Less than a month ago, Evansville was on the receiving end of good news from Indiana University. A site in downtown Evansville was chosen from among four proposed locations for a $69.5 million dollar medical education and research center.
On Tuesday, the president of IU, Dr. Michael McRobbie was in town to check out the site. But first, he spoke for a half-hour at the Evansville Rotary Club. Rotary officials said it was the largest crowd they’ve ever had.
After lunch, McRobbie and Evansville mayor Lloyd Winnecke boarded a trolley for a driving tour of the new site – encompassing 170-thousand square feet bordered by Southeast 4th and 6th streets, Cherry and Locust streets.
When they got off the trolley, it was pointed out that both Winnecke and McRobbie were wearing strikingly similar blue, pinstriped suits.
The two men weren’t only in sync with their wardrobes, but also with their feelings about the impact the new medical center will have on downtown Evansville.
“Since the April 11th vote of the Board of Trustees, we’ve seen immense interest in downtown property – both residential and commercial. I have no doubt that we’ve just ‘lit the fuse’ on downtown,” said Winnecke.
By the end of the decade, the rows and rows of new cars that currently sit on this property will be replaced by the medical center.
“We need to start really visualizing what downtown looks like today, because in five years it will not reflect it at all,” said Winnecke. "The process of putting this campus downtown – I’ve said this before – but it will totally change the vibe of not just downtown but the entire city,” said Winnecke.
Downtown Evansville sits next to the Ohio River. City leaders hope the project will spur more development in the area. University officials, including the man at the top, Michael McRobbie, hope it will make for a vibrant campus.
“And that in itself, I think, is immensely attractive. It’s not like being at some site where you have to get in your car to go to visit other facilities. Everything here can be walked to. And you’ve got that wonderful riverfront, which I’ve always admired every time I’ve come to Evansville,” said McRobbie
The $69.5 million dollar price tag is subject to approval from the Indiana State Legislature. McRobbie says IU, the city and other partners – including three other schools that will have students at the new medical center are already preparing to go before lawmakers in Indianapolis next year
“I expect we’re all going to go in shoulder-to-shoulder to make the case to the legislature. I think I’ve heard nothing but positive support from all the members of the legislature and others in state government that I’ve spoken to for this particular project,” said McRobbie. "I think they’re delighted that so many organizations: the city, IU the University of Evansville, USI [University of Southern Indiana], Ivy Tech are all working together; the hospitals are all working together on this particular project.”
If the legislature gives its okay, construction could begin next year and work could be complete by late 2017.
Evansville, for its part, is making a major financial commitment to the project – pledging $35 million dollars from a Tax Increment Finance district to the medical center. But city officials say the investment will pay off -- and in short order.
“Just six years from today, we estimate there will be an economic impact of the campus of over $300 million dollars. That’s incredible. In 2030, that number jumps to over $600 million dollars. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a city, so we’re determined to take advantage of it,” said Winnecke.