The Madison Redevelopment Commission made a major commitment Tuesday toward bringing a new grocery store to downtown Madison by giving Mayor Bob Courtney authorization to enter into negotiations for purchase of the former Ruler Foods grocery building.
The 10,000 square foot building, located at 120 East Second Street, includes an adjacent parking lot and has served as several grocery stores in the past but not since Rulers closed in 2018.
“We believe that is a vital part of our revitalization efforts in that corridor,” said Madison Mayor Bob Courtney. “It is one of the largest contiguous undeveloped parcels in historic districts in the country. We need parking. We have made it a key initiative to attract a grocery store operator to downtown Madison. We have backed that with a market study that supports a retail environment for a grocery store operator. And we feel it’s important for us to be able to market what we own, and that is by acquiring this property.”
The building housed Ruler Foods from Feb. 8, 2011 through March 31, 2018, and since then has been empty. The property was been a strategic space of activity through much of the city of Madison’s history. In 1849, the Madison Hotel, designed by architect Francis Costigan, was built and opened March 27, 1850, with a huge ball and dinner. The building later had various other uses until it was demolished in 1949 and Kroger grocery built on the site. In 1979, Kroger moved to Madison’s hilltop and a JayC Foods Store took over the building in 1980 and remained there until it closed on Jan. 9, 2011. The space was then revamped as Ruler Foods.
The conditional purchase and sale agreement set a $525,000 purchase price for the building. The terms specified a $200,000 down payment, with 1% annual interest on the balance and a balloon payment of the remainder due 24 months from the date of executing the real estate contract. It also stipulates the lease agreement between K-Q Properties LLC and Kroger Limited Partnership/Jay C Food Stores be assigned to the City of Madison.
The agreement is contingent upon the consent and approval of the Madison Redevelopment Commission and/or Madison City Council, and all other necessary government boards, bodies and all necessary requirements for the purchase of property as required by Indiana Code. The agreement also provides for the Mayor to negotiate the terms with final approval by the Redevelopment Commission. Additionally, the agreement requires two appraisals with the purchase price being at or below the average of the two appraisals.
“There are multiple contingencies,” said city attorney Joe Jenner. “This is just a starting point to allow us to get this property under some kind of contract in order to perform the necessary due diligence and to take a look at it, and to lock in a potential price that we have.”
Commission Chairman John Grote spoke favorably about the proposal.
“We all agree with the investment in the downtown community that a grocery store is critical for the continued quality of life for residents of downtown and all of the investment that is going on down here,” Grote said. “This is a prime piece of property in many regards, so hopefully we can turn that into a win to attract the right person to operate a grocery store for us.”
The Commission unanimously approved allowing the Mayor to enter into negotiations, and to seek appraisals for the property.
Courtney said that the purchase of the property would not only “facilitate our growing efforts to attract a grocery store operator but also play nicely into our redevelopment and revitalization plans for our whole Second Street, Mulberry Street from Main to Vaughn corridor.”
As part of the plans to improve the space at 120 East Second Street on the southwest corner of Second and Mulberry streets, Courtney said there also are plans to beautify and upgrade the city’s parking lot on the northeast corner of Second and Mulberry streets with landscaping and improvements to the parking area located beside a former bakery building where the Madison Area Arts Alliance plans to create a huge “Kindness Matters” mural that will ultimately became another noteworthy destination in the city.
Speaking to Madison City Council later on Tuesday, Courtney said the two projects will work hand-in-hand to revitalize an area that is a center of activity and has already seen some private revitalization along the Mulberry corridor.
“That area is a very, very exciting area that is ripe for revitalization and what we’ve learned through a lot of strategy — and particularly through our PACE program — is it’s just proven that where city capital is invested and we partner with the community, it attracts additional private investment,” Courtney said.
Interviewed after the meeting, Courtney summarized that “today we presented the overall strategy in acquiring strategic parcels by the city to lead the revitalization efforts in several areas of downtown Madison. Improving our city gateways, eliminating blight, attracting private investment, destination development through public art, and gaining site control for the future development of a full-service downtown grocery are all key initiatives of this administration. With city council and redevelopment commission support, along with forging community-wide partnerships, the city is on track to achieving its goals of improving property values and the quality of life for all Madisonians. Economic development via investing in our community is a primary driver to achieve this result and I am grateful for all of the support.”
On a night when Madison Mayor Bob Courtney proclaimed February as Black History Month throughout the city, it was only fitting that he also announced major upgrades to a city park located on the grounds where Indiana’s first commissioned high school for black children once stood.
Gaines Park, which is located on the grounds of the former 1880 Broadway School in downtown Madison, has been slated for about $500,000 in improvements over the next few years to include shelters, a new playground and basketball court, an area to hold cookouts and a community garden to be used by residents.
Courtney said the park has been allowed to sit unimproved — in fact decaying — for long enough and with the support of city council he intends to make it the first of several neighborhood parks to be beautified and revitalized so that they may once again be a center of activity in their communities.
The project is part of an overall overhaul of the city’s system of 29 parks. The groundwork was laid last month when a new fee structure was approved for three the city’s revenue producing parks — Sunrise Golf Course, Crystal Beach pool and Madison Campground — aimed at making them more self-sufficient so that a greater share of the city’s $1.6 million annual parks budget can be spent on non-revenue-producing parks that were once centerpoints of their neighborhoods but are now less utilized because they have fallen into decay.
Gaines Park is actually not one of the city’s less used parks. It continues to serve as a gathering place for the Broadway neighborhood and for black people who attended Broadway School and their families and friends. Annual events are held to celebrate black history and the history of the school that educated the city’s black children until Madison integrated schools in the 1950s. The Broadway School building then continued to serve as a community center until it was lost to an arson fire in 1969.
Courtney announced the proposal at Tuesday’s Madison City Council meeting and provided an architectural rendering of what Gaines Park might look like upon completion. He said the rendering is just a starting point and there will be time for residents to have input in the future but the end goal is a park that is a more vibrant place for people to gather and recreate and a community garden that will allow residents to join other neighbors in growing food, flowers to further beautify the neighborhood.
“As we restructure our parks department, we will turn our attention to our neighborhood parks which have suffered significant deferred maintenance over the years. Gaines Park brings significant history to our community so I think it is only prudent that we prioritize it first,” Courtney said. “The renderings provide a concept and vision for how important our parks are to our quality of life. Strong neighborhoods create a strong community and I am looking forward to community discussion about Gaines Park.”
He said Gaines may take a few years to complete — finding $500,000 is not easy — but once Gaines is upgraded the hope is for it to serve as an example for other park upgrades.
“We don’t have to do it all at once, but we should be able to take this footprint and concept and apply it to any of our other parks like Oak Hill, Lorenz and others,” Courtney said.
Councilman Curtis Chatham asked if improvements at Gaines would include bathrooms on site. Courtney said that is not part of the initial plan but it could be considered later.
“We do know that we need to put bathrooms in at some of our community parks,” Courtney said. “But that will probably be decided by usage.”
Courtney also noted that the plans at Gaines Park are part of an overall effort to beautify Madison, make it more inviting and energize neighborhoods (See: Ruler Purchase, Page A1) which should improve quality of life and property values.
In other city council business:
• Heard the first reading of a rate increase for the city’s waste transfer station where all garbage dropped off at the hilltop location will cost $62 a ton for disposal. The current rate was $62 per ton for loose trash and $52 per ton for compacted trash and the new rate will be one fee for either.
• Heard a report that the Eighth Street sidewalk to Madison Junior High School on Madison’s hilltop is completed except for some fencing in an area with a drop off. The city will partner with Cub Manufacturing at Madison Consolidated High School to design, construct and install a metal fence with the MCHS Art Department creating original visual artwork on the fencing .
• Heard a report by Matt Wirth, economic development director, that Jefferson County’s jobless rate is now 3.9%, slightly better than the 4.0% in Indiana and well improved from the 4.4% rate a month earlier. He said some employers who are currently hiring are “starting to struggle to find employees.”
• Heard a report by Madison Police Chief John Wallace that Kayla Moore, currently an employee at the Jefferson County Jail and an Indiana National Guard member, has been hired for the department’s job opening. The police department now has three female officers.
• Heard the second and third readings and adopted an ordinance placing a three-way stop at Ross Street and Highland Drive on Madison’s hilltop.
• Received notification by Courtney that Mike Armstrong has been appointed to the city’s Planning Commission, Darrell Henderson was named to the Board of Zoning Appeals and Debbie Crawford was named to the Cable Advisory Board.
“First of all, our names aren’t really Johnny and Sallie,” explains Catherine Evans. “My husband (Brent Evans) wrote a song called The Ballad of Johnny & Sallie, and just for fun he introduced us on the stage that way one night. People seemed to respond to it, so we played along.”
“Sometime later I was trying to book a gig,” Brent explains, picking up the story, “and this venue owner says to me, we don’t want Brent and Catherine, we want Johnny and Sallie! Who am I to argue? I told them Johnny and Sallie you shall have!”
Brent and Catherine Evans are an experienced and well-established musical duo out of Rochester, Indiana, a small town about two hours north of Indy. Catherine has an ice cream business called “Sallie’s By The Shore” that she runs out of a converted 1953 Vagabond travel trailer, and Brent owns a recording studio.
So why are we doing a story about some out of town musicians in Madison’s music column? Because Johnny & Sallie (Brent & Catherine) are moving to town about a month from now. We’re getting two great musicians, a recording studio and an ice cream shop all in one fortuitous fell swoop.
“We played the Swiss Wine Festival in Vevay some years back,” explains Catherine. “And after we were done we wandered down the river to explore Madison. It’s fair to say it was love at first sight. And the more we learned about the town, the more we liked. It fits our lifestyle, it has the emphasis on arts and music. It’s a perfect fit for us.
“We also have three pre-school children, and we want to raise them around music and a vibrant community rich in history. We’re closing on a downtown home in early March, and looking forward to our kids going to Lydia Middleton.
“Everybody we’ve met so far has been super supportive and friendly. Todd Boone has filled us in about the music scene. Brian Martin is helping us with the permit process so we can move our ice cream business here. And Jerry Wade at Mad Paddle has already booked us for some shows.
In addition to the ice cream business, Brent will be bringing his studio equipment to town. “I’m not sure how or when it will work out,” says Brent, “but I hope to get that up and running eventually in Madison. I can record other musicians, of course, but I also use it to record my own original songs. I usually play all the instruments and end up with very complete versions of my songs.”
“Our very first show is at Mad Paddle on March 5, which will be just a few days after we move here,” says Catherine. “We’re going to do our variety show that night, covering a wide range of styles and decades. Songs by Helen Reddy, Journey, Heart, Tiny Tim, The Eagles, Dolly Parton and even Led Zeppelin.
“Then on Saturday the 6th at Mad Paddle we have a show we call our ‘Hip Trip Thru The Sixties.’ It’s everything from folk to psychedelic, like Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles, The Who, Mommas and the Papas and a bunch more.
“Brent plays guitar and keyboards, and I play guitar and mandolin. We use some backing tracks on some of the songs, so the sound is very full and fun. We hope everybody comes out that weekend so we can meet our new neighbors and share our music with Madison.”
Thomas Family Winery is back in the swing of live music, and they have a great show kicking things off Saturday night. One of this column’s favorite talents, Anthony Ray Wright, has a brand new album release and he’ll be playing sweet new original cuts from the record. If you haven’t heard Anthony, his style is equal parts classic Texas swing, Hank Williams country, and Chris Issaac charisma. Get on out to Thomas Family on Saturday and celebrate great live music. Mad Paddle also has a full Thursday through Saturday line up, as usual. And keep a sharp eye on Off-Broadway Taproom, they’re slipping live music in there quite often lately.
This Week in Music
Thursday, February 4
Mad Paddle Brewery — Matthew Williams
Friday, February 5
Mad Paddle Brewery — Brett Stafford Smith
Saturday, February 6
Mad Paddle Brewery — Broken Spokes
Thomas Family Winery — Anthony Ray Wright (Album Release)
Additional charges were filed Monday against the Kentucky man accused of manufacturing a homemade explosive device that detonated recently injuring a Madison woman in the face.
County prosecutor David Sutter filed charges in Jefferson Superior Court, charging Cameron Kinser, 32, of Crestwood, Kentucky, with Level 2 felony, for knowingly or intentionally possessing, transporting, receiving, placing or detonating a destructive or explosive device with knowledge or intent to be used to kill, injure or intimidate an individual or destroy property.
A Level 2 felony carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Madison Police Detectives Shawn Scudder and Kyle Cutshall were called to an apartment at 2861 Kennedy Drive on Madison’s hilltop in reference to an explosive device that had detonated. Upon arrival to the apartment, they found Ashley Boldery with a large amount of dried blood on her face.
Boldery was allegedly carrying the device downstairs to dispose of it when she tripped on the stairs and fell, causing the device to detonate, resulting in injuries to her face. She was transported to the King’s Daughters’ Hospital emergency room before being transferred to the University of Louisville Hospital.
According to a court affidavit, the device had allegedly been in the apartment for around two months. The investigation determined that Kinser was the manufacturer of the device and left it in the apartment, which he frequented.
Kinser had previously been arrested on Jan. 6 in connection with the manufacture of a homemade explosive device, a Level 5 felony punishable by one to six years in prison, that was found last October alongside a Jefferson County highway.
Kinser remains incarcerated in the Jefferson County jail without bond.