This week HAND reached an agreement with the North Central Coop (NCC) to purchase the site of the Historic Grain Elevator in downtown Noblesville. HAND is engaged with neighborhood residents and city officials in a planning effort to determine the highest and best use for the site. “Place-making can have a huge impact on the psyche of a community, and public input on a major property is our number one priority,” reports HAND’s Executive Director, Nate Lichti.
“We were approached by numerous individuals and constituents when the demolition commenced late last year. It took us awhile to build a critical mass, but we are confident the effort will pay off,” says Lichti. “This is a serious endeavor, but it is worth the risk given the potential impact we can have in the Southwest Quadrant.”
The Executive Director of Visit Hamilton County, Brenda Myers, agrees. “As tourism and community development specialists, we always go by the goal of ‘great places to live are great places to visit and invest.’ This project is a perfect example of that mission.”
The wooden structure sits just six blocks south of the historic courthouse and towers over downtown Noblesville and the Model Mill. The history of the Grain Elevator relates closely to the entire history of Noblesville. The construction of the elevator contains so much lumber because it was built using 2×8 boards that were stacked 85 feet tall.
Over 100 individuals signed a petition supporting HAND’s campaign to conduct the redevelopment study, including several from the Noblesville Preservation Alliance. Emily Compton, a proud member of the alliance, says, “People living, working and playing in Old Town will make our city better, more desirable, safer and more profitable for everyone.”
The elevator provided the first opportunity for Noblesville to boom when it was built in 1904 along the railroad tracks. Spurring growth in the agricultural industry in Hamilton County led to the establishment of a strong community. Noblesville High School uses “The Millers” as their official mascot, a reputation which Noblesville alumni take very seriously.
Now, those alumni and neighbors are a key part of this project. Deborah Jamieson, resident leader in the South West Quad, reported, “A neighborhood committee has set up monthly meetings with HAND to advise and be advised on the planning and development of the property. While the elevator is an eyesore in its present condition, properly restored, it could become an asset to the neighborhood and the entire city.”
HAND enters a critical stage of securing the funding necessary to deliver the vision while maintaining support of the community. In the terms of the agreement, HAND and the NCC have agreed to a purchase agreement that compensates the owner for a fair market value of the property. HAND has engaged local architects Darren Peterson and John Dierdorf to facilitate the design process, an essential step to obtaining zoning and the necessary financing.
HAND intends to pursue a mixed use development with a mixture of market rate and affordable apartments. Lichti says, “Downtown needs more rooftops, so this is a great opportunity in the heart of the community to redevelop a blighted property. The housing provides customers for downtown businesses and affordable housing for workers at the Foundry and other local businesses.”
Negotiations have included a deconstruction plan from an out of state contractor who plans to salvage as much of the wood as possible. HAND has negotiated an agreement which leaves in place key portions of the historic grain elevator. The demo contractor is busy finishing up other summer projects, but will be back soon to finish the work on the concrete structures. The contractor pledges that a majority of the site will be cleared and maintained by winter.
HAND is partnering with the Noblesville Preservation Alliance and Hamilton County Historical Society to preserve a portion of this history. If you have artifacts, memories or photos that include this property, please notify Tracy at 317-674-8108 or Tracy@handincorporated.org. This collection may be displayed at future events or, ultimately, on site at some future development.
HAND invests in neighborhoods, provides housing solutions, and builds partnerships to improve the lives and build community in Hamilton County. Follow HAND on Facebook, visit www.handincorporated.org or call 317-674-8108 for more information.