New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan says the city is not participating in SoIN Tourism’s efforts to develop a regional conference center.
A study released by the tourism bureau this week showed the project could successfully attract large events. It calls for a collaborative effort between local governing bodies in Clark and Floyd counties.
But Gahan said New Albany declined to take part in the first phase of the study and doesn’t intend to take part in future phases either.
“We didn’t feel a need to enter into any studies, because we already know we have investors that are interested in [a conference center],” he said. “That is private property, and I think it would accommodate this very type of project that they’re describing. So it wouldn’t make any sense for me, for the city of New Albany to enter into the second phase.”
Gahan said developers in New Albany have already identified a site on State Street they’re considering for a conference center. They’ve also approached city officials about three other possible locations.
In September 2019, the city’s first new hotel in decades opened at Daisy Summit, a development along State Street near Interstate 265. At that time, developers said there was potential for additional construction in the future, including another hotel and a conference center with a capacity of up to 1,000 people.
“There’s no question that the site at State Street is still being considered by some as a potential site for a convention center,” Gahan said. “That has never been taken off the table. And that’s why when we saw this opportunity, or offer, to participate in this survey, we weren’t that interested.”
It’s not the first time New Albany officials have pursued locally-controlled projects concurrently with regional efforts of similar scope. River Heritage Conservancy’s (RHC) master plan for the 600-acre Origin Park includes part of the city’s shoreline.
Though other local governments have endorsed the project, New Albany has not. Last year, Gahan challenged a dam removal sought by RHC to open Silver Creek to kayakers and other recreation. New Albany is moving forward with its own project along the waterway as part of its Ohio River Greenway extension.
New Albany is one the five appointing authorities for SoIN Tourism’s board of managers, along with Clark County, Floyd County, Clarksville and Jeffersonville. The appointing authorities, including New Albany, are able to submit one site proposal at no cost during the next phase of the study, though Gahan said he does not plan to do so.
SoIN Tourism officials declined to comment on Gahan’s decision.
This story has been updated.
John Boyle is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. John’s coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, Community Foundation of Southern Indiana and Samtec, Inc.