Rendering providedSeminary Square would create a neighborhood of 12 homes and reduce Seminary Park to less than half an acre.
Rendering provided

Seminary Square would create a neighborhood of 12 homes and reduce Seminary Park to less than half an acre.
The City of Noblesville plans to sell Seminary Park to a developer who would build homes there.

The 34-year-old city-owned park is at 200 S. 10th St., bounded by 10th, 11th, Division and Hannibal streets, and is less than a five-minute walk southeast of the Courthouse Square.

The Times has just learned of the City's plan that would sell .88 acres of the park's 1.3 acres to a developer, who would build a single neighborhood with 12 homes called Seminary Square.

The City would enhance the remaining .42-acre park area, with the existing gazebo moved or a new gazebo constructed, new fencing added on the west side of the park, and also new seating and a dog-watering station added.

The City contends that the housing project, which is being referred to as "Seminary Square," would increase the City's tax base for the betterment of the overall community by modifying underutilized property with an annual revenue of nearly $21,000, the estimate based on residential homes valued at $225,000, or a total of $2.7 million value of the 12 new homes.

The City also contends that the park would enhance and complement the existing neighborhood, while preserving and enhancing the remaining parcels of the existing park. The location also promotes walkability for downtown residents who would live there.

The project proposal could be brought to a vote before the Noblesville Board of Public Works and Safety and also the Noblesville Common Council as early as the March 14 meetings.

Deputy Mayor Steve Cooke quietly presented the plan at a meeting on Wednesday to the Noblesville Parks board, with four Noblesville Common Council members, Mary Sue Rowland, Chris Jensen, Megan Wiles and Greg O'Connor, also in attendance.

She said Cooke's presentation on Wednesday was "not a balanced presentation, and she is concerned that the project is already a done deal. "It appears this is something that is going to move forward on a fairly fast pace."

Rowland, former Noblesville Mayor from 1988-95, said, "I know how government works. They're asking for community input, but at the same time, the deal is done. That's my biggest fear."

She wants to make sure the community has conversation about it before the proposal goes to a vote.

"We need to slow this down, get community input from lots of people. Also, look at other opportunities."|

Rowland said she likes the project but not the location. "I think there was some consensus that the park was not the right place," she said.

"Definitely not there, definitely not in Seminary Park."

The park property is appraised at about $140,000, she was told. "I think the value is priceless."

She didn't know Seminary Park was for sale. "It should not be on the market. It should not be included in this development idea."

Does this mean that Seminary Park could sell to the highest bidder? "I haven't seen anyone place it for sale in the proper context," she said. But she wouldn't be surprised.

Does this mean that Forest Park could be for sale, too? Why not build houses around the golf course, Rowland asked.

She said Aaron Head, the City's economic development specialist, recently made a PowerPoint presentation to the Council, showing properties in Noblesville that made sense for redevelopment. "Seminary Park was not in that presentation....I think it's interesting that the administration was behind this PowerPoint, and yet we're turning around a month later with development of a park."

She said this project, as it is presented, would "sacrifice an important element of a neighborhood."

The land is historic and it is a full-block park in a neighborhood that it "is very significant."

The park was established in 1983, during Noblesville's Mayor Pat Logan's term. But the history of the park goes back to 1850, when Seminary School, the first public school in Hamilton County, opened on that property and filled the whole block. The school building was replaced in 1872 with the second Seminary School, which eventually became Second Ward School.

"I went to the fifth and sixth grades in the building," said Rowland, who thinks history is being overlooked.

She is hoping that "through the (government) process and the community input that the City would redirect their efforts for land acquisitions and working with the developer (who has not been unveiled) to find opportunity so that this project could move forward and we could have this new townhouse development for our community," Rowland said.

Again, she loves the idea for the project, just not the location.

"Seminary Park is important to the community as a community place, green space and neighborhood park."

She said, "I want to see progress. Progress is absolutely important. It's just weighing out what do we give up to move forward?"

Rowland said, "If the community wants to keep the park, they understand the value to the existing neighborhood, there is going to have to be a lot of conversation from neighbors."

The next Board of Public Works and Safety meeting is at 9 a.m. March 14, and the next Common Council meeting is at 7 p.m. March 14, both at City Hall.

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