Southern Indiana

After years of revitalizing its downtown with infill development and greenspaces, Jeffersonville officials have approved a new parking lot near the city’s core.

The Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission unanimously approved the plan on Wednesday. The new lot will add 105 parking spots along West Maple Street, across from Big Four Station Park.

It will replace greenspace and a basketball court adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park, formerly known as Colston Park. Mayor Mike Moore said city officials have created a more pedestrian-friendly downtown in recent years, but it’s still important to accommodate those who drive to visit the city.

“As much as that Big Four Bridge gets used for pedestrians, we still have a huge demand for parking with all of the restaurants and shops and businesses in our downtown area,” Moore said. “So this is something we’ve been talking about for a couple of years.”

But some residents and city officials argue another parking lot isn’t needed, especially if it means losing greenspace. Nearby homeowners attended Wednesday’s redevelopment meeting to voice concerns about how paving over the land could affect property values.

A 19th-century cemetery containing the unmarked graves of hundreds of soldiers sits beneath Veteran Memorial Park, next to the planned parking lot. Moore said the lot won’t affect the gravesites.

City council member Dustin White, whose district includes much of downtown, said he was surprised by the plan.

“The location where it’s planned has been a playground for my entire life, and I believe people still go there for recreation and relaxation,” White said. “I wasn’t overly enthusiastic to see that we were eliminating another greenspace for blacktop, regarding putting a parking lot there. I’m not sure it’s really accessible for those who go downtown to enjoy all the downtown offers.”

This isn’t the first time parking lots have caused disagreement among Jeffersonville officials and residents. Last year, developers completed Spring Street Commons in a former parking lot near the riverfront after months of litigation with the Jeffersonville Urban Enterprise Association. Another small parking lot across Spring Street was replaced by Union Restaurant & GameYard.

But White said even with those infill projects, there is no need to build a new parking lot in downtown.

“At this point, there’s sufficient parking for all the people that continue to come to downtown Jeffersonville to enjoy the shops and restaurants, or who come down to walk the bridge,” White said. “So I think that it would be better to enhance the greenspace that we have as opposed to making a concrete jungle out of the area.”

But Moore disagrees. He argues the revitalization of downtown means more people are going to want to visit the area. And not all of them will be able to walk or ride bikes.

“We need to get away from the idea that downtown belongs to only those who live down there,” Moore said. “That’s never going to be our battle cry. I want everybody to enjoy downtown Jeff. I would love everybody to find a home in Jeffersonville, but I do not want to exclude anyone. If you want to come over and visit for a couple of hours, I’m going to give you that opportunity.”

The parking lot is expected to be finished by fall and cost $300,000.

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.