems. Rather than build a conventional stormwater sewer to separate rainwater from raw sewage at a substantial cost, the canal provides an innovative and elegant solution that will provide a focal point for the city.

Three projects fall inside the Jeffersonville Canal District: the pedestrian approach to the Big Four Bridge, the new convention center & hotel, and the canal itself. Each is a separate project but they form a synergy that can create a drastically changed Jeffersonville.

Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)
Proposed route of Jeffersonville canal. (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)

Here’s how the canal works. During periods of heavy rain, water flows through landscaped buffers or “bioswales” that slow down and filter the water and allow some of it to be absorbed into the ground. The water then collects in the canal which essentially acts as a sort of retention basin. When enough water has collected in the canal, it is then released through a pipe underneath the floodwall and discharged into the Ohio River. Rainwater runoff never comes into contact with the sanitary sewers.

The alternative is to bury a large eight foot diameter concrete pipe under Mulberry Street and create a vast retention basin that serves no purpose except during heavy rain events. By integrating the canal with the city, Jeffersonville has chosen to solve a complicated problem with a sustainable solution.

The Jeffersonville Canal District is still in the conceptual design phases and currently has no projected cost or budget, but the city is confident plans will move ahead as the EPA has mandated the city address stormwater issues and there’s a new sense of urgency to fix the problems after the recent flooding events.

Jeffersonville Canal District
Jeffersonville Canal District

Design work is also in the preliminary stages. Currently, the plan calls for converting Mulberry Street into a pedestrian way with the 40-foot-wide canal running down the center. The waterway would twist and weave beside the convention center and through Jeffersonville’s street grid until its terminus at a park near Ninth Street. The canal wouldn’t necessarily reach the Ohio River, but the city is evaluating the possibility of reconstructing the flood gate at Mulberry Street to provide more seamless access and views to the Ohio River Greenway.

Perhaps most importantly, the Canal District provides an opportunity to greatly increase the quality of life in Jeffersonville and offer an incentive to expand its downtown area west towards the canal and convention center. The new canal would provide a sort of linear pedestrian park free of cars stretching to the Ohio River. Conceptual drawings show small rowboats traversing the canal’s waters and shops lining the canal’s edge. Here’s how the City of Jeffersonville sees it:

The development of the Jeffersonville Canal District is a bold vision. It is a vision that is rooted in a technical approach related to solving the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) issues currently facing the City. But more importantly, it is a vision that creates a dynamic public linear park that connects neighborhoods, provides opportunities for aesthetic enhancement, and is a platform to act as a catalyst for economic development. It is a vision that includes a mix of active public areas, residential areas, civic areas and commercial / retail areas.

The approach to the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge is nearing completion by HNTB Architecture with offices in Downtown Louisville. Several alignments were originally considered including a spiral ramp to the waterfront and a curving ramp to the Spring Street commercial district. Planners eventually settled on a ramp that follows the original railroad approach to the bridge along Mulberry Street.

A large ramp will project from the Big Four Bridge over top of the floodwall and gently merge with the ground parallel to the canal. Large concrete foundations can still be seen on Mulberry Street where the elevated train tracks were anchored many years ago. The design is expected to be approved soon and the ramp open to the public in Spring of 2012.

Farther down Mulberry Street, a new convention center and hotel estimated at over $100 million will complete the redevelopment puzzle. The project could include 125,000 square feet of convention center space, 275 hotel rooms and a 1,000 car parking garage. Jeffersonville expects to partner with a private developer to build the facility on land currently occupied by Colston Park. The site was chosen for its visibility and access from Interstate 65.

Colston Park is mainly used for recreation now and is dominated by a large softball field. Years ago, it served as a Civil War cemetery where a stone marker reveals that “several hundred Confederate and Union soldiers killed in the Western Campaign” were buried in the neglected field. Jeffersonville doesn’t expect major problems for construction plans, though. Site work done for the adjacent widening of I-65 for the Bridges Project revealed no graves were found in the western portion of the site and the Jeffersonville historian says some archaeological work will be required, but it shouldn’t present much of an issue.

 

 

 

Ideas about the proposed canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)
Ideas about the proposed canal (courtesy City of Jeffersonville)

 

Canal route on Mulberry Street looking south to Ohio River
Canal route on Mulberry Street looking south to Ohio River

 

Canal route on Mulberry Street looking north
Canal route on Mulberry Street looking north

 

Site of proposed convention center & hotel
Site of proposed convention center & hotel

 

Site of proposed convention center & hotel
Site of proposed convention center & hotel

 

Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville
Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville

 

Civil War cemetery at the site of the proposed convention center
Civil War cemetery at the site of the proposed convention center

 

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Branden Klayko

16 COMMENTS

  1. This idea is so stunningly smart on so many levels that it will be a shame if it doesn’t come to fruition. The functionality, design, urbanity, and recreational/social attraction make this a fantastic opportunity. I really hope this develops.

  2. Has anyone considered a water wheel in the river to lift water out and feed it into the canal so a flow is maintained to keep the water in the canal moving and prevent a pollution problem. The water wheel is probably expensive, but it would run for many years without any additional power required.

  3. I personaly think this is a pretty cool ideal. It’ would be even better if it could be done cheaper than putting the pipe underground

  4. Has anyone consider how wrong it is to build a hotel/convention center on the site of a cemetery?
    Have we no conscience?

  5. I understand that the main reason for the canal is to facilitate run off from heavy rains etc. When there is no rain how will the canal be fed…

  6. Wow yes! Im from New Albany but as you all know NA don’t grow or even excell we are closing schools! We never have money, We always in dept,We may get bars but knowone wants to come here. The truth same ol same ol! We have been controled by the same rich people for over 50ys they pad their pockets for them and their families keeping NA the same so know one else comes in with plans, ! repuc came in we got a walmart and charelstown road grew im neither here or there in the politics. But you got to see why NA is no developing pad them pockets bro…Sorry I think the canal is great san antone has some you can put lil eateries by the and they will thrive,Create jobs and help the comun….

  7. It is the smart thing to do, at every level of consideration. Thank goodness the city has a real vision and the courage to implement this soaring and inspiring plan.

  8. I live in downtown Jeffersonville and am sooo excited about this new development! There is so much potential here and I hope it goes through. GREAT idea!!!

  9. I applaud Jeffersonville for being innovative enough to find this beautiful solution to their flooding problem. I just hope people realize that the canal is the cheaper of the two options to the flooding problem. Putting the drains underground would cost the city more money……thus even higher taxes. At least with the canal, property values will be sure to rise in the area.

  10. I feel this would be good for the city but as far as drainage problems are a concern, there is another major area that is very prone to flooding and that is the area around Kitchen Kompact on Dutch Lane. If it would help this area then I’m all for it.
    This maybe an idea. Have mini canals leading to the main canal to help eliviate the flooding problems in many areas of the city of Jeffersonville.

  11. Sounds like a great plan. Sure to raise property value along the canal area and promote tourism.

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