A NEW ALEXANDRIA RISES
The Mercantile: New look, new name
“A lot of millennials don’t believe rural America is a good fit for them. They couldn’t be more wrong,” said Warren Brown, Director of Economic Development in Alexandria, Indiana. There is excitement in his voice because of two forward-moving projects which will literally change the landscape of that city.
New life is being breathed into a vacant three-story downtown building which formerly housed Cox Supermarket for more than seven decades. Milestone Ventures Inc., a development firm headquartered in Indianapolis, will begin interior demolition of the building in early November with plans to locate 20 apartments on the second and third floors. The new housing is expected to be completed within a year.
This multi-faceted project, dubbed The Mercantile, includes plans for a much-needed grocery in the building’s ground level. While there is not yet a signed contract, Brown said serious negotiations are underway with more than one grocer. He anticipates a November 2017 opening for the public. It will fill a gap in food services that are needed to support the population of the community. Currently the Harvest Market is the only grocer in town to serve Alexandria’s population of just under 5,100.
In addition to the planned renovations to the building, three duplexes are already under construction in the back corner of the parking lot and are slated to open during the first half of 2017.
Similar projects for neighborhood stabilization have taken place in large cities such as Chicago or NYC, but The Mercantile project is unique for a city the size of Alexandria. “From the research that we’ve done, I don’t believe another project like this has been done in a rural community in the United States ... providing affordable housing, plus the grocery which addresses a food desert. It is one of only two projects funded through Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority in 2016,” said Brown.
MORE THAN A BUSINESS PARK
Another major addition to the city’s economic opportunity -- in the form of a huge financial boost-- was announced on October 6 when the Madison County Council of Governments approved the use of $91,500 to drill test wells and do a comprehensive water study at the Alexandria North Business Park. Funding comes from food and beverage tax revenues.
Brown said the site is very attractive for business development because extensive work has already been done through a successful coalition of all the key players. The business park is shovel-ready, utilities are in place, and AT&T has certified the site as fiber optic-ready. The water study is another logical step in preparing for future industry.
“Multiple companies have looked at the business park for development. A couple are big water users. Test wells and water samples will help us make sure we are ready and have the ability to provide processed water, raw water, whatever is needed,” Brown explained.
“All of the companies we’ve talked to would produce significant job growth. It could possibly be one of the biggest opportunities in the state, let alone north Madison County. It will have great regional impact.”
Brown said he is excited about so many good things happening in the community. “We’re doing everything we can and doing it well. We strive to be innovative, affordable, friendly and safe. We want to support and grow together to make Madison County the best place to live regardless of who you are.”