Park plan moves ahead; committee OKs design, chooses bank

City officials continue to move forward with a project to transform a vacant lot in downtown Seymour into a park and gathering place for concerts, festivals, children’s activities and more.

The Seymour Redevelopment Commission has accepted a bid from GM Development of Indianapolis to build the park for $3.42 million. GM was the only company to submit a proposal for the project.

Out of three design options, the commission chose the most expensive. The other two designs were under $3 million.

Commission President Mike Jordan said it was the best option for the community because it offered the most features, including a covered pavilion and stage. Other features include an event lawn, restrooms, a walking trail, public parking and landscaping.

The park proposal now goes to city council Monday, at which time the council will vote on the design option and funding amount.

Local tax revenue from residential property taxes will not be used to fund the park, meaning the project won’t increase the city’s tax rate.

The project will be funded through a loan from JCB at 2.45 percent interest rate and will be paid back over the next 10 years using tax increment financing revenue. That source of funding is generated by the city capturing a portion of property taxes from new development within the TIF district for a designated amount of time. The money is controlled by the redevelopment commission.

Jordan said he preferred keeping the money local by choosing JCB instead of going with Bank of Montreal, the only other bank that agreed to finance the project.

“I would rather shop locally and support our own community,” Jordan said of choosing JCB.

By committing TIF revenue to pay for the park, the redevelopment commission still will have money for future projects, a representative from Reedy Financial Group said.

The 3-acre park will be located in the 100 block of East Tipton Street in a former rail yard bordered by the CSX and Louisville & Indiana rail lines.

Construction could start as early as August. Existing billboards on the property will be removed in November or December, and construction should be finished in late January or February 2018.

Commissioner and Councilman John Reinhart said he would like to see the park make use of the old train caboose that sits just south across U.S. 50 in front of the silos.

At one time, the city owned the caboose, he said.

“I’m not sure when or how we lost control of it, but the railroad is our heritage, and I would like to see that incorporated,” he said.

During a public hearing Monday, a few people spoke in favor of the project. No one spoke against it.

Becky Schepman, executive director of Seymour Main Street, said many studies have been done about what people want in Seymour, and on the top of the list is a revitalized downtown.

“I envision concerts here, festivals, kids activities, and I believe this park would draw in not only people from our community but also tourists from surrounding areas,” she said.

Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman has said he would like to see the farmers market, the Seymour CityJam summer concerts and downtown Christmas event move to the new park. He also hopes new events, such as art, food, music and theater festivals, are created for the park and that people will be interested in renting out the pavilion and stage for weddings, reunions and other parties.

Schepman said by investing in the park, the city would be investing in the local economy.

“Sixty-eight percent of money that is spent locally goes back to the local economy, and I see this as boosting our economy, our businesses and just adding value to the downtown,” she said.

Mike Kopp, commercial real estate agent with RE/MAX First Commercial Group, said the park will help in his efforts to recruit retail businesses and investors to the downtown.

“There are certainly things going on. Some of them you can see, some of them you may not see,” he said of the downtown. “But these are the types of things that allow me to go out and continue to do the recruiting I’ve done.

“It makes a difference when you can show that there’s a redevelopment commission and a council that is working and is taking the effort to bring good things, whether it’s residential living or retail,” he said.

Kopp said the park would bring more activity downtown and allow existing events, like this year’s inaugural Happy Glamper vintage camper show, to grow.

“All of the efforts that have been made up until this point are appreciated, and it does make a difference,” he said.

Tricia Bechman, president of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, said all growing communities have one thing in common — an anchor of some sort that serves as the main piece of the community.

“I really see that this park can serve as the anchor and spur a lot of development,” she said.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.