Article Originally Published by The Sentinel-News:
The idea of a new downtown convention center has taken a step forward.
Citizens Union Bank announced the donation of two parcels of land – the two “shotgun” houses at 818 and 820 Washington Street, adjacent to CUB’s branch at 9th and Main – to the project.
Leon Mooneyhan categorized the donation as one piece of the puzzle as he spearheads the effort to turn the block between 8th and 9th streets on the east and west and Main and Washington on the north and south into a culture and convention center – he has called City Centre – that would encompass the Shelby County Community Theatre as well.
“The plan is utilize most of that block, and these two parcels are a big part of that,” Mooneyhan said. “It’s a big boost for a community partner like CUB to come forward with a donation like this.”
David Bowling, the president of Citizens Union Bank, said he hopes this is just the beginning.
“We hope this can be a catalyst for others in the community to get behind this project,” he said. “It [Getting involved in the community] is something CUB has done for generations, and we hope to continue to do for generations more.”
The idea of a downtown convention and arts center caught steam a few years ago, but as the economy turned, the momentum slowed some.
However, Mooneyhan has continued to lead the charge.
With interest from the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, where he’s CEO, Shelbyville and Shelby County governments and the Shelby County School Board, Mooneyhan has kept the project alive and has been working behind the scenes to keep things in moving.
The current proposal, Mooneyhan said, is for a 300-seat theatre, conference space and joint lobby and gallery space with the current Shelby County Community Theatre. There also would be an underground parking area for up to 60 vehicles.
Currently, Mooneyhan said The Covenant Group – a strategic planning, fundraising, marketing and development consulting firm in Louisville – is conducting an economic feasibility survey in the community, and he said he hopes to have the results of that soon.
￼￼”Once we get their report and recommendation, we’ll continue to gather input from our partners, and then hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be able to see if we can go on with the current plan or if it will need to be modified,” he said. “We’re closer than we’ve ever been, and we’re committed, the city is committed, and it’s a big boost to have a member of the community like CUB committed with us.”
The donation of the land, which for now actually is being given to the City of Shelbyville – while plans on how the center would be handled are still in discussion – has been in the works for a while.
“We’ve actually been in conversation for quite some time,” Bowling said. “It’s been our intention to donate this land for several years, and the timing was just right now.
“This is an ambitions plan for sure, but when we pull it off, it will beneficial to the entire community.”
Shelbyville Mayor Tom Hardesty said the city also is working on a plan to try to acquire the condemned property just to the east of the two shotgun houses, but nothing has been completed.
“We feel like we have a good plan in place,” he said. “And with the addition of these two properties, I think this will keep the project moving and in the public eye. We’re all working hard to try and bring this together.”