The Southport Redevelopment Commission’s plan to transform the vacant Davidson Industries property on Southport Road into an 8,000-square-foot restaurant with adjoining walking trails and a boulevard to host festivals came to a screeching halt April 10. That’s when the developer and his financial backer couldn’t come to a final agreement.
With that news, one would have thought that Monday’s meeting of the commission would have been one full of doom and gloom.
But that wasn’t the case.
Vice President Duane Langreck outlined what had transpired and vowed that the commission will keep fighting to see the area developed, with a nice restaurant being the preferred establishment. “But we are not ruling anything out,” he said.
“The timing didn’t work out this time, but I’m not giving up. There are options to still get a few things going. I’m passionate about redeveloping the area. All that is done is not lost,” he said of some aspects of the project, which was on the drawing board for 15 months. Several expenses, such as testing the ground for contaminants, won’t be incurred again when the commission looks at new ideas.
Langreck noted that the commission had made an offer to buy the land from Edgewood Feed & Seed, but it wasn’t accepted. He reasoned that if the commission owned the property, which is in the 2100 block of Southport Road, it would have more flexibility when another plan arises.
The developer, Greg Schiffli, who previously was with Scholars Inn Gourmet Cafe & Wine Bar on Massachusetts Avenue, expressed his disappointment. “I am frustrated and saddened as I had a heartfelt passion to make this happen. I worked hard to make this dream a reality. I still envision a development.”
A Franklin Township resident, Schiffli noted that there was a buzz in the area Saturday as he drove along Southport Road, especially at the Southport Antique Mall, where an outdoor vintage marketplace was being held.
While one might have anticipated some animosity between the commission and Schiffli, neither party appeared to have any hard feelings, and both sides seemed to have a mutual respect for each other.
David Wantz, a Homecroft resident and special assistant to the University of Indianapolis’ president, congratulated both groups on their efforts. “Speaking on behalf of the Southside, everybody worked so hard to make something positive happen. Sometimes we win; sometimes we lose.”
“This doesn’t mean we are not moving forward,” said Mayor Jesse Testruth, who noted that a community cleanup is scheduled April 26.
And not all is bad news, said Langreck, who mentioned that the vacant dance studio at the northeast corner of the railroad tracks on Southport Road is in the process of being bought to house Sage Salon.