Six years ago, Jane Hendrickson decided to take on the immense project of transforming an eyesore in Jasper’s Frogtown into something that would impact the future of Jasper.
And these days as construction sounds slowly recede there are residents — young and old — moving into the new apartments sitting on the top two floors of the River Centre.
Two businesses, Fitfuel Nutrition and St. Benedict’s Brew Works – Jasper, will open on the ground floor by the end of summer. Hendrickson and her team are also in plans and meetings with more regional companies potentially interested in bringing their offerings to the area to add to the River Centre’s attraction.
Step by step, the transformation of the dilapidated Jasper Cabinet property has moved naysayers from scoffing to scratching their heads in disbelief at the changes within sight of the Jasper Riverwalk.
Hendrickson admits that it’s been a long journey fraught with peaks and valleys but as the original artistic renderings of the dream have come to life — and been even better than were imagined on paper — her decision has only been reaffirmed.
Of course, it’s a conversation piece. Someone with a picture-perfect memory could squint and find it hard to imagine that the development on the Patoka River used to be the dilapidated factory with its broken chain link fence and graffiti-covered walls.
Last week, she was walking around the property and saw a resident walking their dog nearby. Hendrickson, a dog-lover whose company is named Boxer Girl LLC after her affinity for the pug-faced fun-loving breed, couldn’t help but step up to meet and pet the happy pup.
While doing so, she exchanged pleasantries with the dog’s owner and as anyone walking next to the development can’t help but do, they began talking about the River Centre and the new parking lot on the west side of the development.
The exchange went like this, according to Hendrickson.
“I can’t believe that’s Frogtown,” he said, referring to the parking lot on the development’s west side.
“And that building, who’d have ever thought,” he continued.
“I don’t know,” Hendrickson responded. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Well, I am that person,” she said.
“Well, I have to tell you, I wasn’t a believer, but I am now,” he said.
“I’m glad to hear that,” Hendrickson said.
Those types of conversations are happening more and more often recently but it has been a journey for the developer.
After planting her flag in Huntingburg with the housing development Hunters Crossing, Hendrickson stepped in to take on a new vision in Jasper. One that was originally estimated to be a $32 million project but as issues cropped up along the way — like having to rebuild the prominent corner of the L-shaped factory — that investment went to about $40 million.
Sometimes during the long construction process, Hendrickson had to rely on friends and family to keep going. “There were days that I said to Leslie (the property manager) that I need to be pumped up. This is getting a little out of control,” she related.
“But we’ve always pulled it back in,” Hendrickson said.
She said that she’d do it again. “I truly would,” Hendrickson said, adding that the City of Jasper has been great to work with and she can’t speak highly enough about the local businesses that have worked on the development.
“Krempp has been a fantastic partner,” she explained.
She estimated through the project, the River Centre has led to $20 million invested in the Dubois County economy through local purchases and resources for everything from nuts and bolts, vacuums, and furniture to interior design planning.
While coronavirus pandemic has set them back about 60 days on completion, she never lost her vision to get the River Centre operational this year. As the state was shut down in March and April, Hendrickson was burning up the road back and forth between her home in Indianapolis where “Boxer Boy” runs their construction company and Jasper to oversee the progress.
“Mayor Vonderheide joked that I was the only one who would leave Indianapolis to drive to Jasper,” she said.
There is still work to be done. The large courtyard that runs adjacent to the Patoka River and is encompassed by the back of the River Centre is growing grass right now. Plans will move forward with a water feature as well as an open area with tables and chairs for the public to use. A private area for residents will also be added and a dog park is under construction in a nice shaded, secluded area next to the building.
With lessons learned and residents moving in, Hendrickson said it has all been worth it.
“I was walking the plaza the other day and seeing windows open and hearing voices as residents move in, that’s what it is all about,” she said.
Residents like young 20-somethings who have moved back to the area as well as retirees wanting to be closer to their kids and have a simpler lifestyle with enough room to still host holiday gatherings. With that vision intact from six years ago, Hendrickson is seeing it go to work.
Leasing is open now. River Centre can be reached at 812-559-0111 or on their Facebook Page.