A college campus in downtown Anderson would breathe new life into the community, drawing hundreds, if not thousands, of folks to the downtown who otherwise might rarely — if ever — venture into the area.
Such a campus would be a boon to downtown businesses, particularly restaurants, greatly increasing their potential customers. More restaurants and perhaps other businesses would spring up, as well.
That’s Mayor Kevin Smith’s strategy regarding the proposed Ivy Tech Community College campus for Anderson. He wants college officials to agree to change their plans and build the new facility in the 300 block of Jackson Street or, alternatively, at the former Edgewood Plaza along Nichol Avenue.
It’s a great vision — but it’s likely a pipe dream, and one that shouldn’t be pursued so far that it threatens to kill the project.
For good reason, Ivy Tech prefers to build new campuses along interstate highways. That’s where the traffic is. That’s where the visibility is. That’s where the accessibility is.
The plan in Anderson, for the past four years, has been for the new campus to be located on a 40-acre area off Interstate 69 at 60th Street that the city purchased and then turned over to Ivy Tech. Up until recently, the project was stalled because the state would not release the $20 million approved for the new campus.
That changed in July when the State Budget Committee finally released the money for the project, which will require $4 million more to be raised locally. Ivy Tech would like to move ahead quickly, with an eye on opening the new campus for classes in 2015.
City officials say infrastructure improvements to support the campus at the I-69 site would cost $8.1 million, far more than the improvements needed for a downtown or Nichol Avenue campus. Presumably, however, the expensive improvements along 60th Street also could make the area more attractive to commercial and industrial interests.
Smith says the city has been working behind the scenes to convince Ivy Tech officials that a downtown Anderson campus is a better alternative than the 60th Street location.
But Andy Bowne, chancellor of Ivy Tech’s East Central Region, sounded unconvinced in a Herald Bulletin article published Thursday. He noted that the statewide community college has made a practice of building campuses along interstates and that it would be difficult to make a change in plan with deadlines looming to get the campus open by 2015.
Smith is trying to do what’s best for the city of Anderson, particularly to energize the downtown. That’s his job. But he should push his agenda only so far, and he should recognize the value of growth on the outskirts of the city, as well as in the downtown area. The fact that his administration has basically brought the softball/baseball complex planned for a property off of I-69 to a standstill still sticks in the craw of many.
It would harm the community if the new campus project were delayed for several more years — or worse yet, if Ivy Tech decided to build in a different community instead.
In summary Mayor Kevin Smith has a great vision for changing the location of the proposed Anderson Ivy Tech campus to downtown -- but it's likely a pipe dream, and one that shouldn't be pursued so far that it threatens to kill the project.