By BRADEN LAMMERS
More preparations were made for what officials call “Project Tango” at the River Ridge Development Authority meeting this week.
The project, a 1-million-square-foot distribution center located off of Ind. 62, has been rumored to be a new distribution center for online retailer Amazon.com, but that has not been confirmed and the company has not returned phone calls. Grading work has already begun on the site and the River Ridge Development Authority Board took steps to allow for construction to move quickly once a deal has been finalized.
The board agreed to lease an adjacent tract of land to KTR Capital Partners — which is developing the site — to create a temporary concrete plant on-site. The plant will sit on 6.5 acres of land next to the 70-acre tract where the building and parking lot will be constructed, with a performance bond to restore the property once the construction has been completed.
“This proposed lease is to accommodate the big project,” said River Ridge Executive Director Jerry Acy. “That will be approximately eight months during the construction period that this lease will be in place.”
The lease — resolution 12-2012 — if it is set to last for eight months would suggest that the distribution center would be open by October. Acy said the deal has still not been finalized with the company leasing the distribution center and River Ridge remains silent on who the eventual tenant will be.
Despite not having a deal wrapped up, construction has begun on the 900 Patrol Road distribution center.
“On our site we have an agreement with conditions to allow for some site work ... prior to closing,” Acy said. “Closing has not taken place on the land purchases.”
Acy said he hopes that closing will take place before the end of the month, but it’s not an absolute.
Last week Jeffersonville’s Plan Commission approved the development plan for the site and earlier this week, Jeffersonville’s Drainage Board approved the plan. River Ridge’s Development Authority also approved a resolution to attempt to secure an Economic Development Administration Grant.
“As everyone’s well aware, we’ve got a potential project here in ‘Project Tango’ as well as another developable site in this general vicinity,” said Paul Wheatley, director of marketing and finance for River Ridge. “We feel like we have a pretty good opportunity to leverage some Economic Development Administration grant monies based on these projects.”
River Ridge is in talks — and its board approved Acy to move ahead with negotiations for — another site near the distribution center being constructed.
“We are negotiating with another developer on a potential land sale,” he said. “It’s approximately 26 acres ... and the proposal would be to construct a 400,000-square-foot warehouse manufacturing and/or distribution center with related offices on that particular site.”
He added the parcel is on the opposite side of a proposed connector road at Patrol Road and Cox Street in the commerce center. Acy would not comment on who is seeking to develop the 26-acre site.
The Economic Development Administration grant would benefit both sites.
“Essentially what we’re doing with this grant application is trying to strengthen our infrastructure for not only our [current] project site[s] ... but for what we see as the next tier of development sites,” said Marc Hildenbrand, engineer with River Ridge.
The money would be used to increase the size of the sanitary sewer collector, run water lines and construct connector roads to the sites. The connector roads would allow access to 900 Patrol Road from two separate locations. According to the development plan, 2,584 parking spaces are planned for “Project Tango.” Acy said there needs to be enough spaces to accommodate a shift change.
It is expected that the center could bring 800 employees working in two shifts each, which could expand to about 1,600 seasonal workers per shift between October and December said Andy Crouch, Jeffersonville city engineer. The total number of jobs that the center could bring during peak operational hours is 3,200.
“We feel like these are great projects that help us move to the next level of this development of things we’re going to have to do at some point,” Hildenbrand said. “[We’ll] take the opportunity of this project coming in and the jobs that are associated with it to help fund those projects that we see that are necessary to the future of River Ridge.”
Wheatley added that he is optimistic that River Ridge will be able to secure the grant funding.
“It’s really a quintessential project for the [Economic Development Administration],” he said. “It’s going to help one specific large job creator, as well as our existing tenants, and also add to our already readily available acreages and parcels adjacent to the improvements. We feel like its a really good opportunity to leverage the projects through the [administration].”
River Ridge would be required to provide a 50 percent match to the grant being sought, and if the full amount is secured, the dollar amount would total $4.6 million. However the grants are competitive, with $30 million available nationally and $6 million designated for the region that includes Southern Indiana, Wheatley said.
“Obviously, this would be a big chunk of it, but we feel like the impact of River Ridge here should help us on that end,” he said.
River Ridge is hoping for an answer in about two to three months on whether or not it will receive grant funds, but it wouldn’t be until near the first of next year until funds are available and construction could begin, Hildenbrand said.
Calls to the Indiana Economic Development Corp. seeking comment on the grants being sought were deferred to River Ridge. Requests for comment sent to KTR were also not returned as of press time.