When a $15 million, faux-historic hotel broke ground in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in mid-July, developers surprised city officials by eliminating 1,200 square feet of corner retail space they had promised as a condition of the project’s approval. Nathan Pruitt, Jeffersonville’s Director of Zoning & Planning, caught the missing retail while going over the plans one last time before issuing a building permit.
The ceremonial groundbreaking went forward and speeches were given, but Pruitt sent the 93-room Marriott Towneplace Suites back to the city’s Planning Commission for a July 26 hearing to decide what to do about the retail. That meeting produced a compromise: the retail will go inside the hotel’s lobby, but there won’t be any entrances from the street.
“The Planning Department and the Commission hopes that developers who invest in our community present final, vested, and accurate plans in their applications moving forward,” Pruitt told Broken Sidewalk. “We do have four moved homes on Pearl Street that are coming online with new food and beverages businesses soon. So this loss is mitigated by those new additions.
The 98-room hotel is being developed by ARC with hotel partner Dora Hotel Company. The building covers some 56,000 square feet over three floors. The site, a former elementary school turned boarding house, sits across from Big Four Station Park and the foot of the Big Four Bridge. The project is expected to open by April 2017.
“ARC attorney Jake Elder said Marriott required developers move retail inside,” Elizabeth Beilman wrote in the News & Tribune of the July 26 hearing. The amount of retail remains the same as an initial agreement—1,200 square feet. The area on the corner where the retail space was originally sited is now shown as “quasi-green space,” according to Beilman, and will be open to the public.
“Throughout this process, we met with the Rose Hill Neighborhood Association, and it was very important for them to have some sort of gathering space,” Beilman quoted ARC President Alan Muncy as saying at the meeting. A strange request considering the project is across the street from a major park.
Pruitt hopes Jeffersonville learns from this situation. “We must critically look at each proposal that does not include ground floor retail in all proposed downtown projects,” he said. “Individual projects that omit ground floor retail may not seem important but when you combine multiple missed opportunities over time and geography, each becomes more important.”
(Top rendering courtesy ARC / Dora.)