EARLIER: A new concept for a City Center

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By Scotty McDaniel

The desire to build a conference center in Shelby County is about to take on an entirely new visual concept.  

Leon Mooneyhan, former superintendent of Shelby County Public Schools and chief executive officer of the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative (OVEC), will present plans Monday for a City Center, which offer significant conference space and a larger community theater in downtown Shelbyville.  

The public is invited to attend the unveiling at 6 p.m. at the Stratton Community Center to view concept drawings and hear ideas for City Center, which would be located around the current Shelby County Community Theatre, at the corner of 8th and Main Streets, and would incorporate all existing facilities except the downtown branch of Citizens Union Bank.

"It’ll be a significant project that impacts downtown Shelbyville, so it’s important for the public to see the vision,” Mooneyhan said. "We’ll be able to gauge the level of community support. In a project of this size you’ll need a lot of support.”

This proposal includes a conference and presentation space holding up to 200 people and also  calls for a 300-seat theater that could be used by schools, the community theater and other organizations for programs and productions.

"What we’re looking at is maintaining the current facility [community theater] but then also have a larger theater, and also have better dressing rooms, and an area for staging and properties and set construction,” he said.

The plan, designed by architect Mark Bailey with the assistance of engineer Kerry Magan, would accommodate the area’s topography through the use of parking below grade, and the existing homes in the Historic District would be preserved.

Mooneyhan said the project has been researched and developed since Dec. 2007. OVEC, which is based in Shelbyville, was a leader in the plan’s development because additional conference space in the county was appealing to the group.

"We do have a need here for OVEC," he said. "We do training with 14 school districts. While we have two training rooms, to have a larger conference we either have to find a space in Shelbyville, which there aren’t many, or we have to take it out of town. We’d rather have it here in the OVEC district.”  

By going into partnership with some other entities located downtown he said there could be a nicer facility than otherwise planned.  

Mooneyhan has identified as potential partners for the project as OVEC, the Shelby County Public Schools, the Shelby County Community Theatre, the Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation, the City of Shelbyville and Shelby County Fiscal Court.

"What I’ll be talking about next Monday is how that I think the project has the opportunity to bring positive benefits to all of the agencies and groups that might be a part of it,” he said.  

In brainstorm meetings for Shelby County's new comprehensive plan and in another session led by the Shelby County Industrial & Development Foundation, a conference center was listed by attendees as the No. 1 priority for the community's future.

Libby Adams, executive director of that foundation, said she’s eager to hear the plans because the county has needed a large conference center for some time.

"We’ve needed a meeting space for along time,” she said. "I think it will benefit our economy and our community. It’ll be a big draw for people looking for a place to get out of the big city and have their meeting.”