By: Susan Orr
EVANSVILLE — Indiana University’s board of trustees will be the ones to decide the location of the planned health science education and research project.
But it’s still fun to debate the pros and cons of various locales. Recently we asked some local residents where they would like to see the project built.
For Phyllip Davis, Downtown Evansville is the logical location.
Having a strong downtown is important for any city, he said, and the medical complex could help build on the momentum created by the Ford Center and the planned convention hotel.
“It’ll just be more things to revitalize the core of Evansville,” said Davis, who lives in Vanderburgh County outside Evansville’s city limits.
“You have to revitalize the core of the city.”
A healthy Downtown, he said, can spur regional development too, as Downtown companies expand into other areas. He cited the Deaconess Gateway Hospital complex, just east of Epworth Road at Indiana 66 in Warrick County. That development, he said, is an outgrowth of Deaconess’ main campus — which is located in the Downtown Evansville area.
Davis also said the East Side of town already has too much traffic, and putting the medical complex in that area would just add to the congestion.
Steven Sherwood admits he’s biased for several reasons, but he still thinks Warrick County is the ideal site.
For one reason, Sherwood lives in Newburgh and wants the project in the county where he lives.
“Development for Warrick County is just going to be a good thing for the residents of Warrick County.”
Sherwood also has professional reasons. He spent 17 years working as Warrick County’s highway engineer. During that time, he was involved in the planning for recently completed road projects, including improvements on Lynch and Epworth roads. Epworth Road is adjacent to the 75-acre site that Warrick County is pitching as a possible project site.
“I think we pretty well have all our infrastructure in place,” Sherwood said. “I think that’s a very big plus in Warrick County’s favor.”
Sherwood, who is a civil engineer and surveyor, now works as a consultant in the private sector.
He thinks the medical development would be the biggest thing to happen to Warrick County since Alcoa came to town — and that was in 1960.
Mercedes Arredondo thinks the medical center needs to be somewhere that offers plenty of space within Evansville’s city limits.
For those reasons, her top choice is The Promenade site on Evansville’s East Side.
“That space is just huge,” Arredondo said.
“There’s even room for future growth.”
In contrast, she said, Downtown Evansville seems too crowded to comfortably accommodate a project like this.
Arredondo lives in Evansville near the University of Evansville. She feels strongly that the project should be within the city limits so that Evansville can get the most benefit from the economic development the medical complex will generate.
So she thinks The Promenade is a better spot than the Warrick County site that’s also in the mix — though that site too offers wide-open spaces.
“(IU) picked this area for a reason. For it to go to Warrick County by virtue of a few miles, that would be really sad.”
Fred Padget said he’s not strongly attached to a single site, but if forced to rank them he has two favorites.
“I’d like to see it at USI. I’d like to see it Downtown. Those would be my two priority areas,” said Padget, who lives near USI outside Evansville’s city limits.
Padget is a member of the board of directors for United Neighborhoods of Evansville Inc., an umbrella group for the city’s various neighborhood associations.
Padget’s top choice for the project, he said, would be Downtown because it would provide a needed boost to that area.
“We need a rebirth Downtown.”
But he also likes the idea of a USI location. The school has plenty of available land, he says, and he has strong confidence in the quality of USI’s leadership.
Looking at the big picture, Padget said he’s just glad the project is planned for this area.
“I think anywhere in Southern Indiana would be great.”
Indiana University will issue its formal request for proposals this month, but four different parties have already announced they plan to submit proposals pitching a specific site.
A 75-acre site north of Indiana 66, between Epworth and Grimm roads.
The site is part of what county officials have designated as the Warrick Wellness Trail — a district earmarked for future health, medical and senior-related development. Wellness-related establishments already operate in the district, among them Deaconess Gateway Hospital.
Economic developer Larry Taylor said the site is under option and a purchase price is already negotiated. Proponents say the site is “shovel-ready,” meaning all the necessary infrastructure is in place and ready for development.
The Promenade is a 225-acre property between Burkhardt Road and Interstate 164 just south of Oak Grove Road.
The project’s developer, Hirsch-Martin Development LLC, envisions the IU development occupying 69 acres within that larger site.
Developers have planned for several years to build a mixed-used development at The Promenade, but the 2008 economic downturn intervened and the site has remained undeveloped.
Steve Martin with Hirsch-Martin Development said the mixed-used development is still on tap, and the IU project would fit in as part of that.
Developers said they also plan to build apartments, retail shops, entertainment options and a hotel with a small conference center at The Promenade.
Martin also noted The Promenade’s proximity to local hospitals and other East Side medical facilities; and its easy access to Jasper, Ind. and Owensboro, Ky., whose hospitals will also host medical residency programs.
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has said that he will push for the IU project to locate in Downtown Evansville. As a second choice, the mayor said he would also favor some other site within Evansville’s city limits.
But the mayor has not revealed specific locations he has in mind.
Mayor’s Office spokeswoman Ella Johnson-Watson said the city intends to respond to IU’s request for proposals, but there are no plans to do a public presentation ahead of time as the Warrick County and Promenade sites have done.
The University of Southern Indiana
USI is the current home of the IU School of Medicine Evansville campus — a place where medical school students can complete their first two years of schooling.
When IU’s Evansville medical campus was first established in 1972, it had a presence at both USI and the University of Evansville. In 1994, the program was consolidated at USI. Its current location is in the university’s Health Professions Center.
Kindra Strupp, a USI spokeswoman, has said the university intends to respond to IU’s request for proposals, but it will not be making a public announcement before then as to the exact location it is proposing.
USI’s 1,400-acre campus includes a number of undeveloped areas.
Important dates and a projected timetable include:
Nov. 7 — IU will host a request for proposal pre-bid conference.
Dec. 20 — Deadline and review of the submitted request for proposal
January 2014 — The bids will be reviewed by the site committee and the Indiana University Office of Capital Planning and Facilities for final recommendations to the IU Board of Trustees
February 2014 — IU will present recommendations to the IU Board of Trustees for their approval
Summer 2014 — IU and Ivy Tech Board of Trustees members will consider capital projects priorities
Spring 2015 — The Indiana General Assembly will consider state funding
Summer 2015 — Construction will begin
August 2017 — Classes begin