Southern Indiana

The Floyd County Government is continuing its exploration of a public-private partnership to build a new administrative center.

County officials hosted a roundtable with several developers on Wednesday to discuss the project, a month after the county issued a request for information to solicit development ideas for the North Annex property along Grant Line Road in New Albany.

“We still don’t have a complete vision of exactly what this looks like,” said Shawn Carruthers, president of the Floyd County Commissioners. “However, I’m very confident that the people in this room today is going to come back with some ideas that’s going to best suit Floyd County.”

The 17-acre property would hold some government offices, including treasurer, surveyor and auditor. But officials also want it to offer social and recreational amenities for the public, a “community center with some government activities in it.”

Some organizations have already expressed interest in teaming up with the county to make that a reality.

The Floyd County Library is seeking about 10,000 square feet of space at the North Annex property. Assistant Director Sandra Fortner said opening the new location would help the library reach citizens who don’t have easy access to the main branch downtown.

“It’s a great spot,” Fortner said. “It’s on a bus line. It’s next to the park, as well as housing. So we feel like we would get a new patron base.”

Fortner said the library would offer computer classes and new children’s programs that take advantage of the site’s proximity to Sam Peden Community Park. The library would also implement new programs for older residents in partnership with LifeSpan, a senior services organization that’s seeking about 25,000 square feet in the government center.

Lora Clark, CEO of LifeSpan, said the space would give older citizens a place to socialize and receive any services they need, which could help them to live longer independently.

“There’s a lot of things that happen with the social determinants of health that help keep people out of facilities,” Clark said. “There are all kinds of activities to do in [the new center] that would just keep them engaged. It just makes a big difference in their life.”

The North Annex property has served a number of purposes throughout its nearly 200-year history, including time as the county’s home for poor and older citizens. Lucy Higgs Nichols, who escaped slavery and worked as a nurse during the Civil War, died at the home in 1915.

Because of its historical significance, Carruthers said he’s open to finding ways to save the existing building, which was originally constructed in the late 19th century.

“I think we’re all in agreement that the people that have passed through that building should not be forgotten, and I will make an effort not to forget,” he said. “There will be some type of memorial, monument or that entire building, if it can be incorporated into the new design. We’re anxious to see what type of ideas come back that incorporate the history of that location.”

Developers have until the end of the month to respond to the county’s request for information.

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.