City officials in Evansville say they’ll have to start anew on a project to build a downtown convention hotel. At a press conference Thursday morning, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke announced that previous plans for a 257-room hotel are being scrapped because of a $6.5 million shortage in funding.
“This is a disappointing delay but it is not a defeat,” said Winnecke. “We cannot look at it as a defeat. We are fully committed to building a full-service convention hotel in downtown Evansville. It is what we need and we’ll find a path to victory, I assure you.”
The city had committed $20 million in taxpayer dollars for the project, but Old National Bank wasn’t able to cover the entire $14 million dollars it had originally allocated.
“Are we disappointed? Absolutely,” said Old National Bank CEO and President Bob Jones. “This has been our home for 180 years as an institution. This community deserves a convention hotel; this community deserves to continue the great momentum we’ve seen.”
The overall cost of the hotel was just over $71 million. A groundbreaking ceremony took place in March at the proposed building site near the Ford Center, but no construction actually took place.
The latest debate over the route for Interstate 69 revolves around the highway's path from Southern Indiana into Kentucky
While researching his book, “Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway”, Matt Dellinger traced the very early history of I-69 to a southern Indiana landowner, who in the early ‘90s, wanted to build a toll road from Evansville to Indianapolis.
“This man, David Graham, in Washington, Indiana, had been talking to this economist who said ‘look, your problem is, that it is too small a project. If you continued this proposed highway all the way to Mexico, then the numbers would change and the economics of it would look a lot more attractive if it was an international trade route,’” said Dellinger.
Twenty years and billions of dollars later, I-69 remains incomplete, although there has been progress, If I-69 ever is complete, it will extend from Canada to the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Dellinger says funding issues and sometimes, the proposed route of the interstate have impeded progress as each mayor, congressman or senator along the way has tried to steer it in a way that would most benefit his or her constituents.
“These arguments about the route have been going on since the idea was very, very young. It is about politics and it is about economic development,” said Dellinger. “The bridges are obviously key points in the route. They’re kind of the pillars that the rest of the route is defined by.”
The latest dust up over I-69 doesn’t take place far Washington, Indiana.