ELKHART — The Elkhart Rowing Club’s proposal for an East Jackson Boulevard property received support from all three Elkhart County Commissioners this week.

In a letter dated April 2 and signed by Mike Yoder, Frank Lucchese and Suzanne Weirick, the commissioners encourage the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission to accept the proposal from the rowing club at the commission’s April 9 meeting. The club’s plans are one of two proposals for developing the former Alick’s Home Medical property.

The other proposal would put the property to residential use.

“The opportunity to connect current interests to our rich river heritage will encourage pride in our community and nostalgia of residents and visitors alike,” the letter from the county officials said.

The rowing club has proposed building a three-story building in the 900 block of East Jackson Boulevard, which would be home to the club. Part of the building facing the St. Joseph River could be rented out for events catering up 112 people, according to the club.

In addition to the building, part of the land would be turned into to a park and public passage to the water.

“Additionally, this proposed development would continue to encourage the use and availability of the Elkhart River Queen,” the commissioners’ letter said. “There is no need to explain the historical significance and the importance of the River Queen has for our community.”

The commissioners argued that allowing the rowing club to develop the land would be a positive step in the city’s plan to retain, develop and attract talent.

Commission President Yoder said Friday that a rowing facility at the Alick’s property would work well with a location that the county is supporting upstream at the Six Span Bridge. He said the bridge would be a good launching spot for inexperienced rowers, who could then row downstream and pick up their boats at the Alick’s location.

“The two sites just seem to work really well together, so we thought this would be a better option than housing. We can put houses elsewhere,” Yoder said.

Yoder said that new rowing facilities would help some students, especially in high school, find a sport that they can enjoy.

“We’re not overwhelmed with sports opportunities, extracurricular activities for students. We can always use more,” he said.

Portage Place Development LLC has also submitted a letter of intent to develop the land. Its letter to the Redevelopment Commission describes the LLC as a group of community minded leaders looking to support Elkhart’s redevelopment goals, who believe their residential plan will be unique and align with the commission’s own plans.

“We think that housing there is probably the best use, but if others, including the city, feel that the rowing club would be the use that they would like to have there, we’d be happy with that, too,” said Brian Smith, one of the people behind Portage Place. “We just want what’s best for the city.” 

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter @ReadRasmus

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