Federal Hill Project Gets Green Light

Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear has been advocating the Federal Hill Project since 2007.

Western banks of the White River in downtown Noblesville will soon be overflowing, not with flood waters but with crowds, retail and outdoor activities.

The Noblesville City Common Council approved a $6 million project to make the vacant area just north of Riverview Hospital a place of gathering and events. There will be an amphitheater, bathrooms and art displays at the new Federal Hill project.

“We thought ‘what do we call this area?’” said Deputy Mayor Michael Hendricks. “I had one list of all the potential names. The second list was why it should be called that. When I first saw this I thought this [Federal Hill] doesn’t make sense. But at Lakeview and Logan, that building was formerly the Federal Hill School. Now everyone will have that ability to have that knowledge of the area.”

Set to start in the spring of 2015, the project will be funded through the Logan Street TIF fund, which means there will be no money used from a general tax fund.

“A TIF district is a way to finance new projects and actually means Tax Increment Financing,” said Mayor John Ditslear. “As an example, this ground (pointing to the land covered in trees and brush) is useless and has nothing on it. Let’s say a bank comes and builds, which increases the value of the property. We get to capture the difference in the increment that the developer made.”

But during the process to approve the project, some were worried about the price tag.

“Well, I agree $6 million dollars is a lot of money,” said Hendricks. “I think if we want to see that side of the river grow and clean-up, we have to do something to do that. It is a huge beautification project.”

Plans include an outdoor amphitheater, art displays and multi-purpose space for several events on the west banks of the White River near downtown Noblesville. (click image for more photos)

But Hendricks also said that other groups have expressed their excitement for how they can use the new and improved space. The Main Street Farmers’ Market might call that space home and Shakespeare in the Park will move its performances to the new amphitheater.

“I am hopeful that this project might be home to our Farmers Market in the coming years,” said Noblesville Main Street Executive Director Chris Owens. “The plan for the space naturally lends itself to the event and may even hold possibilities for other Main Street programs as well.”

Another part of the project is the story wall that will be along a sidewalk that connects Federal Hill to the town square. The wall will feature concrete panels that depict the history of Noblesville. The idea to incorporate history into the project came from the public saying that it was important to them.

“We are very deep rooted and we are very proud of where we have been,” said Hendricks. “We are the county seat and having one place that shows our history is exciting. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. I think the story wall will be amazing.”

The project was long time coming, being first considered in 2007. But after the economic downturn, it was put on hold. Using the studies and public input, the project was picked back up.

“We started the process of looking at that property back in ’07. There was a large study done for our downtown and meetings,” said Hendricks. “And what came out was the barrier of the river. How do we make it part of our downtown, because downtown does not end at the river.”

The area is in a flood plain so development there was out of question due to the high cost of filling in the ground. But with Federal Hill, the hope is that development will happen around the district.

“I see the Federal Hill project as a great catalyst for economic development in Noblesville,” said Owens. “This space will allow the city to better brand and identify the western gateway to downtown as well as use the White River as a point of connection and hopefully further development.”

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