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Jan. 7—ANDERSON — Even as their efforts to help businesses navigate the ever-changing environment of the pandemic continue, economic development officials around Madison County are looking forward to projects in 2022 that are focused on shoring up infrastructure to take advantage of expected future growth.
From the Interstate 69 corridor near Pendleton in the south to activity in and near Elwood in the north, communities throughout the county are planning efforts tailored to meeting a range of opportunities to attract new businesses and residents.
"There's a lot of different specific needs across the county," said Rob Sparks, executive director of the Corporation for Economic Development. "I think infrastructure and project development, along with workforce development, are the themes we're going to keep coming back to this year."
Here is a look at some of the key projects and initiatives that economic development officials around the county are anticipating progress on in 2022:
The delayed opening of the city's downtown transit center, expected to happen in the spring, should check a large box off the to-do list for Mayor Thomas Broderick's economic development team.
Broderick said supply chain issues have delayed shipment of some furniture needed to fill office space in the three-story building. The city is still in talks with prospective tenants for the building, with an announcement on at least one business locating in the facility possible within a month, Broderick said.
"There's some customer seating that we're still working on getting completed," he said. "Hopefully that'll be in here in the next couple, three weeks. Otherwise, we should be in a pretty good position to move forward on that in the next four to five weeks, probably. It's right around the corner."
Another priority, Broderick said, is progress toward redeveloping the city's west side corridor along Nichol Avenue. Repopulating that area with viable businesses — including, as many have suggested, a new grocery store in the old Marsh building west of Raible Avenue — has proven over the last several years to be a painstaking process.
The city has been purchasing properties in the neighborhood with an eye toward reconditioning them into suitable locations for private businesses, but Broderick said there are limits to what city officials can do in the area.
"It's not government's job to set up and run retail stores," Broderick said. "That's really up to individuals in the community to do that, and I'm hoping that people will step up to invest. We'll make it available and we'll make it nice in order (for it) to make sense for them to do these kinds of investments."
The redevelopment of Yule Golf Course as part of an all-inclusive project that will include 40 brick duplexes for senior housing and a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse is on track to be completed in 2022, according to economic director Alan Moore. The city has been working with Magnolia Health, which purchased the 158-acre property last June.
City officials envision the development — with the clubhouse as a centerpiece able to host weddings, dinners and other events — as a regional draw that will have a substantial economic impact for years to come.
"Having such a great facility on State Road 9 will help get attention from people going through Alexandria and may draw them back to the community in the future," said Alexandria Mayor Todd Naselroad.
Officials are also emphasizing projects to eliminate blighted downtown properties in an effort to improve safety and make the area more attractive to prospective business owners.
"The city has started having meetings with our financial advisors to determine the potential funding sources we can access for a major downtown improvement project," Moore said.
Work on a $10.5 million development across the street from the city's municipal building should be completed in the summer and, according to Mayor Todd Jones, will be a centerpiece of the city's efforts to attract new residents as companies in nearby Noblesville and Marion consider expanding there.
The Tinplate Apartments at Veterans Park will include a 72-unit apartment complex spread among three buildings and a park project intended to honor veterans. A walking trail and amphitheater are also among the planned amenities.
"This development is very important to the city of Elwood," said Jones, who noted that a significant part of the investment in the project is $300,000 in food and beverage tax revenue from the Madison County Council. He pointed to the city's Bison Ridge Estates subdivision, a $25 million housing development that includes an expanded Elwood Golf Links, as evidence of the opportunities reasonably priced housing can create.
"We need to be ready with affordable, efficient housing, and that's why this (Tinplate) development is going to grow off the successes of Bison Ridge," Jones said.
He added that the city continues to receive inquiries about available business space, but with the pandemic causing many businesses to reimagine their workflow structure, Elwood will seek to meet those needs in the form of maker spaces and other small office possibilities.
"Our thought process has definitely changed with the COVID pandemic," he said. "Some of our residents that are needing to work from home are realizing their houses weren't set up for them to have an office there. So we're looking into some potential maker space availability where residents would at some point have the option to possibly rent a cubicle. We're trying to change the landscape of the ever-changing job market."
With the town's location in an area near Interstate 69 that's primed for residential and business growth, officials are focusing on projects in 2022 that they hope will ensure its infrastructure will be ready in the years ahead.
A recently completed study analyzing marketing opportunities in the vicinity of Exit 219 has provided planners with ideas for expanding the industrial park near the interchange, but officials aren't necessarily in a hurry to fill vacancies.
"Financially the town is in pretty good shape, so we're not in a rush to sell everything in our industrial park," town manager Scott Reske said. "Time is on our side as far as filling up our industrial park, so we're going to be picky."
Officials also will soon be ready to field proposals for a new aquatic center, which Reske said would be an attractive quality-of-life amenity for would-be residents and businesses.
"We're looking for a build-own-operate situation," Reske said. "We're offering two different sites that we'll want to lease for 100 years."
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